NJ Audubon and Christie DEP Rebuked On Sparta Mountain Logging Plan
Audubon Loses “Forest Stewardship Council” (FSC) Certification
Christie DEP promotes logging in absence of state regulations and private certification
“The Mask is off”
According to the Associate Manager, Forest Management, North America at Rainforest Alliance, NJ Audubon has lost the certification of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for their proposed expanded logging at Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA):
I wanted to let you know that the Sparta Mountain WMA is no longer included in the FSC certified. You can find the public summary of the 2017 project here:http://info.fsc.org/details.php?id=a0240000007vNetAAE&type=certificate&return=certificate.php
Rainforest Alliance is the private group that audits logging operations for compliance with FSC standards. FSC standards are private and voluntary and are not enforceable under federal or state environmental laws and regulations.
FSC standards are far more lenient that NJ land use and water quality laws and regulations, like those enforced under the NJ DEP’s Surface Water Quality Standards, stormwater, stream encroachment, and freshwater wetlands (e.g. 300 foot stream buffers, no impact on natural water quality, avoidance and mitigation, etc); or the Highlands Act (300 foot buffers, prohibitions on steep slopes, and 1,000 foot buffers around vernal ponds, et al). Logging is exempt from local land use ordinances too.
I don’t usually do this because the man has his own huge media megaphone, but today I quote my friend Jeff Tittel of NJ Sierra Club because he absolutely nails the significance of a very wonky issue:
“Audubon’s logging plan for Sparta Mountain will not be certified with FSC. This shows just how bad the plan is. When a group with weak standards and no real rules won’t even certify it, it means that it’s just a logging plan and has nothing to do with stewardship. The mask is off now since Audubon can no longer hide before FSC or stewardship.
This is not the first rebuke NJ Audubon received on Sparta Mountain WMA and their FSC cover scheme.
First of all, NJ Audubon got caught in a lie – a story we broke – when they changed the FSC designation of Sparta Mountain as “High Conservation Value” (HCF) forest.
Contrary to false local media, FSC HCV designation establishes higher management objectives that discourage and place additional burdens and restrictions on commercial logging in HCF forests.
As we wrote, under FSC standards, NJ Audubon initially designated the Sparta Mountain as “High Conservation Value Forest” (HVCF) due to exceptional biodiversity (SMWMA). HCVF’s are subject to strict management standards that tend to promote preservation and limit the intensity of commercial logging in order to protect those high conservation values. FSC management options for HCVF include preservation and “no cut”. Here is the FSC standard:
Intent: High Conservation Value Forests are managed to protect and maintain their identified high conservation value attributes. In some cases, active management is consistent with these attributes, and in other cases (e.g., most old growth forests), active management is specifically precluded.
According to FSC standards, mapping HCVF should be based on a “precautionary approach”, particularly under uncertainty or lack of data, including issues like suitable habitat and presence or absence of species:
2.6.2 | Using the precautionary approach
The Precautionary Approach means that when there is a threat of severe or irreversible damage to the environment or a threat to human welfare, responsible parties need to take explicit and effective measures to prevent the damage and risks, even when the scientific information is incomplete or inconclusive, and when the vulnerability and sensitivity of values are uncertain14. In the context of HCV identification, this means that when there are reasonable indications that an HCV is present, the assessor should assume that it is present.
On top of that, the FSC audit of NJ Audubon’s Sparta Mountain logging scheme revealed that NJA not only failed to comply with FSC public participation and local government consultation requirements. The audit showed how NJA actively deceived FSC auditors as well as fellow NJ environmental groups by using false and misleading claims regarding the nature of their logging in “outreach” NJ Audubon conducted with NJ environmental groups.
Second, Governor Christie vetoed NJ Audubon’s number one legislative priority which was to establish an FSC certification program on all public lands in NJ. That horrible bill would not only have greatly expanded commercial logging in NJ forests, but it also would have granted NJ Audubon a financially lucrative monopoly as the only FSC certified forestry consultant in NJ. NJ Audubon is effectively a consultant, in it for the money and the government grants and contributions from commercial interests like hunters and the “guns and ammo” crowd.
In anticipation of passage of that law and the financial windfall that would accrue to them, NJ Audubon dramatically increased their forestry staff and budget.
Now that the writing is on the wall, the next DEP is unlikely to be grant funding NJA operations, so their deep pocketed members will have to pony up more donations to fund that budget, staff and CEO Stiles’ $102,000+ salary and extremely generous benefits.
Third, NJ Audubon and DEP have conspired to cover up their forest planning on public lands by execution of a Memorandum of Agreement to keep information secret and by denying public records requests.
Regardless of the loss of FSC certification and statewide public outrage, NJ Audubon persists in their logging scheme – and in doing so, they expose another fatal flaw: DEP lacks the budget and manpower to properly oversee logging, Check out this spin by John Cecil of NJ Audubon: (NJ Herald)
When the 2016 audit report was released late in March, the Sparta Mountain WMA was not included among the parcels evaluated by the Rainforest Alliance.
Cecil said Tuesday that the decision was made by the state, with concurrence of Audubon, not to include Sparta Mountain.
“We included the first plan to give the agency (DFW) a good look at what the FSC standards are like,” said Cecil. “It is a very strict process.”
But that strict process also involves detailed reports which requires time and manpower to compile.
Cecil said the state instead will adopt its own standards, much along the lines of the FSC, but not subject to the independent audit.
Cecil is spinning as obviously as friends of disgraced Trump strategist Steven Bannon.
I doubt that DEP made an FSC decision, but Cecil is correct that DEP lacks manpower to do the job.
Worse, there are NO ENFORCEABLE STATE DEP REGULATORY STANDARDS FOR LOGGING. THERE ARE NO PLANS TO ADOPT THEM.
One of the first things the next DEP Commissioner must do is to impose a moratorium on DEP’s logging and “stewardship” initiatives, and defund the so called “conservation groups – not just NJ Audubon – that promote those failed and destructive programs.