Two recent news stories suggest the battle between the Northern Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus) and the Jaylin Holdings Company is continuing. The State of New Jersey reached a tentative agreement with the developer that would allow the construction of a Walmart store on 21 acres of Pinelands off Route 37 on the Toms River and Manchester border. The trade off is reportedly a 212 acre forest preserve adjacent to the Walmart that would contain five hibernacula constructed by the developer, as well as other environmental enhancements that would thin the forest canopy and provide a favorable environment for the snake. Critics consider this a bad deal for the pine snake, and suggest it will not make up for the damaged habitat. They also note that the developer tried to remove the pine snake from the endangered species list. The New Jersey DEP has apparently encouraged Jaylin to search for a store location that had been previously developed, but the firm claims it was unable to find a suitable alternative site. The DEP anticipates entering into the settlement agreement subject to public comments and review of those comments by the department. A notice of the proposed settlement will be published in the new issue of the DEP Bulletin at http://www.nj.gov/dep/bulletin/index.html
On January 19, 2011, the Sierra Club asked the state Department of Environmental Protection to extend the public comment period by 45 days, stating that the development project will have significant impacts on threatened and endangered species and their habitat and that storm water runoff and nonpoint source pollution will enter Barnegat Bay.
A survey detected a snake and a hibernaculum the property, and the debate that followed over the state's role in saving habitat for the threatened species has been the main roadblock for Walmart. The Northern Pine Snake was once abundant in southern New Jersey but has disappeared from populated areas but still maintains populations in the Pine Barrens of Ocean County, NJ.
Hester, T. 2011. N.J. DEP tentatively agrees to allow Walmart store in Pine snake neighborhood. newsroomjersey.com