Home > Uncategorized > Thousands Demand That DEP Abandon Bull’s Island Clearcut Plan

Thousands Demand That DEP Abandon Bull’s Island Clearcut Plan

More than 20,000 people sign petitions to oppose

  • “Based on the consultant’s report and a technical review by DEP forestry experts, we are proceeding with removing all vegetative material in the upper river section of Bull’s Island.
  • Once the area is cleared, the Department will proceed with replanting the area with appropriate floodplain vegetation that matures at smaller heights and does not pose a public safety risk.”

~~~  DEP memorandum (February 8, 2012) to Commissioner Martin implementing his prior July 2011 decision.

[Update #2: 9/22/12 – Lehigh Valley live story:  Environmental group gathering signatures to fight Bull’s Island tree removal –

Although the department has yet to file a plan with the canal commission for approval, Bill Wolfe — director of New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility — said he’s noticed a large number of trees he believes are marked for cutting.

While commissioners were not scheduled to discuss the Bull’s Island proposal last week, Wolfe made sure the issue remained in the public eye by announcing that his group — PEER — had collected more than 20,000 signatures on a petition opposing any state plan to remove trees from the island. In a statement announcing the petition drive, PEER indicates the state has expanded its original plan to remove trees from a 5-acre area to a larger area totaling roughly 44 acres.

Wolfe cited a news report that indicated the commission has received more than 80 emails regarding Bull’s Island.

“This is a very significant public concern,” he said, suggesting the commission has been ignoring the issue.  end update]

Update #1:  9/19/12 – read the Hunterdon County Democrat story – don’t miss the comments at the bottom: State management plan to decide fate of centuries-old trees at Bull’s Island State Park, where falling tree killed camper 

Bill Wolfe of West Amwell Township, an activist and former DEP employee, accused the state this week of “ignoring mounting public opposition,” and proceeding with an “expanded plan to deforest Bull’s Island.” An online petition protesting clear-cutting at the state recreation area has garnered 20,000 signature, he reported. Signers listed addresses from around the world.  –

Of course, here’s my favorite comment:

Horse salutes Bill Wolfe as a patriot. Horse asks you: What have we evolved into that it requires petition to participate in public affairs? Think deeply about that for a moment. Horse urges anyone reading this to crack open Civil Disobedience, that truly American masterpiece written in 1849 by Henry David Thoreau. If we are to have a free future, trees included, not only is that stand of sycamores over at Bull’s Island important but also the stand that is required of you right here, right now. – end update


It’s been more than 6 months after the DEP’s original plan to clearcut Bull’s Island Sate park was exposed – which blocked DEP from cutting and prompted US Fish and Wildlife Service and others to intervene (see: Bull’s Island Being Blitzed by DEP)

And after the enforcement actions are taken and the site restored, maybe someone can explain what looks to be the pending slaughter of scores of spectacular sycamore trees.

I saw scores of old trees marked for destruction, likely in response to last year’s tragic death, where an old sycamore fell on the tent of a camping family.

….. given the remarkable grove of old trees covering Bulls Island, I’d prefer to close the park to camping rather than lose the trees so that campers can be safe.

During this 6 month period, public opposition to the DEP plan has continued to grow, prompting severe criticism by experts (see letters by NJ Audubon and NJCF).

In response, the D&R Canal Commission has repeatedly requested that DEP make a public presentation of their plan for the Island and provide an opportunity for public review and comment.

Instead, DEP has hunkered down, dug in, used press office spin, and refused to provide requested information. DEP has simply and arrogantly dismissed concerns of experts and the public:

DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese disagreed.

“A couple of critics have gone out of the way to hammer the DEP,” Ragonese said.

Those “couple of critics” are now over 20,000 people  – yet DEP is expanding the area of tree removal. The latest from out friends at PEER:

20,000 Protest New Jersey Plan to Clear-Cut Bull’s Island

Tree Removals Expand as State Eschews Public Review or Expert Consultation

Trenton — Ignoring mounting public opposition, New Jersey is proceeding with an expanded plan to de-forest Bull’s Island State Park along the Delaware River scenic corridor, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which has gathered more than 20,000 signatures in protest of the plan.  With cutting slated to begin this fall, state officials have yet to reveal their precise plan or to consult with other federal and state agencies that have expressed concerns.

Bull’s Island hosts a magnificent floodplain forest, including stands of rare 200-year-old sycamore old growth.  The Island is a bird watchers mecca, sheltering eagles and rare migratory songbirds such as the Cerulean and Yellow-throated warblers.  It is a key component of the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park, one of the most renowned scenic corridors east of the Mississippi.

In 2011, a camper was tragically killed and his wife injured when a huge sycamore snapped and fell on their tent.  The Island’s northern end where they were camping has since been closed to all camping.  In the ensuing months, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted a tree “health assessment” and developed a “comprehensive management plan,” according to its website.

Despite ecological objections from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies, the DEP has –

  • Enlarged the original plan from the 5-acre northern end to address the much larger central (“down river”) portion of the island.  Several scores of trees have been marked, apparently for removal across an area covering half of the 88-acre Island;
  • Proceeded in secrecy, denying public record requests for plans while indicating that DEP will develop its plan internally without consulting any outside agencies or experts; and
  • Ignored alternative approaches.  Its own internal consultant, for example, recommended that the inherent risks be managed through traffic and use restrictions, not cutting – a suggestion which appears to have been ignored.

“There is no reason state forest management should be treated as a state secret,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, who has made numerous attempts to disgorge DEP plans.  “DEP should disclose not only what it intends to cut but what and when it plans to restore.  These plans should be subjected to public review and comment.”  The DEP plan is still not on tomorrow’s Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission monthly agenda despite requests by the Commission and the public over the past 6 months.

PEER is urging that the entire Island be made a no-cut zone as is currently the case for the southern portion of the Island, a designated natural area. Although other public agencies and private ecological experts have raised a wide variety of sylvicultural, habitat and erosion issues, DEP appears to be relying solely on the assessment of root health from one tree-cutting firm which, presumably, would have a bias for recommending removal.

“By concentrating on individual trees, DEP has lost sight of the forest – and its values,” Wolfe added, noting that he ultimately expects 50,000 to sign the PEER petition protesting DEP Bull’s Island plan.  “This tremendous petition outpouring demonstrates that people across the country, not just from New Jersey, care what happens to Bull’s Island.” 


See and sign the online citizens’ petition to Save Bull’s Island

Look at expanded DEP plans for central part of Island

View DEP refusal to reveal management plans

Revisit concerns by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies

Examine tree cutter consultant report and genesis of the controversy

New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability 


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. terry skovronek
    October 12th, 2012 at 22:47 | #1

    Please close Bull Island to campers rather than cut down the trees. Better yet, leave things as they are.

  1. September 27th, 2012 at 09:24 | #1
  2. September 6th, 2019 at 21:01 | #2
  3. June 10th, 2022 at 10:34 | #3
You must be logged in to post a comment.