To: The New Jersey State House, The New Jersey State Senate, and Governor Phil Murphy
Unfair stakeholder meeting process for Wharton State Forest motor vehicle access
Thanks to all who helped to force the DEP to include Stakeholders and the citizens in the Development of the Motorized Access Plan (M.A.P).
The DEP has agreed to hold Stakeholder forums and a public meeting on the M.A.P.; however, we are gravely concerned with their approach. Instead of following through with their commitment to truly work with the stakeholders, they are instead starting with the M.A.P., and asking the stakeholders to defend their needs to the DEP.
Given the magnitude of the change to the status quo and lack of scientific justification for the proposed closures, we believe the process should be reversed. We believe that the DEP owes it to the public to provide to the stakeholders a prioritized list of roads they would like closed, with appropriate justification, in advance of the forums. This will allow the stakeholders to review the information with their constituents and come prepared to discuss any potential impacts at the stakeholder forum. If the MAP is as well-thought out as claimed then providing this prioritized list of closures and justifications should be an easy task.
We ask that you use your influence to make this a fair process in two ways:
1) Ask the DEP to start with a clean sheet of paper and ask the DEP to provide to the stakeholders what they would like closed and why, instead of starting with the MAP and asking each Stakeholder to justify the access they have had for 50+ years.
2) Request the stakeholder and public sessions be delayed until the above is done.
Thank you again for your continued support of protecting Wharton State Forest while providing fair access to it.
Why is this important?
I have been a resident bordering Wharton State Forest for 34 years. Ever since Rob Auermuller tried to push the original MAP through without transparency, I have lost all trust in his judgments; I feel as if I cannot trust his involvement in the stakeholder meetings. The current "circle the roads you feel should be opened" process should be reversed to where Rob explains to us on a blank piece of paper what areas should be closed to motor vehicle access due to environmental data pertaining the certain area. We are the OWNERS of the forest and our permission should be asked for.