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DEP To Abandon Habitat Protections To Promote Economic Development

DEP CEO Martin Approves Controversial Plan Before Public Review

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin

[Corrrection below]

Well, it sure didn’t take long for the first shoe to drop in 2011!

We knew it was going to be economic development uber alles, but we thought DEP Commissioner Martin would be a little smarter about how he went about it. We didn’t expect such a heavy handed and crude approach.

We expected just a little pro-conservation or pro-environment spin thrown in as a justification, not just flat out promotion of economic development

Acccording to today’s Star Ledger, DEP will change the threatened and endangered species list and eliminate habitat protections for over 31,000 acres of land:

The proposed changes would also reduce the need for protected habitat in New Jersey by about 31,000 acres over 48 square miles which could then be opened to economic development, the plan concludes.

“The net result of the proposed listing and de-listing is an overall reduction in lands protected as endangered and threatened species habitat,” according to the plan. “The indirect effect is a potential for increased economic growth due to the net decrease in area determined to be potential threatened species habitat and thus restricted under other regulations.”

[Update: Habitat is given protections by various DEP regulations:

Threatened and endangered species habitats in New Jersey are protected by several land use regulations that limit development and disturbance of areas identified as such habitat. Specifically, restrictions are imposed on the development of endangered and threatened wildlife species habitats under the following Department regulations: Coastal Permit Program Rules (N .J.A.C. 7:7), Coastal Zone Management rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E), Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7A), Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:13), Water Quality Management Planning rules (N.J.A.C. 7:15) and Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:38). Restrictions on development of endangered and threatened wildlife species habitats are also imposed under the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (N.J.A.C. 7:50).

While DEP approval of development of northern pine snake habitat has been in the news recently, back in 2009, we wrote about how DEP abandoned wood turtle habitat protections to appease developers.

Later in October, we disclosed DEP plans to Delist Threatened Cooper’s Hawk to Promote Development.

Martin’s plan now formally delists and loosens protections for Cooper’s Hawk, and several other species.

Because this plan came out of the blue, we wonder if Commissioner Martin disclosed this plan to his “Stakeholder group” that met on Threatened and Endangered species issues. If not, Martin reveals enormous bad faith. Either that or the pro-conservation members of that Stakeholder group did a miserable job in organizing public opposition to Martin’s plan.

Martin’s controversial proposal to sacrifice critical habitat protections to promote economic development must first go to the Endangered and Non-Game Species Advisory Committee for review. ENSAC’s role is to review the science supporting Martin’s plan to determine if it is sound – they are not a policy making body.

The plan must then be subject to public comment.

But Martin arrogantly ignores all that – he already approved the plan:

Hajna said the plan has already been approved by DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. The public comment period on the proposed changes lasts through March 19. After that, the DEP will decide whether to alter the plan, and implement the final changes, Hajna said.

Martin did the same thing on the bear hunt –

Note to Bob: it is simply wrong to approve a plan before relevant scientific advisory bodies review the science and an opportunity for public comment is provided.

Martin needs to learn that DEP is not a private corporation and that his is DEP Commissioner, not CEO.

[Correction – The above was written based on the Star Ledger article.  I was not aware of a rule proposal and thought the plan was not yet proposed as a rule, but was before the ENSAC for review. The rule has been proposed and is posted on DEP website. I just read the proposal, and apparently the species recommendations were reviewed and developed by ENSAC:

After the expert review and classification, status determinations reached through the Delphi Technique are reviewed by the Department’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program and the Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee, a committee of experts established pursuant to ENSCA (see N.J.S.A. 23:2A-7e) and its implementing regulations at N.J.A.C. 7:25-4.18) to advise and assist the Commissioner in carrying out the intent of ENSCA. (@ page 6)

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  1. Seldom Seen Smith
    January 19th, 2011 at 23:06 | #1

    “Under the proposed changes, there will also be fewer categories for classifying species that do not rise to the level of endangered or threatened. Current classifications, such as “declining,” “increasing” and “stable,” would be eliminated and replaced by fewer categories such as “special concern,” officials said.What we’re trying to do is simplify the terminology so that the public can understand it more easily,”

    -Holy cr*p! declining, increasing and stable were blowing my mind. now its more clear. Thanks Bob!

  2. zimmerman
  1. February 26th, 2012 at 19:11 | #1
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