Home > Uncategorized > Forest “Harvest” Bill Must Be Revised to “Forest Health and Appreciation”

Forest “Harvest” Bill Must Be Revised to “Forest Health and Appreciation”

View northeast from AT State Line Trail (Greenwood Lake below)

View northeast from AT State Line Trail (Greenwood Lake below)

Commercial Logging Sure Can Ruin A Day in the Woods!

[Update: 3/7/12 – A key flaw is getting lost in this debate, that needs additional emphasis:

The bill would allow DEP to privatize forest management planning! According to Section 2.c. (page 3, lines 16 – 26)

  1. c. The duties of the project manager shall include:
  2. 12 (1) adopting a management plan, developed through a public
  3. 13  process including a public notice, hearing, and comment period,
  4. 14  consistent with the provisions of the forest stewardship plans for the
  5. 15  State-owned lands identified by the commissioner pursuant to
  6. 16  subsection a. of this section;

Senator Smith seems hell bent on moving his seriously flawed “forest harvest” bill that would allow commercial logging on state owned lands (parks, forests, wildlife management areas, etc) (see S1085).

Smith requested that public comments on the bill be submitted to him by March 1 – which I understand was extended to March 5.

The bill will be heard on March 8 and is the only bill on the Environment Committee’s agenda, which means that this hearing will be intensive. The bill will likely get supporting cover from NJ Audubon and sportsman’s groups (e.g. those *eco-terrorist watchdogs at the NJ Outdoor Alliance), so it important that opponents weigh in.

So, below is my letter to Smith, reflecting some of the issues I raised in prior posts (see this and this) and in recent testimony to his Committee.

As I am no expert in forest ecology or “stewardship” (I hate that word more than “sustainable development”!), I tried to stick to planning, regulatory, economic, bureaucratic, and general public policy issues:

Dear Chairman Smith – As you requested, below please find my suggested amendments to S1085. When appropriate, I provide a very brief rationale in parenthesis following the suggested amendment.

These amendments reflect the following concerns and policy objectives:

1) to provide a clear definition of program functions and sequencing of activities to promote transparency and early public involvement in program planning and site selection;

2) to assure that landscape integrity, visual impacts, and user aesthetics are included as co-equal factors in forest management decisions and are considered within the concept of “sustainable management”;

3) to eliminate perverse incentives to prevent commercial economic and bureaucratic budget considerations from over-riding science and public policy considerations in forest management decisions; and

4) to clarify that forest health and user appreciation are the primary objectives of the program.

I must make one critical point at the outset:

Allowing commercial harvest revenues and permit fees to be allocated and dedicated to DEP program implementation and staff costs sets up perverse incentives and conflicts of interest.

If the program is designed and funded that way, DEP would have incentives and conflicts of interest to promote harvest and revenue generation over forest stewardship objectives.

This is similar to the argument the regulated community made regarding DEP enforcement fine revenues going back to DEP. In response to those arguments and to avoid these conflicts, the legislature required that enforcement fine revenue be “on budget”.

Similarly, over 20 years of experience in implementing the” polluter pays” policy has amply demonstrated that heavy reliance on DEP permit fees biases DEP resource and staff allocations and creates perverse incentives to approve permits and maximize permit volume.

These perverse incentives lead to both over-regulation and under investment in non-fee funded activities, such as science, policy development, planning, technology, and natural resource management programs.

This is a lose-lose proposition – both regulated community and the environment suffer.

Feeding the counties those same fee revenues contributes to a program driven by economic considerations, not sound science and public policy.

If this forest program is a priority, then it should be based on the merits and funded with general appropriations.

Section 1

a. line 9 – add: “and landscape visual integrity and quality of life for NJ residents and visitors

line 12 – after “absorb” add: and store carbon

line 15 –  add:  “and intact mature forests serve to provide landscape beauty and aesthetic values to hunters, birders, hikers, fishermen, bicyclists, homeowners, and other users of the forest.”  (delete “and” in line 14)

b.  line 19 – delete “and improved yields of

(“Sustained yield” is a term of art in silviculture – this new term would only invite commercial harvest abuse.)

line 22 – delete “and a viable market for forest products

(market development is not the primary objective. It is implicit in the word “incentives”. Best to leave the market development aspects to the private sector and keep them out of the formal program and DEP purview.)

c. delete in its entirety

(this may be true historically, but we do not enjoy pre-eurpoean forest cover and live in modern times. Plus, the strongest justification for the role of fire is in the Pinelands, which have been deleted from the bill. Controlled burns can get out of control and have significant negative health and environmental impacts (release carbon, air pollution, local nuisance smoke and odors, wildlife harassment, etc. Additionally, purported reduction of fire hazard can be used as a rationale to invite development in inherently risky locations, and bring new development in harm’s way).

d. line 36-37 – delete: “through the support of a market for low grade wood” (Market development is not DEP’s proper role.)

line 37 – delete “a market” replace with “sustainable management practices

line 39 – 44 delete starting with “and a reduction of catastrophic fire risk ….” through “would ensure” (see above)

e. delete in its entirety

These findings are problematic, rest on dubious scientific basis, and are poor public policy. There is no link between biomass use to produce energy and reduction of fossil fuels so that carbon emissions are reduced. Additionally, there are significant local and indoor air pollution impacts and health risks from wood burning stoves and fireplace emissions that are not addressed here.

f.  delete in its entirety (see above. Any private sector “green jobs” will follow public investments in forest management)

Section 2

p. 3, line 17 – delete “harvest” and replace with “health and appreciation” (throughout, in case I miss any)

line 40 – delete (6) in its entirety

line 43 – delete “harvest” and replace withhealth and appreciation”

p. 4, line 1 – delete “harvesting” – replace with “sustainable management

line 2 – subsection b – Am I reading this correctly to allow privatization of the forest planning and/or management process? Could the “project manager” be in the private sector? If so, that is inappropriate.

Functions (statewide planning, individual forest stewardship plans,) and management roles and responsibilities between DEP and private foresters need to be clarified.

line 11 – subsection c. – Ideally, delete because it is far to focused on harvesting, cutting, and selling wood and the sequence of activists and roles and responsibilities are not clear.

A new subsection would define the elements of the “management plan” and provide for program sequencing. BEFORE DEP selects a project manager and bids an individual project, the DEP must be required to conduct the following sequence of activities:

(1) develop forest stewardship program and individual plans for state owned lands;

(2) identify State-owned lands for which a forest stewardship plan has been or will be developed that are eligible for the harvesting of forest products;

(3) propose the draft plan and sites targeted for harvesting forest products for formal public review and comment, including at least 3 statewide public hearings and at least 1 public hearing in a municipality with harvest lands targeted;

(4) respond to public comment and adopt final plans;

(5) bid projects, as appropriate (with public notice and comment on individual proposed harvests)

lines 25 – 28 – delete in their entirety

(market development is not DEP’s proper role and invites abuses.)

lines 32 – 47 – delete in their entirety

Section 3 – end – delete.

As you can see, the bill needs a lot of work, it is not clear the even the above amendments would work, and I can not support it in its current form. A substitute bill or complete redraft and reintroduction is the best course.

We appreciate your consideration,


Bill Wolfe

* – typo in original omitted the prefix “anti-“, thus stating the exact opposite of what I meant. Apologies to readers and NJOA for any misunderstandings.

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