Archive for March, 2022

NJ Forestry Task Force Starts Off – Late And On The Wrong Foot

March 31st, 2022 No comments

Issue Priority Survey Includes Logging And Ignores Critical Issues

Just one day after I wrote a critical post about delays in getting started and NJ Audubon’s leadership of Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force, today I received the Task Force’s Issues Priority survey:

In order to guide our priorities and focus, we would like to get your input with a short but critical survey here. This survey will help inform the top priority subjects that the Task Force will consider and report on to the legislature. 

The results of the survey will also inform the individual workgroups to be created. At our April 28th kick off meeting we will discuss the workgroups being formed and how to sign up to participate.  You will have the opportunity to join any workgroup that you have an interest in and would like to contribute to.

I urge folks to hit the link above and participate in the priority issues survey.

Unfortunately, in addition to being very slow to begin deliberations, the Task Force’s issues survey raises concerns.

The Survey lists 10 forest management issues and solicits a ranking of each from 1 (highest priority) – 10 (lowest priority).

Only a single value may be assigned to each priority issue, e.g. you can’t rank several issues #1 high priority and several issues #10 low priority.

The 10 issues capture many of the current controversies, but there are significant flaws that are troubling, both in terms of what issues are included and issues that are omitted.

First of all, the list of 10 issues includes “Timber harvesting” (logging).

It was my impression, based on Senator Smith’s remarks in forming the Task Force, that timber harvesting was off the table. Why is it included as a question?

Equally of concern, the “timber harvesting” issue is described as a subset of “active management”. This creates a misleading impression that all forms of “active management” must include and are limited to “timber harvest”. That is just not true.

Relatedly, “Active management” is played off in binary “either/or” fashion to “Passive management”, setting up a direct conflict and a false choice. Plus, the term “passive” has a negative connotation and is obviously being used as an alternative to “preservation”.

Worse, “passive management” is restricted in scope to “protected areas”. This implies that “protected areas” (preserved? or with regulatory protections?) are limited. In contrast, “active management” has no such limitation.

Similarly, there is a question clearly indirectly related to logging, “economics of managing public forests”. While I raised them to highlight DEP’s own economic research, the economic issues were rarely even discussed – why are economics considered when other important science and policy issues are ignored?

The survey failed to include important issues, including:

1) water resources (i.e. water quality, water quantity, fisheries, and aquatic ecosystems).

2) forest planning frameworks

3) regulatory issues

4) expanding and enhancing public involvement

5) development threats (warehouses, industrial solar, residential, pipelines, “linear development”)

6) governance and inter-governmental coordination (role of municipalities regarding land use issues)

7) urban forestry 

8) air quality

How could the Task Force omit consideration of the priority issues related to protection of water resources? That is a primary goal of the Highlands and Pinelands Acts, where most NJ forests are located.


I have my suspicions – which I won’t go into here today – about why each one of these issues were ignored.

Off to a slow start, with troubling signals on the policy substance.

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NJ Spotlight Drinks The Kool-Aid On Environmental Justice

March 30th, 2022 No comments

EPA Hires NJ DEP Environmental Justice Leader

Move Comes At Critical Time As Long Delayed EJ Regulations Still Pending Proposal

I got the EPA press release this morning:

My immediate reply, which I Tweeted, was:

Why is Olivia leaving NJ DEP before the “historic” EJ regulations are even proposed?

Not surprisingly, NJ Spotlight unconditionally drank the EPA Kool-Aid. Spotlight wrote:

The regional office of the US Environmental Protection Agency with oversight for New Jersey has tapped a key official in state government to serve as a senior advisor for environmental justice and diversity.

  • Olivia C. Glenn has served in a similar capacity for the state Department of Environmental Protection, as deputy commissioner for environmental justice and equity, helping the state agency address the outsized impact of environmental issues on minority and other underserved communities.
  • In her new role, Glenn will also serve of chief of staff to Lisa F. Garcia, the EPA’s regional administrator for Region 2, which includes New York, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • She is due to switch over to the EPA job starting April 18.

Maybe NJ Spotlight might report on the actual performance of DEP’s environmental justice program and drill down on actual EJ issues and the implementation of the “historic” NJ environmental justice law that Olivia oversaw. See:

Or maybe look into the issues Olivia’s tenure raised, see:

Or perhaps they can start with looking into the implementation of NJ’s “historic”  environmental justice law and why the Murphy DEP is so behind schedule on proposing regulations to implement that law.

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NJ Audubon Is Touting Their Leadership Of Forestry Task Force

March 30th, 2022 No comments

NJ Audubon Ignores Climate Emergency

Audubon Lays Down A Pro-Logging Marker and Thinly Veiled Political Threat

Forestry Task Force A Slow Train To Nowhere

It is almost 2 months since Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith created the Forestry Task Force on February 10. Smith actually announced the Task Force weeks earlier at a Highlands Coalition forum, so it’s really been over 2 months.

Yet the Task Force has yet to conduct an introductory kickoff meeting or even distribute a group email to begin discussion of a process or issue agenda. On March 21, I got the first email from the Co-Chairs, setting an April 28 survey date!

You will receive a brief on-line survey in the next few weeks and be invited to attend an initial on-line meeting scheduled for April 28 at 4 PM.  Participants will then be invited to join one or more work groups to discuss priority issues and seek consensus

Over 10 weeks just to set up a “brief on-line survey”? Are you kidding me?

That’s surely not a healthy sign – It reveals no leadership and no sense of urgency (and it allows DEP and Audubon to continue logging) – including proposing more logging next year – all while diverting and taming the activists.

In that vacuum, today, I received a “Spring Conservation Policy Update” from NJ Audubon’s Government Relations Team.

The Update listed 6 priority policy issues. Not surprisingly, 3 of the 6 bullets involved government FUNDING, which NJ Audubon benefits from. It’s how they roll.

But none included the most pressing issue: the climate emergency. That was no accident (see below).

One of NJA’s 6 priority issues highlighted was Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force (I refuse to use the sham slogans “Stewardship”, “sustainability  or “resilience”, which have no real scientific standards and serve as NJA cover for logging and a magnet for corporate influence and corporate money (and NJ Audubon even has a “Corporate Stewardship Council” – a group that they use to meet privately with and influence DEP in support of corporate interests.)

What NJA did write in their Spring Update is quite revealing of their passive – aggressive MO. Check it out (emphases mine):

  • Our organization stays committed to advancing sustainable forest stewardship based on the best available science to protect birds, wildlife, and overall forest health. Senate Environment and Energy Committee Chairman Bob Smith has convened a Forest Stewardship Task Force ― that NJA co-chairs ― to seek consensus and prepare a report on actions needed to better protect and manage New Jersey’s public forestlands. As the task force develops, we may activate our supporters to ensure that New Jersey’s forests become more resilient to risks from pests, disease, overabundant deer populations and more.

Best available science my ass!

Note that they failed to identify the “best available science” on the two most significant threats to NJ’s forests, which are the climate emergency and burgeoning development.

The climate emergency directly threatens the “forest health” and birds and wildlife NJ Audubon purports to fight for.

This was no mere oversight.

Recognition of the science and threats of climate emergency leads to a focus on forests as a source of carbon sequestration. That translates into forest management policies that maximize carbon sequestration, preserve intact forests, prohibit logging or destruction of forests, and a dramatic expansion of afforestation and reforestation.

Recognition of the science on threats to forests from the climate emergency destroys NJ Audubon’s logging projects. So they simply ignore it.

Recognizing the threats of development to forests (and birds, wildlife, et al) means taking on politically powerful corporate interests and advocating for controversial legislative and regulatory protections that actually protect forests.

NJ Audubon doesn’t do that. That’s just how they roll (and it looks like they’ve abandoned the “wildfire prevention” pretext for logging).

Translation of what they did say:

1. The “sustainable forest stewardship” and “forest health” objectives are slogans and code for logging.

2. Let’s unpack the concerns about “resilient to risks from pests, disease, overabundant deer populations and more”.

a) resilience – this is a slogan with no fixed meaning, no scientific methodology, no methodology to quantify or evaluate goals, plans, and objectives, and no regulatory standards to enforce protections.

But it is an excellent cover for justifying just about anything, including logging mature interact forests in the NJ Highlands.

b) pest and disease – the treatment for the disease is the chainsaw and fire.

c) overabundant deer – deer management means hunting.

3. And after ignoring the climate emergency and laying out biased objectives that lack any scientific validity, NJA wrote this:

As the task force develops, we may activate our supporters to ensure that New Jersey’s forests become more resilient to risks from pests, disease, overabundant deer populations and more.

The phrase “we may activate our supporters” is a thinly veiled political threat to deploy the guns and ammo crowd (“recreational” hunters, loggers, et al – including assistance of wealthy private landowners and  billionaire money and political connections and influence).

That’s the passive aggressive voice NJ Audubon speaks in.

So, it sure looks like this Task Force is not only going to be a slow train to nowhere, but it will be an unproductive gloves off  political brawl as well (but hopefully, there will be more transparency and accountability to the public than Smith’s prior failed Natural Resource Damage Task Force).

[End Note: My friends at NJ Forest Watch are drumming up comments to the DEP on the expansion of logging at Sparta Mountain WMA by March 31. Hit this link to their comment letter to DEP. I added the following to it:

“We are in a climate emergency. Forests can play a huge role in reducing climate impacts. DEP’s own science documents significant carbon sequestration in undisturbed forests and soils. DEP must impose an administrative moratorium on any logging in NJ forests – public and private lands – until legislation is enacted and protective regulatory standards are adopted by DEP.

DEP’s own economic research documents that NJ forests have far more economic (and employment) value in preservation than in any form of “active management” (see prior DEP studies on Natural Capital and ecosystem services). And these studies were not based on and did not apply a current economic value on the social costs of carbon.

DEP’s current Forest Management BMP is over 25 years old and is not based on the best available science and does not reflect major legislative and regulatory policy changes, such as the Highlands Act, the Global Warming Response Act, or the DEP’s own Category One Waters anti-degradation policy and stream buffer initiatives.

Thank you,

*Bill Wolfe

* retired former DEP planner and policy analyst

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US Army Corps Of Engineers And US EPA Urged To Review PSE&G Wetlands Destruction And Murphy DEP Wetlands Deregulation

March 26th, 2022 No comments

PSE&G Petition And DEP Deregulation Amount To Illegal Self Disclosed Immunity

I sent a letter to US ACE and US EPA Region 2 requesting federal oversight of the PSE&G wetlands destruction, fill, and hydro-modification and the Murphy DEP’s regulatory proposal to deregulate these wetlands in lieu of enforcement.

In the March 21, 2022 NJ Register, the Murphy DEP proposed regulations that would remap 150 acres of previously mapped coastal wetlands. I wrote to raise questions about that, see:

The DEP’s rationale to justify the remapping is based on a petition for rulemaking filed by PSE&G requesting the remapping.

In the PSE&G petition, PSE&G claimed that the subject coastal wetlands were no longer wetlands. These wetlands, PSE&G admitted, no longer functioned as wetland because they had been destroyed, filled, and hyrologically modified by PSE&G’s operations.

According to DEP (emphases mine):

The Petitioner contends in the petition it filed that Coastal Wetland Maps 224-1752, 224- 1758, 231-1752, 231-1758, and 238-1752 do not reflect the current property conditions due to the presence, as described above, of sand, dredged material, gravel, asphalt, parking areas, berms, and elevated topography that precludes tidal inflow and, consequently, the area in question does not meet the definition of a coastal wetland under the Act.

The DEP confirmed the PSE&G claims:

Area 2 – Block 26, Lot 4 contains the PSE&G Nuclear CDF, which is used for management of maintenance dredged material and desilting of water intake structures and the cooling tower basin. The area was initially used for construction staging and lay-down during construction of the Salem and Hope Creek Generating Station (the Station) and has been continuously used and managed to support the Station. This area also includes the PSE&G Nuclear Security Training Center and target range ….  Hydrologic characteristics are limited by the perimeter berms. Soils are highly disturbed and characterized by the historic placement of fill during the original construction of Artificial Island and the construction of the generating stations. Vegetation is dominated by invasive phragmites, due to the disturbed nature of the area.

Area 3 – Block 26, Lot 5 contains an existing PSE&G Nuclear laydown/emergency preparation area, existing employee parking areas, chill water plant, and a maintained 500kV transmission right-of-way and maintained buffer. The area consists of existing developed areas including soil/gravel laydown, asphalt parking asphalt roadways

What’s happening here functionally sounds a lot like an illegal practice that’s known as “self disclosed immunity”.  Two steps:

1. PSE&G effectively openly admitted what amounts to violations of State coastal wetlands laws and DEP regulations in their petition (self disclosure);

2. DEP failed to take enforcement action and instead remapped and thereby deregulated the wetland, which eliminates any PSE&G enforcement liability (effectively providing immunity).

During the Whitman Administration, NJ passed the “Grace Period” law, which initially included a broad self disclosure immunity provision. We forced Gov. Whitman to conditionally veto and narrow that provision because it would have violated federal law and triggered federal oversight and sanctions.

EPA notes that:

These [State audit disclosure and immunity] laws need to be scrutinized carefully to discern differences that may impact decisions on compliance with minimum federal requirements.

So, just like State audit disclosure/immunity laws must be carefully reviewed by EPA for compliance with federal requirements, so too must NJ DEP’s regulatory and permitting and enforcement practices that amount to the same thing.

So, I sent a joint letter to US ACE and US EPA Region 2 requesting federal oversight of the PSE&G wetlands destruction, fill, and hydro-modification and the Murphy DEP’s regulatory proposal to deregulate these wetlands in lieu of enforcement.

I request their review pursuant to federal jurisdiction and State oversight under:

  1. NPDES permits by USEPA under Section 402 of the Federal Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1342;
  2. Permits for the discharge of dredged or fill material issued by the USACE under Section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. §1 344;
  3. Permits for activities that have a potential to discharge in navigable waters issued by the USACE under Sections 9 and 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, 33 U.S.C. §§ 403 and 404;

I sent a copy to FEMA as well, because the DEP proposal involves technical issues (extreme high water elevation and wetlands regulation) that impact FEMA program responsibilities. I sent a copy to US FWS too, in case there are impacted federal natural resources or species of interest.

We’ll keep you posted on how the federal agencies respond.

[Note: I omitted “Area 1″, the largest part of the wetlands destruction. That is a USACE sediment disposal site (CDF), which DEP claims operated long prior to the passage of NJ coastal wetlands laws (and Clean Water Act) so is not regulated.]

I’m not optimistic, given the longstanding relaxation of federal oversight of State programs begun under the federalism policy adopted under the Clinton/Gore’s “reinventing government” initiative, which paraded under the Orwellian acronym “NEPPS”, for National Environmental Performance Partnerships.

Thanks again, Al!

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Baked In Bouse (Arizona)

March 25th, 2022 No comments


The last 2 years, I left the desert too early, and was hit by snow and cold bad weather in the mountains.

This year, it seems that I left too late and was blasted by desert heat.

Heading north-west out of the Sonoran desert, I should have known that the Mojave would be even more severe.

Along the way, I passed the absurd canal of the Central Arizona Project ridiculed by perhaps one of the best western books ever, “Cadillac Desert”.

So obviously I would have stopped for more revealing photos, but there was an Arizona State Patrol car nearby.

So, here we are, baked out in Bouse Arizona! (pronounced like “house”, and definitely not Bauhaus! hahaha!)

(another desert place that would never have been settled as a town without federal military support).

Climate chaos indeed! Yesterday was 88 degrees, today just as bad (it hit 94 high). (Sat. forecast is for a record high 97 – but it “only” hit 92.)

We head for the mountains to Pacific coast as soon as possible – but with gas $5+ a gallon, our choices are limited.

I feel really bad for the dog, who can’t cool down!


Bouy lies in the shade of the bus. Even at 5:45 pm, it’s still way too hot!

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