Threats to the Sourlands 

The Sourlands face a number of serious threats.  Foremost among these is the threat of development.

Development encroaches the Sourlands from all sides

Development encroaches the Sourlands from all sides

New Jersey is the nation’s most densely populated state, and the Sourlands are constantly threatened by new development on all sides.  Only about 40% of the land in the Sourlands is currently preserved; the rest is either already developed or subject to future development.  The ecosystem and the water supply are severely stressed by the current level of development, so minimizing further development is the highest priority.

Deer browsing destroys saplings and seedlings, leaving no “next generation” of trees in many parts of the Sourland forest

Deer browsing destroys saplings and seedlings, leaving no “next generation” of trees in many parts of the Sourland forest

A second threat to the Sourland forest is the overpopulation of white-tailed deer.  In much of the Sourlands, the deer population is more than 80 per square mile — about 15 times the sustainable level.  The effects on humans include epidemic levels of Lyme disease (spread by deer ticks), high rates of automobile accidents, and the destruction of gardens and landscaping.  Because deer browse and kill nearly all the saplings and seedlings they encounter, the herd poses an existential threat to the forest itself.  As mature trees die, there are few viable young trees to take their place.  Invasive plants proliferate in these openings, creating permanent holes in the forest.