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NJ Audubon Is Touting Their Leadership Of Forestry Task Force

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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