What are the Pinelands CMP Designations? Here’s a Quick Cheatsheet!

The screenshots in this post were taken from the interactive New Jersey Conservation Blueprint Ecological Integrity Map and used with permission of Rowan University. 


When the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan became effective in 1980, it designated nine management areas regulating land use. As an example, this screenshot shows the six designations in my township of Waterford. 

Screenshot of map showing the New Jersey Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan designations in Waterford
Waterford Pinelands CMP Designations (Used with Permission of Rowan University)

Preservation Area District 

  • The “heart of the Pinelands environment and the most critical ecological region.”
  • Residential development: restricted to “one-acre lots in designated infill areas” and “minimum 3.2 acre lots for property owned by families prior to 1979.
  • Commercial/recreational uses: limited to “designated infill areas.” 

Forest Area 

  • This is “largely undeveloped area that is an essential element of the Pinelands environment.”
  • Residential development: “Clustered housing on one acre lots” with “an average residential density of one home per every 28 acres.”
  • Commercial/recreational uses: “Roadside retail within 300 feet of pre-existing commercial uses” as well as “low intensity recreational uses.”

Rural Development Area

  • This area balances “environmental and development values between conservation and growth areas.”
  • Residential: “Clustered housing on one acre lots” with “an average residential density of one home for every five acres.”
  • Commercial/recreational:  Roadside retail and “community commercial, light industrial and active recreational uses served by septic systems.”

Regional Growth Area 

  • This area consists of “existing growth and adjacent lands capable of accommodating regional growth influences while protecting the essential character and environment of the Pinelands.”
  • Residential development: Densities include “two to six homes per acre with sewers.” 
  • Commercial/recreational use: “Sewered commercial and industrial uses.”

Agricultural Production Area

  • This area consists of “active agricultural use, generally upland field agriculture and row crops, together with adjacent areas with soils suitable for expansion of agricultural operations.” 
  • Residential development: “Farm-related housing on 10 acres and non-farm housing on 40 acres.” 
  • Commercial/recreational use: “agricultural commercial and roadside retail within 300 feet of preexisting commercial uses.”

Pinelands Villages 

  • 47 small settlements, most without sewers, scattered throughout the state-designated pinelands area. 
  • Residential development: “lots between one and five acres.”
  • Commercial/recreational use: Must be “compatible with their existing character.” 

Neighboring Hammonton contains five of the same areas except for a Pinelands Village area. It does, however, include two areas not found in Waterford as this screenshot displays.

Screenshot of map showing the New Jersey Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan designations in Hammonton
Hammonton Pinelands CMP Designations (Used with Permission of Rowan University)

Special Agricultural Production Area 

  • These include “areas within the Preservation Area primarily used for berry agriculture and horticulture of native Pinelands plants.” 
  • Residential development: Only “farm-related housing on 40 acres and cultural housing exceptions on 3.2 acre lots.”

Pinelands Towns 

  • Seven large settlements “generally with wastewater or water supply systems.” 
  • Residential development: “density of two to four homes per acre with sewers.”
  • Commercial/recreational use: “Sewered commercial and industrial uses.”

The remaining CMP designation is Military and Federal Installation Area, which includes military and federal areas with permitted uses “associated with the function of the installation or other public purpose uses.” An example of this area is the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township.

Beach and Barrens Politics

When I pursued my Journalism degree at Temple University, I took a course in political science. I always remembered my instructor telling us that politics were unavoidable because human beings would always be part of the equation. You could strand two people on a desert island together and still have politics. Brigantine, my former home, is a barrier island not a desert island, but the little beach resort has seen its share of local political squalls. In Greenhead Politics, Brigantine author Patrick Costello chronicled his own experience with what he calls “the underbelly of small-town politics.” 

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) hosted a series of webinars about the Pine Barrens and its preservation efforts in the region. One of the most insightful I watched was Pipelines, Progress, and Problems, which provided an overview of the complex political landscape of the Pine Barrens and some of the biggest issues facing it. Politicization of the Pine Barrens began when Congress created the Pinelands National Reserve in 1978 and New Jersey passed the Pinelands Protection Act in 1979. Some of today’s issues have their roots in the work done in the 1970s.

Pinelands Commission Appointments

The State of New Jersey Pinelands Commission, the state agency responsible for governing land use in the Pine Barrens, is composed of 15 commissioners. The governor nominates seven commissioners and the seven Pinelands counties appoint seven more. A federal representative from the Department of the Interior also serves as a commissioner. However, according to the PPA, there has not been a federal representative since the last one passed away, and the state Senate, which approves the gubernatorial nominees, has not confirmed the governor’s latest nominations.

Natural Gas Pipelines

The PPA also takes a stand on the issue of natural gas pipelines through the Pine Barrens. It worked to defeat the South Jersey Gas pipeline and opposes construction of the Southern Reliability Link. In April 2021, however, a New Jersey Appellate Court rejected the arguments of the PPA and Sierra Club to halt construction of the Southern Reliability Link. 

Off-Road Vehicle Use

No issue seems to stir up more passion than the use of off-road vehicles in the Pine Barrens. According to the PPA, “illegal off-road vehicle use is causing widespread damage to critical Pinelands habitats.” This position causes controversy with members of the off-road and enduro communities who oppose the creation of a public map designating which sand roads and trails can be used by off-road vehicles. Most recently, in May 2021, the state closed six small areas within five Wildlife Management Areas, citing unauthorized off-road vehicle use as one cause.