The Delaware Water Gap Park and Preserve Plan would be
Reduces recreational opportunities and is not necessary
New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) represents 1.2 million outdoor men and women. Our mission as a local coalition is to advocate for the intrinsic value of natural resource conservation – including fishing, hunting and trapping – to opinion leaders and decision makers. We support legislation, and those who sponsor legislation, that provide sustainable ecological and social enrichment through the sustainable use of the earth’s resources.
The NJOA has reviewed the proposal to classify the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap (DEWA) National Recreation Area as a national park and preserve. DEWA contains 54,000 acres in Sussex and Warren counties in New Jersey. A long dormant plan that was undone several years ago to make DEWA a national park has been resurrected by a small steering committee that includes the PA and NJ chapters of the Sierra Club and the former superintendent. The goal of this effort is to add “prestige” and hopefully improve funding, but that is not guaranteed. The plan also aims to provide a cultural center for the Lenape people who once inhabited the area and provide recreational equity for those who cannot afford to travel to remote national parks.
The problem with this proposal is that national parks, with rare exceptions, are closed to hunting and all other consumptive uses. This would be a major shift in the traditional use of DEWA since its inception in 1965. To soften opposition and gain support, this latest proposal suggests that a portion of DEWA be reclassified as a “Lenape Preserve” which would contain a cultural Center. and maintain current uses, including hunting. HOWEVER, the overall park/preserve plan is vague and contains no details. The NJOA has asked for specific details, but the steering committee cannot provide a map envisioning what they are planning as a park versus the reserve and area of each. The steering committee points to a similar plan in West Virginia designating the New River Park/Preserve which resulted in 10% park and 90% reserve. But the breakdown of the Gap proposal remains unknown. A 10% loss of hunting land translates to 5,400 acres or 8.4 square miles in New Jersey.
When Congress authorized funds for the Tocks Island Dam and Reservoir and surrounding recreation area, they specifically made the public benefits of outdoor recreation a priority over the preservation of scenic, scientific, and historic features that contribute to enjoyment. from the public and they specifically indicated that hunting and fishing would be allowed to work. together with national wildlife management agencies. After the dam and reservoir plan was filed in 1978, all of the land became part of the recreation area and the river within its boundaries was designated as Wild and Scenic.
The proposed benefit of a wildlife nursery in the park is not necessary. Any loss of hunting in DEWA will create a haven for bears, something residents of northwest New Jersey don’t need. Additionally, a decrease in the ability to manage deer will affect forest health and increase deer strikes along the Rt. 80 Corridor and adjacent roads. Several long-term habitat improvement projects in the Gap, including those of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ruffed Grouse Society and others, may be at risk. Although habitat management in a national park is sometimes permitted, obtaining permission is a lengthy process and is the exception rather than the norm.
Although the park plan claims to promote recreational equity, a park designation reduces the recreational options currently available in direct opposition to enabling legislation.
The NJOA recognizes that the proposal to create a cultural center for the Lenape people, who consider DEWA and its surroundings to be the heart of their ancestral home, has merit. However, the proposal is to place the cultural center within the reserve where the current uses will remain, therefore no ‘park’ designation is required going forward.
The NJOA will continue to monitor this situation, but at this time the NJOA CANNOT support this proposal which will result in decreased recreational opportunities, especially hunting, and does not offer any guarantees of additional funding. We believe the designation of Congress as a recreation area remains appropriate for its current and future uses.
About the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance: The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance is a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting outdoor-focused legislation and legislators that support hunting, fishing, trapping, and conserving our natural resources in New Jersey. Notable accomplishments include the recent passage of the Blood Tracing Bill, as well as the institution of Hooked On Fishing, Not On Drugs.
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