Home > Uncategorized > Audubon Urges That “Stewardship” Funding Go From $0 to $40 Million Per Year

Audubon Urges That “Stewardship” Funding Go From $0 to $40 Million Per Year

No Definition of “Stewardship”, or Policy, or Program Plan

Deep disagreements about what it means

Another Curious Contradiction

John James Audubon - a man handy with gun and quill

[Important Update below]

There was an extraordinary and highly unusual moment yesterday during testimony on the Open Space Sale Tax dedication.

A woman representing NJ Audubon began to read her written testimony in support of the Resolution. But, just after she began, Chairman Smith abruptly interrupted.

(paraphrase): “I see you have written testimony. You can submit that for the record. But, instead of reading it, just tell us, from the heart, why you support open space preservation

I prepared to hear a sentimental soliloquy of falling in love with birds under the wise tutelage of a summer camp counselor or science teacher – or some profound recollection of an ecological epiphany while watching hawks soar.

But I was disappointed to hear nothing from the heart – but instead a justification grounded in – money.

This included the gall to recommend that 20% of the Open Space funding – $40 million! – be allocated to “stewardship”.

To put that number in context, DEP recently opposed FSC certification due to a cost of $100,000 per year, and legislators raised cost concerns that preparing plans required by the the “Forest Stewardship” bill for state lands could cost $2.7 million (total)

I was dumbstruck.

Without hyperbole, a truly jaw dropping moment.

Imagine that – going from the current situation of $0 allocated to “stewardship” to a request for $40 million!

With no scientific or legal definition of what “stewardship” even means; no “stewardship” policy;  and no program plan to justify the need for the funding or to describe where and how the money would be spent!

Asking for $40 million of taxpayer money – on a fucking whim!

And doing all this while not disclosing that your organization would receive a lot of that money and is the only entity in NJ that is certified to prepare “forest stewardship” plans, giving you a corner on a big chunk of the “stewardship” market.

And worse, testifying about all this without even acknowledging the existence of the current raging debate on exactly just what “stewardship” means in the public lands management context.

Ah, but what should I expect from a representative of a group named for a man who shot birds in order to draw them, a curious contradiction that drove me this morning to my Library of America collection for the volume by John James Audubon.

I didn’t have to read far to capture the essence of the man.

On page 2, the second day of his “Mississippi River Journal;”, on Saturday, October 14, 1820, he writes of a brutal scene:

I shot a Fish Hawk Falco Aliatus at the mouth of the Big Miami River a handsome male in good Plumage. he was wing (sic) only and in attempting to Seize Joseph’s hand, he ran one of his claws through the lower mandible of his bill and exhibited a very ludicrous object. These birds walk with great difficulty and like all of the Falco and Strix Genus throw themselves on their backs to defend themselves.

So, fast forwarding 193 years, I guess the fruit has not fallen far from the tree.

So, let me recap the highlights, just for clarity:

1) currently, the 40+ year old Open Space program does not provide funds for “stewardship”;

2) there is no legal, scientific, or programmatic definition of what “stewardship” means in a theoretical or applied field context to support the initiative;

3)  there is no analysis justifying the need for “stewardship” funding;

4) there is no policy or program plan to describe when, where, why, by whom, and how “stewardship” funds would be spent; metrics to evaluate performance; and how performance would be monitored and assessed;

5) NJ Audubon conducts stewardship consulting services; is involved with DEP on stewardship projects; and implements stewardship on Audubon properties;

6) DEP  foresters and NJ Audubon define “stewardship” to include the following activities on public lands:

  • commercial logging
  • cutting trees and brush to provide “bio-fuels”
  • prescribed burns
  • applications of herbicides, even in water supply watersheds
  • destruction of environmentally sensitive features – including wetlands, stream buffers, and steep slopes – by logging roads, bridges, and cutting of trees
  • closure of hiking trails and restrictions on public access as necessary to support logging and “stewardship” activities.

Do you support providing $40 million in taxpayer funds for ANY of this?

Let your voice be heard in the debate.

[Update – just realized I left out an important point (which I raised in my testimony yesterday):

While the text of the Resoution itself would authorize expenditures for “stewardship”, curiously, the proposed ballot question and the interpretive statement make NO MENTION of “stewardship”. Read it for yourself here

I complained that this misleads voters engaged in one of the most significant acts of a citizen in a democracy: amending the Constitution.

This is a totally unacceptable situation.- end update]

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