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Remembering Candace McKee Ashmun, the ‘Godmother of the New Jersey Pinelands’

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and summer arrives, thousands of New Jerseyans may visit the state forests and other natural areas in the New Jersey Pinelands.

News 12 Staff

May 29, 2020, 11:46 PM

Updated 1,509 days ago

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As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and summer arrives, thousands of New Jerseyans may visit the state forests and other natural areas in the New Jersey Pinelands.
While many New Jerseyans walk through and experience the nature preserves, they should give thanks to the woman many say made it all possible – Candace McKee Ashmun. Often referred to as the “Godmother of the New Jersey Pinelands,” Ashmun died last Friday at age 96.
Ashmun was a major figure in the Garden State’s environmental movement. Gov. Phil Murphy called her a legendary New Jerseyan.
Ashmun was the last remaining original member of the Pinelands Commission, which was formed by then-Gov. Brendan Byrne when he set the region aside for preservation in 1979. Ashmun – who lived in Somerset County – spent the next 40 years fighting back efforts to chisel away or destroy the Pinelands and other open spaces across New Jersey.
Former Gov. Tom Kean knew her well.
“Candy Ashmun was a remarkable woman and she was the last of a generation. There are a whole bunch of people - mostly women – who built the New Jersey conservation movement from Earth Day on…and they made an incredible impression on the state,” says Kean.
Kean says that Ashmun was involved in every environmental project in the state over the last 50 years.
“She was the nicest person. She had a wonderful sense of humor. She was pleasant to be with,” says Kean. “But if you were on the wrong side, she was as fierce an opponent as you would ever want to have.”
Ashmun has a preserve named after her in Lacey Township. There is also an exhibit in her honor at the Pinelands Commission’s headquarters. It explains the history and ecology of the region.


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