by Jared Flesher
director, The Creature Show
In late 1959, those who would build jetports told the people of New Jersey that a giant new jetport was essential, and that the Great Swamp in Morris County was the perfect place to build it. Citizens living near the Great Swamp banded together to ensure that the swamp would instead be preserved as a National Wildlife Refuge, and sent the would-be-jetsetters packing.
Those jetport enthusiasts next turned their sights south, to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, telling the people of New Jersey that the age of supersonic passenger jets was inevitable -- boom! -- and that an absolutely enormous new jetport in the Pine Barrens was in everyone’s interest. Citizens joined together with environmentalists and politicians to oppose the plan, while John McPhee wrote a classic book, The Pine Barrens, that memorialized the unique ecological value of the Pines. The result is that instead of a jetport, the Pine Barrens became a National Preserve, and later, an International Biosphere Reserve. Worth noting, not a single supersonic passenger jet flies today anywhere in the world.
In considering these two tales, I can’t help but be reminded of a contemporary issue, in which natural gas enthusiasts are telling New Jerseyans that fracked natural gas is the future, is inevitable, and that piping huge quantities of it through New Jersey’s preserved farmland and forests is in everyone’s best interest.
The chance to dig deeper into these kinds of stories, and the New Jersey habitats inherent to them, is what The Creature Show exists for. In the first episode, we’ll visit the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to seek out the state endangered blue-spotted salamander. The Great Swamp, thanks to its continued existence, now represents the southern edge of the blue-spot’s range along the entire East Coast, not to mention a sanctuary for other threatened and endangered species.
In another episode, we’ll head to the Pine Barrens to tell the story of threatened and endangered snakes, including Northern Pine Snakes and Timber Rattlesnakes. One thing that interests me about snakes is that Americans fear them more than anything else—at least according to the polling data. Here’s an opportunity to tell a dynamic story about the preservation of species that aren’t cuddly and charismatic, but which are inherently valuable and which play an important role in functioning ecosystems.
And finally, New Jersey is ground zero right now in a battle of pipeline infrastructure vs. the environment. One project that’s high on my radar is the PennEast Pipeline, slated to cut through the Sourlands and Baldpate Mountain. At some point in the process, a company hired by PennEast to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement will—bet on it--come back with a finding that the environmental impact of the pipeline will be minimal. (That's always the result of their study.) But The Creature Show knows those woods and the animals that live there, and we look forward to taking an even closer look, with cameras rolling.