Home > Uncategorized > ORWELL: Conservationists Conduct Tour To Promote DEP Logging Of Pinelands Forests

ORWELL: Conservationists Conduct Tour To Promote DEP Logging Of Pinelands Forests

Conservationists Caught In Lies, Are Now Promoting Logging

Running Out the Clock, Deflecting Attention from Gov. Murphy’s OK

Costly, Harmful, Unjustified, And Ineffective Forest “Thinning” Makes Wildfires Worse

Conservationists defended this Pinelands clearcut as "forest restoration" and "stewardship"

Conservationists defended this Pinelands clearcut as “forest restoration” and “stewardship”

[Important Updates below]

I knew this debate about DEP logging in the Pinelands would be ugly, but I must say that I’m shocked and appalled by this latest astonishing and unprecedented development:

We are organizing a field trip with Sierra Club and NJ Conservation Foundation to look at the results of the kind of thinning prescription that DEP intends to carry out in Bass River SF.  It will be on Sunday, November 20th from 11 am to 2 pm.  If you can come, would you give me a call at 609-304-9902


The PPA, NJCF and Sierra are running this PR stunt when many other people are urging Gov. Murphy to veto the minutes of the Pinelands Commission and kill the project. The Gov. has until Nov. 29 to make that decision. If he does nothing, it means he tacitly approves the project. Murphy politically owns it as well. His recent appointments voted in favor of it and his DEP Commissioner LaTourette  – as revealed by a smoking gun letter – pressured the Pinelands Commission to support the project, a document that both DEP and the Pinelands Commission have kept secret and refused to disclose in response to my OPRA request.

(Silly me: I thought they could not go any lower than calling a 13 MILE LONG 50 foot wide forest clearcut, bisected by a road – a “meadow”. – Or maybe they were duped by DEP’s slogan: “carbon defense”!)

The photo above is an example of a logging project that the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) and NJ Conservation Foundation (NJCF) supported as “forest restoration” and “Family forest stewardship”. You can see more photos and links to the project in this post:

I’m sure they won’t tour that site in the defense of DEP “thinning” campaign.

I’m sure that the well meaning and trusting participants on that “tour” will not be provided with a different assessment, including that of Pinelands Commissioners Lohbauer and Wallner.

Commissioner Wallner, a retired *National Park Service expert on wildfire, did not support the plan because it had no justification in preventing wildfire risks and DEP failed to examine alternatives. (US Forest Service is required to do that under the NEPA EIS process, but NJ has no NEPA law so DEP can do whatever they want). Wallner reviewed the maps and found that there were few if any people and property at risk.

Wow. A costly and highly ecologically destructive project that has no justification.

But it gets even worse: recent science has found that forest “thinning” is not an effective tool in wildfire management. It results in exactly the opposite of its stated goals: it makes wildfires WORSE. By reducing canopy cover, “thinning” allows more sunlight to hit the forest floor. This promotes invasive plants and grasses which are highly combustable. It also dries out vegetation and duff, making them MORE combustible. It also allows wind to penetrate the forest, which also dries out vegetation and duff, while fanning the flames and greatly accelerating and intensifying wildfires. (This is common sense: anyone who ever tried to build a campfire with wet wood or blew on the embers of a campfire to get it stoked knows this).

The costly and ecologically damaging forest “thinning” project with no justification actually makes the wildfire problem worse!

Commissioner Lohbauer provided a point by point devastating critique of that plan, concluding:

In the end, the injury to the carbon sequestering ability of this forest was my primary objection to this project. I don’t believe that the work that the Forest Service proposes to do is either warranted by the circumstances, nor healthy for the flora and fauna of this forest. I opposed it, and I hope that there still remains some opportunity to prevent the Forest Service from moving forward with this now permitted, yet ill-planned project.”

So, a costly and ecologically damaging project, with no justification or exploration of alternatives, that makes the problem worse, is also the OPPOSITE of what we should be doing to address the climate emergency (i.e. maximize carbon storage and sequestration in trees, vegetation, duff, and soil, not cut them down and destroy them and burn them as “fuel”). See:

This is the garbage that your conservation “leaders” are now actively supporting and promoting. Let that sink in for a moment.

Sadly, it’s not really an anomaly (for an historical explanation of what’s going on, see this post:

What very likely happened here is that at the outset, PPA and NJCF decided that they could not stop the project – for political reasons dealing with public fear of wildfire and because they don’t like to fight with DEP and the Pinelands Commission – and because they lack a spine, they are not activists, and they find public controversies and activism distasteful.

So, they decided to go behind closed doors and work with DEP to do damage control, which they then publicly sold as “concessions” they extracted from DEP.

Recall that PPA was reluctantly dragged into the grassroots activist battle over the Pinelands pipeline, they did not lead that fight. That’ why they kept this whole logging scheme quiet and below the public radar.

Very few people know that former Pinelands Commissioner and NJCF leader Candy Ashmum privately vigorously urged environmental leaders NOT TO OPPOSE THE PIPELINE, because she feared Gov. Christie would be vindictive, replace her, and destroy the Pinelands Commission! I was at this meeting.

But, I got wind of the DEP “thinning” project and filed an OPRA public document request to the Pinelands Commission in August, BEFORE they approved the project. Outrageously, the Pinelands Commission simply violated the law and denied my request, due to a “lack of responsive records”, a blatant lie.

The Pinelands Commission did this during their review and approval of the DEP logging plan and prior to their vote.

Emile and Carleton were caught with their pants down and were about to be exposed for their weak behind the scenes dealings with DEP and failure to warn the public.

To try to prevent this embarrassment, Emile DeVito of NJCF then sent me an email urging me not to oppose the project. His excuse included a pack of flat out lies.

That was then followed by numerous emails from Carleton Montgomery of PPA to conservationists also urging them not to oppose the project. see:

After I exposed these lies – in detail based on the text of the DEP plan and Pinelands approval document – conservationists tried to shift the goalposts and walk back their lies, but actually doubled down on them. Again, I had to call them out on that, in detail, with facts, see:

They now take that self serving campaign of lies into the absurd territory we see in today’s “field trip”.

That’s not just ineffective advocacy – its flat out corruption. (and keep in mind that Sierra Club and NJCF are Co-Chairs of Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force, so this PR campaign in support of forest thinning sends a devastating bad signal about where that group is headed).

(ps – perhaps they were duped by DEP slogans about “carbon defense”!?

[Update 1: Based on NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan & DEP mapping of “extreme wildfire risk”, I petitioned Pinelands Comm. to amend the CMP to limit new development & mandate fireproofing of structures, see: http://wolfenotes.com/2022/04/pinelands-commission-erects-barriers-to-petition-to-strengthen-wildfire-development-standards/

This a a far less expensive, far superior environmentally, and far more effective approach to wildfire management.

Yet it got NO SUPPORT – NONE – from PPA & NJCF – but now they support LOGING TO manage wildfire!

[Update 2: The Cherry on top of this disgrace is that wildfire is ecologically beneficial to Pinelands forests!  (Emil DeVito wrote an Op-Ed and PPA recently did press interview about that).

So, DEP is spending over $1 million of public money to log forests and create ecological and climate harms to suppress ecologically beneficial wildfire, for no wildfire risk reduction, and actually making wildfire risks worse! (while constructing road improvements and roadside clearcuts that invite further illegal ORV access and damage). You really can’t make this shit up!

[End Note: I’ve been working with a few journalists for weeks now and giving them a hard time for failure to cover this story. No doubt the pushback, spin, and lies from PPA &NJCF has blocked that coverage and no doubt that those reporters are on this tour and will drink the Kool-aid). Word.


*corrected 12/13/22

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