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From the Ocean to the Highlands, Christie DEP Mismanaging Natural Resources

Christie DEP elevates economics over science and natural resource protections

Ignoring science, DEP Commissioner Martin doubles down on economic exploitation

Commissioner Martin’s scheme must be stopped, just like his proposed clearcut of Bulls Island State Park was.

We call on readers to contact their legislators and demand a moratorium on logging of NJ’s public lands and Highlands forests.

Two recent actions by the Christie DEP illustrate a growing crisis in the policy and mismanagement of the New Jersey’s last remaining natural resources (and I’m intentionally leaving the slaughter of black bears and lots of other examples out of this brief note).

  • Case #1 – fisheries

In 2008, I was hired by Pew Environment Group to manage their “Ending Overfishing in the Mid-Atlantic” campaign.

The justification for and focus of that Pew campaign was to defend anticipated strict new limits on the allowable catch of summer flounder, an over-fished but very popular species backed by powerful political interests centered in NJ (e.g. the lobbying group RFA and Congressman Frank Pallone).

However, shortly after I was hired, political pressure by those commercial and recreational fishing lobbyists and economic interests successfully pressured the Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management Council to revise their “stock assessment” to avoid more restrictive catch limits. As a result, more fish were allowed to be caught, jeopardizing sustainable fisheries populations.

Also as a result of the revised stock assessment, the planned Pew campaign was aborted and I left Pew as a warrior without a war

PEW is a very rational science-based organization. We advocate conservation. I expect that to be the expectation here.

Now, 8 years later, the chickens are coming home to roost. The most recent summer flounder stock assessment found that there was overfishing: (see MAFMC release):

In August 2016, the Board and Mid‐Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved an approximate 30% reduction in catch limits for both the commercial and recreational fisheries in response to the 2016 stock assessment update, which indicated the resource is experiencing overfishing but is not overfished. In order to not exceed the reduced 2017 RHL, a 41% reduction relative to the 2016 preliminary harvest estimates is needed. To achieve the reduction, the Addendum implements a one‐inch increase in size limit from 2016 measures for all regions with the exception of North Carolina. Additionally, all regions are required to constrain their possession limits to 4 fish or less and maintain 2016 season lengths.

Despite this science and risk to the sustainability of the fishery, in another short sighted political move, the Christie DEP  attacked and appealed the MAFMC catch limits: (DEP press release)


(17/P25) TRENTON – New Jersey representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have filed an appeal requesting the commission reconsider its vote significantly reducing the state’s recreational-fishing quota for summer flounder this year, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.

Yesterday, DEP Commissioner Martin spun the issue in a meeting with outdoor writers: (NJ Herald)

The U.S. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has proposed a 30 percent cut in the limit of summer flounder that commercial fishermen can haul in and a 40 percent cut for recreational fishermen.

Martin said those limits would decimate the Jersey Shore’s recreational fishing business, leading to job losses. He said that the decision, which is endorsed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, is based on old and faulty data.

Shortsighted economic and political decisions must not be allowed to over-ride the science and sound management of the fisheries resource. That happened in 2007, so after the prior collapse, I assume that National Marine Fisheries will have learned the lesson uphold the MAFMC restrictions and reject the Christie DEP appeal.

2. Controversial Logging of Highlands Forrests to be Expanded Statewide

Readers here are familiar with the debate over the NJ Audubon and Christie DEP proposed logging plans for Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area and other Highlands forests.

Given that debate, one would assume that the Christie DEP would proceed slowly and deliberately, based on the best available science and meaningful opportunities for public involvement in the development of public lands forestry policy.

One would be wrong:

  • DEP chief expects more forest plans like Sparta Mountain’s

    UPPER FREEHOLD — Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said Thursday that the forestry plan for state-owned land on Sparta Mountain is the first of many similar plans for the state’s parks, forests and wildlife management areas.

    And the commissioner, who is likely to end his nearly eight years as head of the department early next year with a new governor to be elected, strongly defended the state’s adoption of the early forest initiative, also known as early successional forest, which relies on man’s efforts to create areas within forests in which new shrubs and trees can grow.

    The other side of the debate, and strongly voiced by other environmentalists, is to leave forests alone to Mother Nature’s care.

Whoa! Totally unacceptable.

Commissioner Martin’s scheme must be stopped, just like his proposed clearcut of Bulls Island State Park was.

We call on readers to contact their legislators and demand a moratorium on logging of NJ’s public lands and Highlands forests.

We call on the professionals inside DEP to push back against this reckless and irresponsible policy – if you see something, leak something!

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