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The Future of NJ’s Forests – At Risk From Climate, Logging, Development, & DEP MisManagement

Murphy DEP Promoting Logging Under Various “Active Management” & “Stewardship” Schemes

Has NJ Senator Smith Abandoned His Flawed Legislative Package?

Promoter Of “Young Forests” Logging Scheme Now Heads DEP Parks and Forestry

coming to NJ?

coming to NJ?

For over a decade, NJ Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith has tried – thankfully unsuccessfully – to pass seriously flawed “Forest Stewardship” bills through the legislature.

The one that did pass was so bad it was vetoed by Gov. Christie.

Those bills would promote logging under various slogans and guises, including “stewardship”, “young forests”, “healthy forests”, “active management”, “habitat creation” and “wildfire prevention”.

Smith held a hearing on his 4 bill package on Earth Day last year, which prompted this critical post and letter to Smith, see:

As I noted:

tomorrow (Earth Day) the NJ Senate Environment Committee will hear a package of bills to promote logging. Even the bill descriptions are Orwellian:

  • S2001 – Forest stewardship program-establishes for State-owned lands
  • S3547 – Forest stewardship, pinelands,
  • S3548 – Prescribed burns-set min. acreage goal & schedule in pinelands area & Statewide
  • S3549 – Forest stewardship plan-required for lands acquired
  • S3550 – Forest stewardship plans-provide that municipal approval is not required

Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith has been pushing this ill advised legislation for over a decade. He is responding to the sham and misleading self interested lobbying of the NJ Audubon Society, the NJ Farm Bureau, the forest products industry, and professional forestry consultants. 

Smith’s legislation is strongly supported and provided environmental cover by NJ Audubon Society.

So, given Smith’s long time campaign to pass these horrible logging bills, I was shocked to see that Smith will be provided a platform by the NJ Highlands Coalition “Forest Forum” tomorrow on the future of NJ’s Forests.

I was also shocked to see that Elliott Ruga of the Highlands Coalition wrote a recent Op-Ed that closed by appearing to not oppose – or even tacitly support – Smith’s logging bills:

Senator Bob Smith (D-17 Middlesex), chair of the Senate Environment & Energy Committee intends to propose legislation this year to address forest stewardship standards for public lands. In order to educate the public and other interested stakeholders on the issues concerning forest stewardship on public lands, the New Jersey Highlands Coalition is presenting a virtual New Jersey Forests Forum on January 25, 1:00PM- 4:00PM. Information about the Forum and free registration is at njhighlandscoalition.org/protectourforests.

Here is the NJ Highlands Coalition promotion video setting up tomorrow’s event.

Has Smith abandoned his flawed and controversial legislative logging package?

Yesterday, I checked the NJ Legislature’s website, and Senator Smith had not yet reintroduced the package of logging bills he has pushed for over a decade, which I and many others have strongly opposed – amazingly, in light of tomorrow’s Smith platform, including the Highlands Coalition).

But Smith may no longer have a reason to pass legislation.

One would think that failure to pass legislation to authorize a controversial “forest stewardship” program that threatens NJ’s publicly owned forests would mean that DEP could not implement that program unilaterally in the absence of enabling legislation.

One would be wrong. Let me briefly explain why:

First of all, the key logging advocate who developed the “active forests management” scheme, imposed it on Sparta Mt. Wildlife Management Area in joint project with the Christie DEP (and he lied to the public about it), and worked with Smith in drafting his flawed legislation – John Cecil, formerly with NJ Audubon – is now the Murphy DEP’s Director of Parks and Forestry, where he can impose his flawed ideas on NJ’s forests unilaterally in the absence of legislation and with very little if any public oversight or regulatory restrictions.

Second, a few months prior to Smith’s Earth Day hearing on his 4 bill logging package, DEP released a draft “Forest Action Plan” that promoted the same flawed management programs and masked the implications of “forest stewardship”, see:

My criticism of that Forest Action Plan for failure to address climate provides a classic lesson in “be careful what you ask for”, because the latest threatening slogan being deployed by the Murphy DEP is “carbon sequestration”.

Which leads me to my third and final point:

Third, the Murphy DEP just released another flawed initiative to address the climate issues, called “NJ Natural Lands Initiative”.

I haven’t had a chance to write about that initiative yet – the public comment period expires on February 11.

That initiative has serious implications for NJ forests and farmlands – I fear DEP will use it, in combination with 10% of the RGGI money dedicated to carbon sequestration – to promote logging under the guise of carbon sequestration.

There is also the DEP Climate PACT REAL rule proposal coming soon which will revise the DEP’s land use regulations. I only assume that they will provide new “flexibility” and “incentives” for carbon sequestration that results in even more threats to forests.

So let’s summarize the dangers:

  • the lead promoter of “active management” and sham “forest stewardship” now heads DEP Parks and Forests
  • DEP Forest Action Plan promotes active management” (logging) under numerous guises
  • DEP Natural Lands Initiative promotes “active management” (logging) as “carbon sequestration”
  • RGGI provides plenty of money to fund these schemes
  • there is virtually no public participation in DEP management of public forests
  • there are virtually no regulations that apply to DEP management of public forests

This is a formula for disaster.

No wonder Senator Smith appears to have abandoned his “Forest Stewardship” legislation – John Cecil can impose that unilaterally at DEP.

Will people at the Highlands Coalition event ask about any of that?

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