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Oct 22 (Wed), 6:00 pm
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The Environment is an Endangered Species under Christie

Date : Thu, 23 Feb 2012 14:09:22 -0500

*/For Immediate Release/*
February 23, 2012 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

*The Environment is an Endangered Species under Christie * Tuesday the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) adopted major rollbacks to the rules protecting threatened and endangered species in the state.These changes will have serious impacts not just on these critical species but also New Jersey's diminishing open spaces.

"These rules are part of the further weakening of protections by the Christie administration," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of the NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club*."Under these rules 31,000 acres will be sprawled over by development causing water pollution and traffic while destroying our last remaining open spaces" The new rules remove protections from 31,000 acres, over 50 square miles, of critical habitat.This is the largest rollback in the history of New Jersey.Instead of continuing to advance protections for the most vulnerable species, New Jersey is moving backwards and promoting more sprawl, overdevelopment, and jeopardizing some of most sensitive areas in state. The protection of threatened and endangered species habitat is not just about safeguarding animals and plants but also protecting the sensitive lands and critical ecosystems these organisms depend upon.The rollbacks proposed in this rule change will jeopardize water quality, flood protection, and the few remaining contiguous forests and greenbelts in the state by allowing more development to go forward.The areas inhabited by endangered species are essential for stream corridor protection, preventing pollutants from entering our aquifers and streams, and providing clean air. Studies conducted by the DEP found that dozens of species are in serious decline in New Jersey.Instead of affording regulatory protections to these species through inclusion on the "threatened species" list, the Department is creating a new category of "special concern" species that simply concedes populations are declining and habitat is being destroyed without offering protections."Special concern" species will continue to decline across the state since no action is being taken to prevent further degradation and loss of their habitat. Under the new rule, over 100 species will be added to the special concern list.

"Creating the new category of 'special concern' is the Department's way of getting around providing protection to declining species.In New Jersey, all the listed 'special concern' species are in serious decline and the DEP will watch these species and their habitats disappear while doing nothing," *said Jeff Tittel*. Certain species of birds have been included on the "endangered" list, but only for breeding habitat. The golden winged warbler and black rail will only be protected in New Jersey when breeding.The areas these birds forage and utilize during migration will not be guarded against destruction. These areas must be preserved if breeding pairs are to successfully raise adolescents to adulthood. The new rules also weaken protections for bald eagles, downgrading their protections from endangered to threatened in the non-breeding season.

** Thirty years after the Endangered Species Act was passed the state still does not have regulations to protect upland forest and grassland species.Protecting these critical habitats is essential as threatened and endangered species are the canary in coalmine: the health of our ecosystems is reflected in the presence of rare species.Protecting the habitat of these animals and plants benefits both the species and New Jersey residents by curbing the sprawl and overdevelopment that degrade our clean air and clean water.

"With the Christie administration's continued attacks on regulations and standards, pretty soon the environment will be an endangered species in New Jersey," *said Jeff Tittel*.

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2012-02-23 11:09:22

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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