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NJ Forest Logging Scam Gets National Attention

NJ Audubon’s Collusion With Wall Street Billionaire Peter Kellogg Exposed

Creating “Young Forests” For Wildlife A “Bogus Argument”

[Update below]

Writer Christopher Ketcham, has a killer piece running today in The Daily Beast, see:

Ketcham grounds his story in an incredible historical irony, tracing the roots back to the ideas of Benton MacKaye:

In July 1921, Benton MacKaye, founder of regional planning and the visionary behind the Appalachian Trail, held a historic meeting with fellow preservationists in the remote New Jersey lodge that was to become Hudson Farm.

Dedicated to the protection of the nation’s last wild places, they were channeling the inchoate spirit of the coming age with a grand vision for the public domain that would advance the public interest and the democratic ideal on vast landscapes. …

The property on which this fateful meeting was held is now owned by the Wall Street billionaire Peter Kellogg. It’s a fitting fate for the old lodge where the AT was born, as MacKaye’s vision of preservation is increasingly captured, co-opted, and perverted by private corporate interests.

Lamenting the corruption of Mackaye’s vision, Ketcham pulls no punches and names names, in an awesome takedown of the corrupt model of “active forest management” – known as “Young Forests” – being deployed in NJ.

Ketcham cuts to the chase, and gets the story exactly right:

John Terborgh, one of the world’s premier conservation biologists, observes that there’s “no conservation reason for creating more early successional habitat.” Cutting trees to expand such habitat, he told me, “is a bogus argument, ginned up as an excuse for more logging. But the argument could work with a gullible public.”

In other words, logging-for-wildlife is based on junk science.

And yet, the bogus justifications are working to maximum effect at Sparta Mountain, home to 130 threatened, endangered and “special concern” species. Aided and abetted by state and federal agencies, loggers in this 3,500-acre parcel have been brandishing their chainsaws in an area specifically preserved at taxpayer expense for the benefit of wildlife.

And he also exposes the corruption that is driving this “bogus argument”:

NJ Audubon, along with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), various state hunting associations, and wealthy local sport-hunting boosters (including Kellogg), cooperated with logging interests under the cover of an insidious new model of management that emphasizes the chainsawing of healthy mature forests for the sake of creating an artificial young forest habitat. …

In recent years, NJ Audubon has enjoyed infusions of young forest funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture amounting to as much as $648,000….

New Jersey Audubon also received $330,000 from Kellogg, the Wall Street billionaire. Kellogg and his ilk have been frank as to what is wanted from this investment in conservation: decimate the public forests so that entitled elites can have an easier time killing animals for sport.

This “bogus argument” is particularly insidious, given the climate emergency:

And, as it does everywhere, logging at Sparta releases vast amounts of carbon stored in unfragmented forests, carbon that will not be re-absorbed for a century or more.

Finally, Ketcham humiliates recently departed former NJ Audubon CEO Eric Stiles, who institutionalized this corrupt practice at NJ Audubon:

Intriguingly, two decades ago, NJ Audubon offered a radically different perspective on protection of the state’s forested preserves.

“One of the most devastating causes of ecological degradation is fragmentation resulting from new developments and roads,” wrote NJ Audubon’s then-director Eric Stiles in a 2002 white paper. “Fragmented forest and wetland habitats have more predation, more parasitism, and less vertebrate diversity than intact habitats.”

What accounts for the astonishing about-face, such that today the group celebrates logging, roading, and forest fragmentation under the aegis of young forest chainsaw management?

Solaun says the reason is the usual one: money.

In conclusion, Ketcham notes that the corruption is not limited to NJ or forest management, but is national in scope and drives the entire environmental and climate movements:

This is all part of a broad toxification of the environmental movement, which has taken a regressive turn toward collaboration with big business, wealthy donors and corporate-backed foundations. Green groups that embrace market-based initiatives, rather than stand up for sensible regulation and strict enforcement of environmental laws, are the ones that get lavish funding.

Regular readers here and a small band of north Jersey Highlands forest advocates know this story very well, as I’ve been writing about it for over a decade and they have been in the trenches battling to preserve what’s left of NJ’s Highlands forests and landscapes.

I worked with Ketcham on this story, and was pleased that he reciprocated with a quote (and a link!):

According to Bill Wolfe, a former planner with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, logging-for-wildlife in the Sparta area has fragmented the forest with roads, disturbed soils and vegetation, reduced canopy cover, introduced invasive species, and has been “targeted not at scores of rare and threatened interior bird species, but a single species, the Golden Winged Warbler, that requires scrub/shrub habitat.”

But national exposure provided by The Daily Beast should generate strong pushback and help activists resist the ongoing corruption being legitimized by Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force, where NJ Audubon is one of 4 Co-Chairs.

I’ll send it to Senator Smith and the Task Force now!

[End Note:  I would add three important points Ketcham left out:

1. The forests are protected by the NJ Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, the Highlands Regional Master Plan, and the NJ DEP Highlands regulations.

The Highlands (over 800,000 acres) represents a nationally leading regional land use planning and management model, and has some of the strongest regulatory protections in the country, including a minimum 88 acre density and 300 foot wide stream buffers in the forest preservation area, including prohibitions on extension of water and sewer infrastructure into the preservation area.

And while NJ Highlands forests don’t enjoy the “forever wild” constitutional protection of NY’s Adirondack Park forests, these are HUGE and warrant emphasis.

They also illustrate the implications of the corruption Ketcham exposes. It is vitally important to connect these dots.

The same conservation groups taking the money to advocate “bogus arguments” also actively undermine regulatory approaches in favor of corporate friendly voluntary and market based policies.

2. The next phase of funding this corruption will be so called “carbon sequestration” and carbon credit and trading markets.

NJ law allocates millions of dollars of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) revenues to carbon sequestration”.

Billionaire Peter Kellogg already has a carbon credit generating plan and participates in a private carbon trading market at Hudson Farm.

During a recent presentation to the Smith Forestry Task Force, DEP stated that they are developing carbon credit and trading schemes to promote sequestration.

Activists need to start opposing these shams NOW.

3. Kellogg also funded DEP and Conservation groups in a “retreat” (junket).

[Update – here’s my note to Senator Smith and his Forestry Task Force:

Dear Senator Smith and Forestry Task Force:

Given the ongoing deliberations of the Forestry Task Force, I thought this national story about NJ forestry policy would be of significant interest, see:

Forests Are Being Destroyed and ‘Nature Lovers’ Are Helping


The article highlights the NJ roots of the vision of Benton MacKaye (regional planner and father of the Appalachian Trail), and laments and explains how that vision has been corrupted.

Sadly, the analysis transcends forestry policy and applies to virtually every aspect of climate and environmental policy.

Please take this information under advisement as you deliberate on forestry policies and legislative initiatives.


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