No Daylight Between Christie DEP and The Loggers In Sparta Mountain Battle
Gov. Christie vetoed private “Forest Stewardship” as an unconstitutional DEP “abdication”
Did DEP Commissioner Bob Martin get the memo?
DEP is out of control in mismanaging public lands and natural resources
Without doubt, Governor Christie has the worst environmental record of any NJ Governor, but – although it pains me to write this – he does have a few accomplishments.
One of them is his veto of proposed “Forest Stewardship” legislation because the role of private interests in “Forest Stewardship” would result in an unconstitutional delegation of power and “abdicate” DEP’s responsibility to serve as trustee of the State’s forests. Christie wrote:
My sole concern with the bill is the requirement that DEP abdicate its responsibility to serve as the State’s environmental steward to a named third party. According to the Office of the Attorney General, this constitutes an improper delegation of Executive Branch authority in violation of the Constitution. Therefore, I recommend removing the mandatory requirement in favor of relying on DEP’s and the State Forester’s expertise, but still empowering the DEP Commissioner to, in his or her discretion, seek the certification of an independent, third-party entity with expertise in forest stewardship should such certification be prudent.
It is unusual for a Governor to veto a bill on Constitutional grounds, and even more rare to do so on the basis of an “improper delegation” of DEP power to the private sector. (The “delegation doctrine” essentially was killed by the New Deal administrative state, but that’s too rich an historical irony to discuss here – just see photo above and reflect). It is rarer still to call this an “abdication”, while stressing DEP’s stewardship responsibility.
With that kind of Constitutional and rhetorical wind blowing, one would presume that DEP Commissioner Martin would be highly sensitive to the role of DEP with respect to private interests and build multiple firewalls between DEP and private interests in managing State forests.
One would assume a prominent, powerful, and exclusive role for DEP regulatory oversight and control by the State Forester, given the Gov.’s emphasis on “relying on DEP’s and the State Forester’s expertise.”
One would be very wrong about that.
Private interests have captured DEP and hijacked public lands and natural resource management.
That veto is highly significant not only as a matter of Constitutional law, but also as public policy, because it cut against the ideological grain of a series of core Christie policies, including:
- an animus to environmental regulation by DEP (EO#2)
- promotion of privatization and outsourcing (EO#17);
- promotion of revenue generating activities on State lands, see Christie’s “Sustainable Parks Funding Strategy“, the source of conflict in the Liberty State Park dispute and
- DEP’s Interagency State Land Lease Valuation Panel Report – the source of conflict over pipelines and electric transmission lines across state lands.
Yet directly contrary to the Governor’s veto, Bob Martin over at DEP has been implementing virtually the same private interest driven forest stewardship program the Governor vetoed.
The Sparta Mountain logging plan is DEP’s third in the Highlands, following Weldon Brook WMA and Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. It was written by a private forestry consultant, who was paid for by a private group, funded by private money, designed to meet private FSC standards, and with no public involvement.
The environmental community correctly views this as a serious threat to Highlands forests and has drawn a line in the sand to block implementation of the DEP’s “forest stewardship” program, despite the fact that many of them supported the legislation that Gov. Christie correctly vetoed. (Does Mr. Ruga “You don’t get paid” not know that the “contract” loggers pay DEP revenue, thus withholding payment under contracts provide zero leverage to DEP?)
Detailed public review of these logging plans and how they were drafted has made it obvious that Martin’s DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife has been captured and controlled and is serving the private economic interests of an unholy alliance of professional foresters, commercial loggers, environmental consultants (NJ Audubon), and hunters’ lobbyists.
Despite strong public opposition to the degree of control of private interests over DEP’s forest management plans, the logging faction is proceeding with impunity.
This event by the NJ Forestry Association perfectly illustrates the sense of entitlement – revealing that there is no daylight between DEP and the loggers:
See my letter to DEP Commissioner Martin – maybe after humiliating disasters of DEP proposals for clearcutting Bulls Island, commercial development in Liberty State Park, off road vehicles in the Pinelands, and now logging in Highlands forests, he’ll begin to get it?
Dear Commissioner Martin:
According to the attached flyer, the NJ Forestry Association (NJFA) invited Sharon Petzinger of your staff to speak at an event they are sponsoring on April 30 regarding the Department’s proposed Sparta Mountain WMA Forest Stewardship plan.
As you know, the proposed plan is very controversial and the Department currently is reviewing public comments and planning a public hearing on the proposal.
The NJFA has been publicly supporting the controversial plan and has economic interests in the Department’s deliberations and decision on the proposed plan.
As you also know, many are very concerned about the Department’s role and lack of independence and objectivity in this matter.
The Department allowed private entities to draft the plan; failed to conduct independent and objective public consultation in developing the plan and releasing it for public review; and appears to have conflicts of interest in its regulatory review role which is in tension with its Stewardship promotional orientation.
As such, it would be totally inappropriate for Department professionals to appear at this event.
Frankly, I am shocked by NJFA’s failure to understand how inappropriate such an invitation is. That complete lack of understanding just reinforces deep concerns about the relationship between the Department and private entities like NJFA.
I urge your attention to this matter and to direct your staff to not attend this event and strive to achieve an appearance of objectivity and independence in discharging its public trust obligations to protect the natural resources of the State.