May 12, 2023
New Jersey farm preservationist Bob Shinn dies

Robert “Bob” Shinn Jr., the former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection who is credited with contributing to the preservation of New Jersey farmland, has died.

Shinn, who was commissioner of the department from 1994-2002 after serving in numerous state and local government roles, died May 5. He was 85.


His involvement in environmental issues contributed to the permanent preservation of almost 250,000 acres through the state’s Farmland Preservation Program, according to a statement from the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee.

“Bob’s knowledge and appreciation of business, government, the environment, farming and land conservation, combined with a tremendous vision and grit, made him one of the greatest influencers of farmland preservation in New Jersey history,” according to committee’s statement.

His career serving in government started in 1973 with a one-year term as mayor of Hainesport Township and was a Burlington County freeholder (a term since replaced with county commissioner) from 1977-85. He was a member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 1985-94 before heading the state’s environmental department, according to his obituary.

As a local and state politician, Shinn led the move to enroll the first farms to the Farmland Preservation Program in 1985 and spearheaded efforts to preserve farmland in the in the Pinelands National Reserve. He was vice chairman of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission from 1977-85, according to the obituary.

Susan E. Payne, executive director of the Farmland Preservation Program, said Shinn was a visionary with a unique ability to convert that vision into concrete strategies.

“He was an inspiration to everyone he worked with and remained remarkably humorous and humble through every endeavor,” she said in the statement from the agriculture department development committee, which administers the farmland preservation program. “New Jersey is a much better place because of him, and we thank him for being a champion for farmland preservation throughout his long and extraordinary career.”

While at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Shinn helped lead the Environmental Commissioners of the 50 States organization in driving national environmental public policy, according to his obituary.

In a 1994 New York Times article, he looks back on 27 years of local and state government as he prepares to lead the Department of Environmental Protection, and acknowledges the difficulty in keeping both development and agriculture interests satisfied.

“But overall, I think you’ll find that I’ve added a significant amount of open space and farmland to the state’s inventory and that we’ll be looking at an environmental master plan and implementation of it,” he said in the article, according to the agriculture development committee statement. “I think that’s important for the environmental future of the state, and that’s something that we’re going to be working hard on.”

The funeral service will be at 3 p.m. May 18 at Perinchief Chapels in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Contributions in his memory may be made to Rancocas Valley Regional High School for a scholarship that will be started in his name.

Photo: Courtesy New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee


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