Home > Uncategorized > Is Military Money And Protection Of Warren Grove US Air Force Range Driving Insane DEP Pinelands Logging Plan?

Is Military Money And Protection Of Warren Grove US Air Force Range Driving Insane DEP Pinelands Logging Plan?

US Air Force Views Wildfires As A Significant Threat To Their Training Mission

US Air Force Funds Wildfire Management Programs To Reduce Those Operational Risks

Red oval location of DEP logging - Warren Grove Range upper right corner

Red oval location of DEP logging – Warren Grove Range upper right corner

We are dumfounded as to why DEP wants to log an isolated 1,400 acre parcel of Pinelands forests. There are major negative ecological and climate impacts of the plan and no justification for it.

According to Pinelands Commissioner Wallner, there is no wildfire management logic to support DEP’s plans to log 1,304 acres and create 13 road miles of 50 foot wide clearcut to create a “firebreak”.

Pinelands Commisioner Wallner – a retired *National Park Service wildfire expert – noted that he reviewed the DEP maps of the area and that there was no people or property at risk and that DEP provided no wildfire justification for the plan. (see a Google map of the area above).

Here is what a local expert noted about the lack of a justification:

All of the most immediate housing is in Warren Grove, but that is blocked by Sims Place and the NJ Air National Guard bombing range.  The Air Gurad owns 8000 acres there that is managed as a true Pinelands Forest. To the North there is Stafford Twp and that is protected by Rt. 539 and the GS Parkway. East is Little Egg Harbor and that is blocked by the Parkway as well. There is almost nothing to the West and little to the South.  All of these areas are guarded by roads that are much larger firebreaks than what they plan to cut. Given that the Pinelands is a fire ecology none of this makes any sense.  Also, the East Plains has a reputation of burning every 15 years or so and it is, perhaps, one of the reasons they are pygmy trees.

Makes me want to know who has the contract to cut and what is going to happen to the pulp logs the cutting will produce?

In fact, recent science demonstrates that “forest thinning” actually makes wildfires WORSE.

There is no ecological justification for the DEP plan because wildfire is ecologically beneficial to Pinelands forests.

The DEP plan blatantly contradicts the DEP’s Climate Science Report and Forest Action Plan recommendations regarding increasing carbon storage and sequestration.

The DEP plan conflicts with a pending “no net loss of trees” amendment to the Pinelands CMP to implement the Pinelands Commission’s climate policy development.

The plan would have many negative ecological impacts to Pinelands forests, including destruction of habitat for rare snakes and toxic pollution of soils and water from application of herbicides on over 1,000 acres.

The Plan conflicts with pending policy recommendations forthcoming in December from State  Senator Smith’s Legislative Forestry Taskforce.

So why is DEP aggressively pushing the Plan? Why did the Pinelands Commission approve it. And why are NJ leading conservation groups so aggressively supporting it?

Given the proximity to the USAF Warren Grove Range and support of NJ Conservation Foundation, we think we may have found who really could be pulling the strings behind the scenes: the US Air Force.

I previously wrote about the USAF’s “REPI” program, see:

DoD’s REPI NJ partners are listed on this fact sheet, and include NJCF

The Warren Grove range REPI fact sheet very clearly describes their concerns and objectives:

One of the most heavily utilized Air National Guard training ranges in the U.S., Warren Grove Range is a key Northeast training asset for all four Services, with its remote location providing unique operational capabilities.

However, its location in the New Jersey Pinelands is also one of the most flammable areas in the country. Every year training activities ignite one fire every 10-14 days, which are suppressed on-site.

When wildfires occur, the range must be totally shut down until the fires are suppressed. To reduce the wildfire danger, controlled burns are necessary to manage forest undergrowth. Without buffer lands to properly address undergrowth and fire concerns, the military mission at the range is endangered. In May 2007, the range shut down entirely for more than a year. Now, REPI efforts to establish buffer lands surrounding the range are protecting the viability of continued training missions, including use of conventional freefall bombs and munitions and future weapon systems training.

The USFA fact sheet then lists NJCF as a key partner:

“Every year training activities ignite one fire every 10-14 days, which are suppressed on-site….

Targeting the acquisition of thousands of acres of forest, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation will help the Air Force protect surrounding residents from the constant threat of wildfire and conduct prescribed fire management. Additionally, better forest management will support the many federally and state- listed animal and vegetative species found in the Pinelands area. Altogether, this project allows the continued operation of Warren Grove Range and maintains a quality training environment.”

So, is this project related to the US Air Force’s REPI wildfire management program?

Is it designed to protect the Warren Grove Range training mission by expanding the management of buffer lands?

Does NJCF receive federal funds for land management or benefit from USAF prescribed burns of NJCF lands?

We’ll try to file FOIA documents with the US Air Force to find out – but that will take months.

In the meantime, maybe some intrepid investigative reporter out there might start asking questions.

[Update: A local expert just sent me additional facts that support this explanation:

on the north and east sides that border the [Warren Grove Range] East Plains they have cut huge fire lands in the pygmy pines. When I first found them, I had Carleton check into it.  That was my first exposure to Walt Bien.  One of the excuses he used for them was that they were hoping to have more Crows Bloomberry (?)grow there. So, I guess the Air Guard want the other side of their property protected.  Wonder if NJCF subcontracted it out and will benefit from the contract?

*corrected 12/13/22

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