Home > Uncategorized > Public Lands Management – NJ DEP Is Actually WORSE Than Trump Department of Interior, BLM and Forest Service

Public Lands Management – NJ DEP Is Actually WORSE Than Trump Department of Interior, BLM and Forest Service

Perversely, after years of denial, DEP will now use climate change to promote more logging under the RGGI carbon sequestration program

Public shut out of public lands decisions

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I’ve been out west for almost 3 years now, spending the majority of that time dispersed camping and hiking in dozens of our splendid national forests and on BLM lands.

Right now, I’m in Lolo National Forest on the Montana Idaho border. Incredible beauty, healthy forests, and rugged landscape (way too rugged for this old fart!).

The local environmental news right now is a strong public outcry over recent Trump BLM “Resource Management Plans” for western Montana. (hit the links to the 2 volume EIS for the “Missoula Draft RMP”. Comments can be submitted electronically from this page. The public comment period closes On August 15, so please be sure to comment).

For my NJ friends, a quick scan of the “preferred alternative” in volume 1 of the BLM EIS turned up this gem, which explicity confirms what I suspect NJ DEP foresters are about to do.  Note how BLM explicitly confirms exactly what I’ve said the foresters in NJ plan to do (i.e.explicitly linking “forest products” and logging with “restoration”: (emphases mine)

“This (preferred) alternative would produce the greatest quantities of forest products from vegetation restoration activities of all alternatives.” (ES, page 3)

The recent infusion of about $10 million/year in RGGI funds for carbon “sequestration” will greatly expand this current DEP forestry/public lands abuse, leading to more logging to create “young forests” to sequester carbon.

That writing is already on the wall.  (HEADS UP: DEP is seeking public comments and will hold a meeting on RGGI, so don’t miss it! But that is a meeting limited to discussion of allocation of RGGI money, not public lands management or climate change. The public doesn’t get to weigh in on those critical policy issues.)

DEP has accepted dubious scientific claims that wood products “store” carbon – thereby minimizing the carbon released by logging – and the correct but misleading claim that “young forest” sequester carbon at a higher rate than mature forest – thereby exaggerating the sequestration of logged “young forests. Even prior to the RGGI sequestration program, DEP foresters disparaged mature forests as “single age class” forests that need to be logged to improve “diversity”, “forest health” and “resilience” and to “reduce wildfire risk” and insects/diseases (caused or made worse by climate change)- this of course is exactly what the Trump folks are doing (but without highlighting the role of climate change or without an idiot like Trump talking about raking and “cleaning up the forest floor”).

In contrast to the torrent of slogans and pseudo-science DEP spouts to justify logging under various pretexts – which now include carbon sequestration – you’ll find zero specific policy and program commitments, allocation of RGGI funds, and technical standards establishing an “afforestation” program and an “urban forestry” program.

Instead of planting millions of trees to shade and cool NJ’s cities and providing funding and jobs to urban residents and community organizations – a real environmental justice program – DEP will give money to elite groups like NJ Audubon and NJ Conservation Foundation and Mike Catania’s Duke Foundation to log forests in the Highlands and Pinelands, while issuing press releases bragging that they are fighting climate change and promoting environmental justice (and DEP’s friend Tim Dillingham of American Littoral Society will get his piece of the action for sham coastal wetlands restoration too – DEP might even find some way to fund the Gov.’s Chief Cheerleader Ed Potasnak at NJLCV and The Keep It Greed Crew. Of course, the former DEP hacks now at Rutgers will likely get a piece of the RGGI patronage as well.

It is truly sickening.

Shifting gears, somewhat, today’s post was prompted by a superb Counterpunch article by George Wuethner, that explains just how radical the Trump BLM plans are.

Wuethner puts these technocratic BLM RMP decisions in context and explains the implications – I urge you to read the whole thing, see:

An outspoken advocate for selling off our public lands, William Perry Pendley became the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management  (BLM), which oversees management of 250 million acres of public lands across the country.

Pendley is the former president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a property-rights group that regularly sues the Department of the Interior on behalf of companies that want to mine and drill on public lands.

Also, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt appointed Karen Budd-Falen for the role of Assistant Secretary for the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Parks. Budd-Falen is one of the family lawyers for the infamous Bundy Family which commandeered the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and still grazes their cattle illegally on BLM lands in Nevada.

Least we do not forget, Berhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil industry, has also directed the BLM to revise its land-use plans to eliminate protective land categories like Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, while significantly increasing the leasing of public lands to the Oil and Gas industry. The recently released BLM draft management plan for the North Central District Office in Lewistown reflects these changes in emphasis.

For today, I want to make brief bulleted points about the relevance and contrast of the Trump rollbacks for my NJ friends who are fighting very similar NJ DEP abuses.

While the NJ DEP is not led by a former head of a property rights group and the managers of DEP Division of Forestry and Fish & Game are not former oil industry lawyers or lobbyists, there are strong similarities in public management policies between the Trump administration and the NJ DEP.

Trump’s DOI, BLM and US Forest Service are seeking to:

  • restrict public involvement in public lands management decisions;
  • narrow the scope and depth of environmental reviews under NEPA
  • increase extractive uses of public lands, particularly logging
  • using pretexts and slogans like “sustainability”,”resilience” and wildfire risk reduction
  • privatizing public lands management
  • deregulating public lands management
  • ignoring – or exploiting – the role of climate change in public lands management

It is no secret that the Trump administration is implementing these policy rollbacks to promote extractive uses via an across the board assault, using bureaucratic design, personnel, budgets, regulatory, policy and local, regional and national management plan changes.

Now let’s compare each of those above bulleted practices and objectives of the Trump administration’s policies to those legally mandated and implemented in NJ by DEP.

1. While Trump is rolling back and reducing the ability of the public to participate formally in public lands management decisions, NJ DEP has NO formal process for public participation in public lands management decisions and is not accountable to the public’s expressed concerns. The DEP may engage in a “Forest Action Plan”, ad hoc meetings and local briefings and “stakeholder” processes – which are usually triggered after strong public controversy – these are not formal and are not mandatory statewide processes.

2. While the Trump folks are reducing the applicability, scope, and depth of environmental reviews under NEPA, NJ DEP has NO formal environmental review process for public lands management.

NJ residents don’t even get the chance to attend a public hearing to complain and submit comments on an environmental impact statement, because they are not required nor held by NJ DEP.

3. While Trump agencies are openly and transparently increasing extractive uses – particularly logging – in contrast, the DEP also is promoting logging, but DEP prefers to stealth these destructive practices under slogans, spin and pretexts. Just look at the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area “Forest Management Plan” for an example – there are several others.

4. While Trump DOI, BLM and USFS are increasingly privatizing and outsourcing public lands management – including a radical new initiative to transfer ownership of public lands – the NJ DEP is far more subtle, working through surrogates like NJ Audubon (a controversial and embarrassing front group for not only Trump himself, but another Wall Street billionaire) and forestry associations to accomplish many of the same things.

5. While Trump agencies seek to reduce the applicability, scope and substantive requirements of regulations and otherwise deregulate forest management practices, the NJ DEP does not regulate forestry (forest management plans are exempt from DEP regulation and subject to a voluntary and informal “Best Management Practices” (BMP) guideline).

6. While Trump agencies deny, downplay and/or exploit the role of climate change in forest management, the NJ DEP completely ignores the role of climate change (a blatant form of climate denial).

Perversely, after years of effective denial, DEP will now use climate change to promote more logging under the RGGI sequestration program (and expanded wildfire prevention logging and “prescribed burns”).

So, while the Trump administration’s public lands policies are horrific, keep in mind that they are scaling back a well developed and elaborate historical management framework. The larger edifice, while full of holes, at least exists on paper and can be challenged in court.

In contrast, the NJ DEP has nothing – nada – squat.

On that basis, I conclude that NJ DEP is actually worse than the Trump abomination.

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