Home > Uncategorized > Murphy DEP Logging Highlands Forests – And Giving Away Valuable Hardwood Timber For Free

Murphy DEP Logging Highlands Forests – And Giving Away Valuable Hardwood Timber For Free

DEP Commissioner McCabe Betrays Pledge To Reconsider DEP Forest Policy

McCabe Supports Christie DEP Logging Policy

No Consideration of Climate Chaos

DEP approved logging on SMWMA, in the heart of the NJ Highlands forest.

DEP approved logging on SMWMA, in the heart of the NJ Highlands forest.

Back in May 2018, I gave rare praise to Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe for her decision to put a moratorium on controversial proposed logging plans for Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area (SMWMA), see:

I used that post to make 10 specific recommendations for much needed statewide revisions to DEP’s logging policies and regulations on State owned lands, including the need to consider climate chaos and the carbon sequestration potential of NJ’s forests:

8. DEP’s report required by the Global Warning Response Act has data and recommendations on carbon sequestration and forest management..

9. In terms of site specific suggestions for the NJ Audubon proposed Sparta Mountain WMA logging scheme, DEP should: [….]

  • carbon budget analysis. Climate crisis requires that we maximize carbon sequestration and have a policy of no loss of carbon storage.(see #8 above).

Unfortunately, I failed to include specifics from DEP’s own Report on “Natural Capital”, which found that forests have far more economic and ecological value as forest, than as for logging or timber:

7. The Corzine DEP produced a report:  Valuing New Jersey’s Natural Capital: An Assessment of the Economic Value of the State’s Natural Resources. That report found that forests have far more economic value as forest than harvested as commercial logging. DEP needs to dust off that report and apply it to future management policies.

My praise was based McCabe’s promise to reconsider the DEP forest policy as the Sparta Independent reported:

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced last week that the Sparta Mountain forest management plan has been halted pending a review from the new commissioner.

Forestry activities at two different sites on the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area were set to begin in February and end in April, but new Acting Commissioner Catherine McCabe wants to review the project before it proceeds any further.

“We’re going through a change of administrations,” said NJDEP Spokesperson Larry Hajna. “We have a new acting commissioner and so she is getting up to speed on various issues across the state and this is one that she wants to review. So we’ve decided just to hit the pause button and allow her to review the plan and then we’ll take it from there.”

So, I was disgusted to learn that Commissioner McCabe “took it from there” – without any publicly released “policy review” and scientific justification of her decision – and has lifted her own moratorium and is supporting the prior Christie DEP logging policy.

None of my recommendations to reform Christie DEP logging policy were considered – including the need to close regulatory loopholes to provide critical water quality and climate chaos protections.

Specifically, on February 25, 2019, DEP quietly signed a “stumpage contract” for logging with Warren County Trucking, LLC. (watch the video of the truck – train crash and consider the safety of their drivers!)

DEP’s “stumpage contract” provides for logging (essentially a clearcut euphemistically called a “seed tree treatment”) of about 12.2 acres of SMWMA.

The contract gives away 31,200 board feet of valuable greater than 13 inch diameter red oak hardwood timber and 120 cords of firewood for free!

That’s right – the contractor is given that timber “in consideration of the payment of $0″. (contract provided upon request).

The contract does not mandate compliance with DEP regulations and instead defers to the voluntary “NJ Forestry and Wetlands Best Management Practices Manual” – we previously documented huge loopholes and egregious flaws in that BMP.

The contractor was only required to post a $2,500 performance bond and the DEP set fines (“liquidated damages”) of only $200 per tree for illegally cutting down trees in violation of the contract outside the designated logging zone.

Finally, there is no specified minimum amount of liability insurance, an egregious flaw in an inherently dangerous activity like logging (during bow hunting season, no less!). If someone were injured or killed, the State taxpayers would be on the hook (this truck driver is high risk)

Given these blatant examples of mismanagement – environmental and fiscal – of NJ’s magnificent public lands and forests, I reached out to Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith to request that he request an audit of the DEP’s logging policies by the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) State agency audit program.

DEP Natural Resource Management programs have been audited twice by OLS. Both audits found major deficiencies, including DEP’s failure to capture “fair market value” for state resources and other giveaways and mismanagement.

This 2004 OLS audit found deficiencies at DEP Wildlife Management Areas, see page 8. The deficiencies also include failure to have adequate liability insurance.

This 2009 followup OLS audit is not specific to WMA’s, but issues regarding deficiencies in liability insurance, state as co-insured, and other contract stuff still is relevant, especially the serious failure of DEP to collect “fair market value”.

It is simply outrageous that DEP is allowing logging of core NJ Highlands forests and simply inconceivable that DEP has failed to consider the science on the role of forests in sequestering carbon, reducing climate change impacts, and the impacts of climate change on NJ forests.

Giving away the timber for free adds insult to injury and betrays McCabe’s pledge to review the Christie policy and practices in light of science.

This policy and practice can not be allowed to continue.

(letter to Chairman Smith on the need to request an OLS audit forthcoming)

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