DEP Using Sandy To Expand “Prescribed Burns” In State Forests
DEP Ignores Legislative Debate on Forest Stewardship
Is there no “public” involvement in DEP decisions on how to manage Public Lands?
The practice of so called “prescribed burns” in state forests and public lands is controversial, see:.
- This is What a “Prescribed Burn” Looks Like
- Forest Bill Would Jeopardize Clean Air and Public Health
Legislation that would authorize expansion of prescribed burns as a “forest stewardship” management tool (S1085 [SCS]) passed the Senate last June 25, 2012, but is stalled in the Assembly.
During testimony on that bill, forestry experts, ecologists, public advocates and Legislators did not reach consensus on the scope of the “controlled burn program” and they did not consider air quality and public health impacts.
There was consensus that prescribed burns were an effective management tool for Pinelands forests, but there was disagreement on whether they were effective and appropriate for northern NJ’s hardwood forests, which are surrounded by dense populations and developed towns that suffer poor air quality already.
That Senate “forest stewardship” bill supports controlled burns as a management technique, and would direct DEP to:
The Department of Environmental Protection shall develop a program to provide for the active stewardship of forest on State-owned lands. Under the program, the stewardship of State- owned forested lands shall be directed by the State Forester in accordance with a forest stewardship plan adopted pursuant to subsection b. of this section that provides for sustainable forest stewardship activities to preserve forest resources and enhance the benefits provided by the forest.
b. The department shall:
[(1) – (8)]
(9) establish standards for the use of prescribed burns as a resource protection and forest stewardship technique where appropriate;
Let’s repeat that: “where appropriate” logically means that there are places where it is not.
But the bill has not passed.
DEP has not adopted a forest stewardship program.
DEP has not adopted a forest stewardship plan.
Appropriate forests for controlled burns have not been selected.
There are no “standards” or effective ecological or air quality safeguards and controls in place on the DEP’s historic “controlled burn” program.
The public has had no voice in DEP’s forest management decisions.
Given all that and the pending legislation, one would think DEP would honor that debate, lay low, and go slow with prescribed burns.
One would be wrong.
DEP is expanding the practices – and cynically using damage from Superstorm Sandy as cover for that.
A decision DEP announces today as a fait accompli by arrogant decree in a press release:
CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES ANNUAL WORK UNDER WAY TO IMPROVE FOREST SAFETY AND HEALTH
Sandy Debris in Forests Increases the Need for Prescribed Burns This Season
(13/P14) TRENTON – Winter prescribed burns, an integral part of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service’s wildfire risk reduction strategy, are under way throughout the state, with an additional need this year due to felled trees and forest debris caused by Superstorm Sandy, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said today.
“Prescribed burning is part of a planned strategy that the Forest Fire Service uses to manage natural fuels including undergrowth and fallen branches and trees, which helps to reduce the size and severity of wildfires,” Commissioner Martin said. “Prescribed burns help protect lives, property and improve the overall health of our forests. This year, it’s even more important to take this preventative action because the forest floor across our state is filled with downed trees caused by Sandy.” …
State crews conducted prescribed burns starting last week at Stafford Forge, Greenwood and Peaslee wildlife management areas in Ocean and Cumberland counties, and at Brendan Byrne State Forest in Burlington County and Allaire State Park in Monmouth County.
How can you negotiate in good faith with DEP when they do stuff like this?
“Planned strategy”? Where’s the plan, Bob?
Is there no “public” involvement in decisions on how to manage Public Lands?