Archive for October, 2009

DEP Denies Access To Former Corzine Aide Lobbying Records

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

In another in a series of efforts to mask political intervention and frustrate public oversight and accountability, yesterday DEP denied an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request. This follows a recent OPRA lawsuit filed to force DEP to disclose similar records (see Star Ledger: N.J. environment group claims DEP denial of records request violated state law

Adam Zellner (R) former Corzine advisor and DEP Deputy Commissioner. Lisa Jackson (L)

Adam Zellner (R) former Corzine advisor and DEP Deputy Commissioner. Lisa Jackson (L)

The OPRA request sought public records on a meeting between DEP managers and Adam Zellner, a powerful political lobbyist, and former DEP Deputy Commissioner and policy advisor to Governor Jon Corzine (we initially wrote about the Zellner matter here).

The OPRA asked for documents related to an October 15, 2009 DEP meeting. Ordinarily, because of a serious lack of transparency at DEP, such a meeting would be secret, but a source gave me a tip. Here is the full text of the OPRA request:

Mr. Adam Zellner met with DEP officials on October 15, 2009 in the DEP HQ building. I request all records related to Mr. Zellner’s 10/15/09 meeting, as well as all prior correspondence and communications between DEP and Mr. Zellner from January 1, 2009 until the present.

DEP sign in book - 401 East State Street, Trenton

DEP sign in book – 401 East State Street, Trenton

DEP denied the request, despite the fact that the DEP building visitor’s log book requires that all visitors MUST sign in and identify who they are meeting with. Outrageously, one of the bases for the denial is that I didn’t have sufficient information on the meeting – which is the reason I filed the request in the first place! Here is DEP’s OPRA denial:

Since requester is unable to provide a NJDEP Contact Name, Program Area, or subject of meeting, this request has been denied on the basis that the request requires the NJDEP to conduct research & correlate data, which is not required pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-9 & Mag Entertainment v Div of Alcoholic Beverage Control 375 NJ Super 537 (App Div 3/05). In addition, this request has been denied based on the request being overly broad and unspecific to the records being sought pursuant to N.J.S.A.47:1A-5, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-9 & Gannett N.J. Partners v. Middlesex, 379 N.J. Super 205 (App. Div. July 2005).

(Does anyone recall scandals by former Governor’s aides involving political influence on government decisions?)

Zellner’s meeting with DEP illustrates several key reform issues:

1. Transparency and open government

DEP is a public regulatory agency, not a Las Vegas bawdyhouse. DEP must be transparent.

Currently, DEP typically meets secretly for months in advance with polluters and developers on major projects. These “pre-application meetings” negotiate permit requirements and establish review schedules. At times, the formal public permit process is a sham, where DEP goes through the motions to issue a permit already decided. The public is put at a serious disadvantage by these meetings, and must be given equal information and access to DEP. See this for our transparency petition now pending before DEP Commissioner Mauriello).

2. Ethics – Revolving door restrictions

Zellner was DEP Deputy Commissioner until January 2008, when he went to Governor Corzine’s Office. Current ethics laws seek to prevent even the appearance that state officials gain economic advantage from their state service.  Current ethics law has post-employment restrictions (see here) . These requirements must be monitored, enforced and strengthened.

3. Whistleblower protections

DEP staffers witness ethically questionable or corrupt practices on a daily basis, but rightfully don’t want to sacrifice their careers disclosing wrongdoing.

We need to empower the agency professionals and block the current widespread practice of retaliation for conscientious public disclosures of mismanagement, manipulation of science, and threats to public health and the environment. NJ’s current whistleblower laws do not protect employees who disclose such problems publicly. (see: Star Ledger: End Political Influence on DEP Regulators).

4. Integrity in Government decision-making

DEP decisions must be based on law and science, as well as fair and open to all parties.

The process by which DEP makes decisions is critically important. In my experience, the integrity of decisionmaking at DEP has slipped badly in recent years. We must restore the public’s trust and confidence in DEP decisions. Such an effort must  include restrictions on what are legally known as “ex parte” communications to DEP.

An ex parte communication is a communication to DEP from any person about a pending DEP matter that occurs in the absence of other parties to the matter and without public notice and opportunity for all parties to participate in the communication. People often refer to these communications as “one-sided, “off-the-record”, or private communications between a DEP staffer and any person concerning a matter that is pending or impending before the DEP.

According to California regulations:

Rules regarding ex parte communications have their roots in constitutional principles of due process and fundamental fairness. With public agencies, ex parte communications rules also serve an important function in providing transparencyEx parte communications may contribute to public cynicism that decisions are based more on special access and influence than on the facts, the laws, and the exercise of discretion to promote the public interest.

Ex parte communications are fundamentally offensive in adjudicative proceedings because they involve an opportunity by one party to influence the decision maker outside the presence of opposing parties, thus violating due process requirements (See this for excellent California Guidance on prohibiting Ex Parte communications)

5.  DEP Independence from political interference

DEP is not a political arm of the Governor or legislature, it is a regulatory agency. A clear separation is required.

Recently, the Governor’s office and powerful legislators have intervened and called the shots at DEP. One of the worst recent examples of this was the Encap debacle, a “scandalmongers dream”. DEP Commissioner Campbell overrode staff objections at the behest of Governor McGreevey.

On the financial side, state officials such as … DEP chief Bradley Campbell approved a $212 million state loan package to EnCap in 2005 even though regulators warned the loan was risky and was made without sufficient collateral.

Campbell, before signing off on the loan, called it “a scandal monger’s dream” in a note to McCormac. “Why in the world would we take the risk?” he wrote “What am I missing here?” Both officials have said their reservations were overruled by the governor’s office, which championed the project throughout the tenures of both McGreevey and Richard Codey. [link to Bergen Record story here]

This lack of independence at NJ DEP contrasts sharply with the policy set by William Ruckelshaus, the first EPA first Administrator under Richard Nixon. Please read this piece, for an excellent history and analysis of the issues involved:

Respecting EPA – Restraining presidential influence in EPA decisionmaking leads to better environmental and political outcomes

“… In its failure to show the same caution in its interventions with EPA, the Bush Administration has paid a price. While presumably maximizing the immediate political benefits of Agency decisions, it has depleted the Agency’s capital of legitimacy, with a resulting loss of credibility with other governmental institutions and the public. Congressional oversight hearings have multiplied, drawing unflattering scrutiny of Agency decisions, diverting Agency resources, and distracting

EPA leadership. As already mentioned, the courts have reversed an increasing percentage of EPA decisions, many on grounds that the Agency failed to follow the statute’s plain meaning. The Agency’s loss of credibility in the courts now looms as a factor in judicial reversal of cases that the Agency might otherwise have been expected to win. Criticisms of EPA decisionmaking have also spilled into the press and adversely affected the public’s views about whether the Administration is doing a good job with the environment. A September 2007 public opinion poll showed that only 20% approved of the president’s handling of environmental issues (compared to over 50% who disapproved), down from an environmental job approval rating of over 50% in the first year of the Bush Administration. While foregoing the ability to maximize political benefits over the short term, a more restrained exercise of presidential influence that maintains agency legitimacy and respects the Agency’s familiarity with the issues is likely to provide greater political benefits over the long term and thus should be the preferred strategy of succeeding administrations, whether Democrat or Republican. This is exactly the conclusion reached in 1983 by President Reagan, the president most identified with bringing the presidential control model into vogue, after the politically disastrous events surrounding the resignation of his first appointee as EPA Administrator, Anne Gorsuch. In announcing her replacement, Ruckelshaus, President Reagan promised a new era of environmental protection and gave Ruckelshaus substantial discretion in managing the Agency–according to his principles. Let the new era begin.

The DEP Commissioner needs to stand up and restore DEP’s independence and integrity.

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Republicans Want to Eliminate DEP

October 20th, 2009 No comments
sunrise at Seaview

sunrise at Seaview

According to the Press of Atlantic City today, Republican challengers in the Assembly 1st District (Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic) want to eliminate the DEP.

Let me repeat that – political candidates for the NJ Assembly want to eliminate DEP.

Cape May lighthouse - managed by DEP

Cape May lighthouse – managed by DEP

Republican candidates Mike Donohue and John McCann are on the outside looking in, and they do not like what they see. They say the DEP, with 2,978 employees and $327 million in state funding, is too big and‚ responsible for too much. The agency covers everything from historic preservation to coastal management. It has numerous divisions, bureaus and offices, as well as 21 advising councils and commissions.

The challengers want to eliminate the DEP and replace it with a smaller “Department of Natural Resource Management.”

I am one of DEP’s biggest critics, but this is ridiculous – I think we’ve crossed some kind of rhetorical threshold (and DEP does not get $327 million in state funding).

This kind of know nothing assault is what happens when the environment is taken off the public policy agenda during an election cycle.

This is not the mere radical craziness of a couple of South Jersey Republican challengers. These perverse views are shared by many uninformed politicians and voters.

The Governor has failed to lead on the environment, and has a poor record. So Corzine has no incentive for even mentioning the environment during the campaign.

Worse, Republican challenger Christie recklessly invites such crazy attacks by his call to slash DEP budgets further and transfer the natural resource programs out of the agency.

Independent Daggett, a candidate who knows better and has actual environmental management experience as USEPA Regional Administrator and DEP Commissioner, is not exactly out there leading the charge defending DEP.

The media is depleted by downsizing, diverted by the political circus, and seemingly locked into traditional horse race electoral coverage that ignores policy issues.

Environmental groups – heavily invested in Trenton lobbying –  seem to have lost all ability to organize and mobilize the public, or shape public opinion.

Let’s hope the voters can see through it, but that may be tough, because no one is talking about the environment, the protections DEP provides,or the economic facts.

DEP protects air quality

Beasley’s Point – DEP protects air quality

If the typical voter is not concerned about DEP’s public health protections (clean air, clean water, drinking water, toxic site cleanup, oil and chemical plant safety, et al) and is concerned only about taxes and money, one fact they might want to consider is that ONLY 24.7% of DEP’s FY 2009 $230 million operating budget, just $56.81 million, is paid by taxpayers from the state general fund.

Under the “polluter pays” philosophy, over 75% of DEP’s budget comes from industry fees, pollution enforcement fines, and federal EPA grants. (read DEP budget here)

The total State budget for FY 2009 was $32.87 BILLION. That means that DEP’s share of the state budget was less than 2 tenths of 1% (0.17% – do the math).

There is NO money to be saved by cutting DEP.

Additional cuts to DEP’s budget can not be justified on fiscal grounds.

Actually, cuts would INCREASE taxpayer burdens because DEP would receive less federal grant funds and fee and fine revenues would be reduced as DEP workload decreases. These would have to be made up with general funds from the taxpayer.

Taxpayers are getting a bargain at DEP!

It’s the polluters and developers who want DEP eliminated, not the voters. 

Shameful republican hacks are manipulating public opinion and doing the bidding of polluters and developers, who want DEP off their backs.

DEP protects our rivers, bays, estuaries

DEP protects our rivers, bays, estuaries

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Daggett is No White Hat on The Environment

October 19th, 2009 No comments

The business community’s news outlet NJBIZ, is running a story today on Chris Daggett’s environmental credentials.

In the course of doing so, they predictably stress a business perspective and repeat certain myths about DEP and the economy.

In our view, this puts Daggett in a negative light and provides an opportunity for me to rehash a critique of Daggett’s role as Chair of former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson’s controversial “Permit Efficiency Task Force”.  According to NJBIZ:

Chris Daggett, Independent candidate for Governor, drinks bottled water at NJ debate on energy & environmental issues

The need for speed in N.J. government

Daggett would use his experience in business and politics to succeed

Speed and efficiency.

These words aren’t often associated with New Jersey state government, but Chris Daggettsaid his time in the private sector has taught him they are traits the government needs.


Daggett points to his experience chairing a task force appointed by Gov. Jon S. Corzine to increase efficiency in the DEP permitting process. Task force member Joseph F. Riggs, group president of K. Hovnanian Homes, credited Daggett with forging consensus among the 24-member group for changes to DEP processes.

“There was give and take all the way around,” Riggs said.

The task force has its critics. Former DEP Commissioner Bill Wolfe said business interests were too dominant, and that it put speeding up development ahead of the environment.

“I think that it is a misguided effort” Wolfe said, but credited Daggett with elevating the tone of the campaign.

I will be blunt: the DEP Permit Efficiency Task Force was a sham attempt to promote a business agenda, while disingenuousl trying to mask its real anti-environmental agenda.

In this context, “faster” means a race to the bottom, or acceleration towards the edge of a cliff. “Need for speed” becomes “feed the greed”.

Perhaps I am being too blunt. The role of the DEP Task Force is aptly illustrated by this analogy, by Harvard professor Rory Stewart in a recent Bill Moyers PBS interview about the Obama administration’s deliberations on escalating the war in Afghanistan:

it’s as though they come to you and they say, “We’re planning to drive our car off a cliff. Do we wear a seatbelt or not?” And we say, “Don’t drive your car off the cliff.” And they say, “No, no, no. That decision’s already made. The question is should we wear our seatbelts?” And you say, “Why by all means wear a seatbelt.” And they say, “Okay, we consulted with policy expert, Rory Stewart,” et cetera. [Link to transcript]

As the history shows, the DEP Task Force grew out of one of the Corzine Administration’s failed attempts to promote economic development, particularly the housing and construction sectors.

Those failures were a direct result of Corzine’s flawed premise that environmental protection was a factor in the collapse of the housing market.

But despite the repeated lies of construction industry lobbyists, we all now know that this collapse was a result of the collapse of financial markets, due in large measure to sub prime mortgages (see: “Builders Gone Wild“).

Regardless of the economic facts, the flawed thinking that blamed environmental protection and DEP “bureaucracy” resulted in passage of the Permit Extension Act, a series of DEP regulatory rollbacks, and the DEP Permit Efficiency Task Force.

DEP Commissioner Lisa JAckson (L) & DCA Commissioner Joe Doria (R)

DEP Commissioner Lisa JAckson (L) & DCA Commissioner Joe Doria (R)

Specifically, as folks will recall, Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Joe Doria resigned in disgrace while under investigation in the “Operation Bid Rig” criminal probe.

Prior to his resignation, Doria was the Administration’s public point of the spear in this flawed attack on DEP and environmental protections.

Behind the scenes, Corzine’s Economic Czar and Wall Street colleague Gary Rose, ran herd on DEP. Doria had formed his own stealth Task Force, stacked with developers and builders. The DEP Task Force was Lisa Jackson’s parallel initiative, intended to dampen the worst aspects of the Corzine, Doria, Rose agenda.

So, with this brief history in mind, let’s excerpt and examine the policy Daggett presided over and takes ownership for as Chair of the Task Force:

1. Transparency, openess, and ethics,

Despite being petitioned to do so, Daggett did not support open deliberations, transparency and standards for ethical dealings applied to the Task Force he chaired. This record needs to be compared to his campaign rhetoric that stresses open government, transparency, and high ethical standards. Additionally, members of the Task Force were mainly political lobbyists, not scientists, engineers, or management and public policy experts. This reality conflcits with Daggett’s campaign rhetoric in support of science based public policy decisions in the public interest.

2. DEP mission and role

The Task Force recommended that DEP should “do less with less”:

“In this time of fiscal crisis, the challenge, before the DEP is to develop different approaches to managing, to consider doing less with less, recognizing that this must be done without compromising environmental protection or public health.”

That add on about not “compromising” protections is pure spin – and it goes against the Daggettt campaign rhetoric about the need for hard choices.

In contrast to Daggett’s misplaced focus on speed and efficiency, at the same time the Task Force was deliberating, the US EPA audited DEP operations by focusing on quality, science, and whether DEP was achieving its mission. EPA reviews sought to INCREASE environmental performance, which is vastly different from expediting that performance to meet the business community’s needs and bottom line profit concerns.

3. Privatization and deregulation

The Taskforce recommended that privatization and deregulation should be expanded:

“In an output/performance-driven system, the DEP would focus on the efficient execution of inherently governmental functions and explore using outside assistance, advanced IT tools or both, to complete the straightforward tasks that are not necessary to be done by government. To accomplish this, a major change must occur in the way that scope and responsibility are allocated within the DEP. In short, if the DEP is ever going to reach a high level of efficiency and effectiveness, the goal for the DEP should be to determine which environmental services are essential and which can be eliminated; which can be consolidated and which cannot; which must be provided by government and which can be delivered by outside vendors or through advanced IT tools, or both.”

4. Honest politics and government

Based on a review of the Corzine administration’s actions, it becomes clear that the policy motivation and agenda for the Task Force were concealed. Daggett went along with this game.

The original composition of Task Force was established in Jackson’s Administrative Order.

But the original composition was expanded to include environmental, community and public interest representatives only AFTER strong public criticism of its failure to represent public interests (see this criticism which drove that expansion). I personally spoke to Daggett about this, because he publicly stated that the Task Force was his idea and evidence that he could work with diverse constituents.  Well, if so, then why didn’t the original include those diverse interests? Why didn’t Daggett fix this?

The members of the Task Force included representatives of residential and commercial developers, environmental organizations, land use planning firms, nongovernment organizations, housing advocacy groups, business and industry, the environmental justice community, counties, municipalities, public utilities authorities, engineering firms, the EPA, the Governor’s office and environmental consulting firms. Three were former cabinet members: DEP, Transportation and Community Affairs.

This composition shows that the initiative was primarily political, not science and policy oriented. This is not exactly the independent good government model Daggett talks about on the campaign trail.

5. The pro-environment objectives were used as green cover

The Order creating the Task Force included pro-environmental policy objectives (in bold):

b. The report of the Task Force shall also provide recommendations for operational, policy and regulatory changes at the department to provide incentives for and to advance sustainable development projects that contribute to achieving statewide greenhouse gas limits, economic growth opportunities in urban areas and meaningful affordable housing and that, as a result of their location and design, have little or no impact on public health and safety, the environment or natural resources; and

c. As part of its deliberations, the Task Force may also identify possible statutory changes that would result in enhancing the DEP’s timely and efficient service or the DEP’s ability to provide incentives for sustainable development projects that contribute to achieving statewide greenhouse gas limits, economic growth opportunities in urban areas and meaningful affordable housing and that, as a result of their location and design, have little or no impact on public health and safety, the environment or natural resources”

But the pro-environmental policy objectives were completely ignored in the Task Force Report. This fact seriously calls into question Daggett’s rhetorical commitments to balanced policy.

6.  Orwellian euphemism was used to mask a pro-business anti-environmental agenda:

“In short, the Commissioner formed the Task Force out of a concern that the current permitting process cannot keep up with demand. The Commissioner asked the Task Force to help her in making the permit process more timely, predictable, consistent and transparent to the regulated community [Note: but what about to the public?] and to do so at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers while enhancing New Jersey’s environment.”

That finding is long on euphemisms and short on substance – and it conflicts with Daggett’s claims of the need for tradeoffs, compromises, and tough choices.

7. Faster means weaker protections – DEP already rubber stamps 90-95% of permits“ only the really bad projects need “streamlining”

The Report found DEP approves the overwhelming majority of permits within deadlines, and that only really bad permits must be expedited – this shows the real agenda of the Task Force – to promote bad projects and expedite their permits:

“Overall, 90 percent to 95 percent are approved, often with substantial changes as a result of DEP input, with the remainder being denied or withdrawn. The permit decisions are usually made within the statutory timeframe, which varies from program to program. The permitting system breaks down most frequently when there are multiple permits for a single project, when projects are large in size and when impacts to the environment are complex and potentially extensive.”

8. The Private sector knows best –

The Report recommended that DEP should emulate the lprivate sector – the same folks who caused the economic collapse, and just so happen to be large polluters who have off-shored jobs and deindustrialized the US manufacturing base.

This private sector uber alles mentality also ignores the fundamental legal and policy reality that DEP protects public resources that are not subject to market values, but to democratic preferences and science:

“Overall, there is no single silver bullet that can fix the various permitting problems of the DEP. Rather, what is needed is similar to the approach that enables certain manufacturing companies to stand out in their fields. The success of these companies is rooted in rigorous and unrelenting attention to all of the little details of the manufacturing process, or in the DEP’s case, the permitting process. The successful manufacturing companies have created a work culture with a bias toward action” a performance-driven environment”and have empowered its employees to perform.”

9. A rationale Commissioner Jackson relied on to privatize DEP science (i.e. Science Advisory Board) and abolish the Division of Science and Research

Although it is clearly limited to academic scientists, this recommendation was misused by Commissioner Lisa Jackson to abolish DEP DSR and seek greater private sector control via a new SAB:

“In the course of Task Force deliberations, two issues arose which were outside the charge of the Administrative Order but which directly impact the efficiency of the DEP. The first is the quality of science and research that provides the underpinning of the policies, guidance, directives and regulations of the DEP. Through the first two decades of the DEP’s history, the Office of Science and Research was one of the most highly regarded programs in the country. However, during the past two decades, budget cuts and reorganizations have undercut the quality of the program. While the Office still does excellent work, the staff simply cannot keep up with the breadth and scope of DEP needs. Accordingly, the TaskForce recommends that the DEP convene a study group that examines this issue and addresses possible ways to restore the stature of the Office, with a particular focus on collaborative efforts with academic research institutions and outstanding practitioners to minimize or avoid significant budget and staff increases.”

Also, the recommended public “study grow” was never formed, nor was the mistaken recommendation to”restore the stature of the Office” implemented. The recommendation also is based on an error: DEP Science and Research was a Division at the time of this Report, not an office. – this is a revealing error. The Division was downsized to an Office based in part on this recommendation.

[correction: I was a former DEP policy analyst, not DEP Commissioner. NJBIZ got it wrong on that]

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DEP Will Delist Threatened Cooper’s Hawk to Promote Development

October 18th, 2009 1 comment
Cooper's hawk - NJ threatened species

Cooper’s hawk – NJ threatened species (NJDEP photo)

[Update: 11/11/09 Ed Rodgers of NJN TV news did a great story last night, click here, runs from time 8:55 – 11:15 – end update ]

At the recent NJ Business and Industry Association panel discussion, DEP Commissioner Mauriello made a commitment that DEP would soon propose rules to delist the Cooper’s hawk as a State threatened species.

The move would not only eliminate protections for the hawk, but allow development of untold acres of currently protected forested breeding, nesting, and foraging habitat.

Maurillo’s announcement was made in response (and clearly appeared to be a concession) to a specific developer who complained that his $40 million project was blocked by the current threatened listing, which protects critical habitat from development. This developer also claimed that “hundreds of millions of dollars of development” is blocked by the current State threatened species designation. Mauriello replied that he was aware of this specific project, had reviewed the developer’s fax to him, and thanked him for it too (gee, can I have another?). Mauriello even suggested that the developer apply for other DEP permits in the interim, which he would approve.

Mauriello did not say whether biologists at DEP’s Endangered and Non-Game Species Program were clamoring for delisting Cooper’s hawk, or whether the move was made in response to political pressure by developers. I checked all the recent posted minutes of the Endangered & Non-Game Species Advisory Council and could find nothing about delisting, so if Mauriello is doing an end run around ENSAC then it looks like the political deal is in.

Regardless of whether the delisting is scientifically justified, it is obvious that political pressure is impacting DEP priorities. DEP has severe deficits of staff, not only to conduct the biological studies, but to write the regulations. Delisting would seem to be a very poor priority to assign scarce staff to work on. For example, according to ENSP (1/16/08):

Habitat Regulations

The E/T habitat regulations have not yet been proposed, nor is there a specific schedule for doing

so. The current fiscal status of the State and the need for an additional staff to implement the

regulations is partly responsible for the delay in the proposal. The Commissioner remains

committed to implementing regulations protecting E&T wildlife habitat.

So I pose the question to the experts out there – is this delisting justified? Has the Cooper’s hawk fully recovered? Even if it has recovered, is removal of current protections a wise move?

I do not work on birds and clearly am no woodland raptor expert. Here is the best information I could find on DEP’s website:

Status and Conservation

Until the mid-1930s, many raptor species, including the Cooper’s hawk, were shot in large numbers during migration and on their breeding grounds because of suspected poultry and game bird predation. Regardless, the Cooper’s hawk remained a fairly common breeding species in New Jersey’s forests until the 1950s when habitat loss caused population declines. In addition, the pesticide DDT impaired reproduction and contributed to population declines observed from the 1950s to 1970s. Due to the reduction in the state’s breeding population and the loss of habitat, the Cooper’s hawk was listed as an endangered species in New Jersey in 1974. The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program considers the Cooper’s hawk to be “apparently secure globally,” yet “rare in the State (breeding) (Office of Natural Lands Management 1998). Concern for this species is evident in nearby states, such as New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, where it is listed as threatened, and Massachusetts and New York, where it is considered a species of Special Concern. The National Audubon Society also included the Cooper’s hawk on its Blue List of Imperiled Species from 1971 to 1982 and in 1986, the final year of the list.

Following the nationwide ban of DDT in 1972 and the reforestation of fallow lands throughout the state, Cooper’s hawk populations began to recover. Cooper’s hawks experienced increases in New Jersey Christmas Bird Counts from 1959 to 1988 and Breeding Bird Surveys from 1980 to 1999 (Sauer et al. 1996, Sauer et al. 2001). Other recent surveys have also shown a substantial increase in the breeding population of Cooper’s hawks in New Jersey. As a result, the status of the Cooper’s hawk was reclassified from endangered to threatened in New Jersey in 1999. The loss of large, contiguous forests remains a threat to this species and warrants the continued protection of Cooper’s hawk nesting habitats (Source NJDEP link).

Wildlife Action Plan (2008)

Recommendations: Identify, protect, maintain, enhance, and restore the remaining large contiguous tracts of forest and forested wetland habitat as identified by the Landscape Project for the longterm viability of forest-dwelling, area-sensitive and interior-nesting wildlife. These include such species or suites as the Cooper’s hawk, red-headed woodpecker, and forestinterior species such as interior forest passerines, cavity nesting birds, and forest-dwelling bats.

Landscape Project – Justification:

The home ranges of Cooper’s hawks are highly variable, both geographically and seasonally. Only breeding records of Cooper’s hawks are used in the Landscape Project to value habitat. Home range calculations reported in the literature for Cooper’s hawks during the breeding season range from 65.5 ha to 784 ha. The average being 348 ha, or an area equivalent to having a 1.1 km radius. The ENSP uses a 1.0 km radius to represent the occurrence area boundary for all Cooper’s hawk breeding records used in the Landscape Project. This represents a slightly conservative estimate of the breeding season home ranges of Cooper’s hawks as reported in the literature.

Source: NJDEP: New Jersey’s Landscape Project (Version 3.0 – Highlands – 2008)

Statewide Version 2.0

Basis for recent Green Acres land acquisition – 170 acre tract in Kingwood Township along Delaware

“The tract encompasses a portion of a Natural Heritage Priority Site, which delineates important areas for the state’s biodiversity. The site consists of wooded bluffs, dry woods, steep rocky slopes and a small stream within a deep ravine. The tract supports threatened animals including the Cooper’s hawk and barred owl.”

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How to Blow The Moment on Clean Water

October 15th, 2009 No comments

In the wake of an outstanding major NY Times series expose of Clean Water Act failures, Congress began oversight hearings today (see House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure backgrounder)

These hearings provide clean water advocates a golden moment to talk about failures of EPA enforcement and to propose strong reforms to set a high bar for the Obama EPA and Democratic controlled Congress.

Former NJ DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, current EPA Administrator testified today.

Jackson’s appearance provided a unique opportunity to advocate for NJ’s hugely successful Clean Water Enforcement Act. That Act sets mandatory penalties for permit violations and requires annal inspections. NJ funds these compliance and enforcement efforts via polluter pays permit discharge fees.

We could have urged that these aspects of NJ’s clean water program become a national model.

But what did the testimony from the NJ clean water advocate focus on? Horseshit. Literally. 

I’d love to know the inside political story on how this NJ clean water advocate got invited to testify at the hearing.

It’s times like these that make me want to find another line of work.


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