Home > Uncategorized > My Testimony To The Pinelands Commission Criticizing DEP Forestry Plan Was Completely Sanitized

My Testimony To The Pinelands Commission Criticizing DEP Forestry Plan Was Completely Sanitized

This is part 2 – in Part one we documented how Pinelands Commissioner Wallner’s concerns and criticism were misrepresented in the minutes of the meeting.

Today, I will just post the Pinelands Commission’s summary of my comments and the verbatim testimony from the YouTube video. No explanation necessary. This does not matter at this point from a regulatory perspective, but it’s important for accountability.

(Note: I had to be very careful to nail down facts, because prior to the meeting, I was prevented from and unable to read any documents about the DEP plan. All I knew was based on a 1 paragraph summary from the July Monthly Management Report and the Pinelands staff presentation and Commission’s deliberations. I also was given misinformation by Emile DeVito, NJCF urging me not to oppose the plan.)

Pinelands Minutes

Bill Wolfe called in to provide comment on NJDEP’s forestry and fuelbreak application (Application Number 2007-0318.001) but before doing so he requested clarification on the following: acreage in which forestry activities will occur, staff’s wildfire expertise, the current regulations which do not address climate change or carbon sequestration and Commissioner Wallner’s earlier comments on the application. Mr. Wolfe said thinning does not mitigate a forest fire. He said the Commission’s action of approving the project was irresponsible, and the plan is destructive. He provided additional reasons as to why he objects to NJDEP’s forestry plan. He also said he submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for documents related to meetings held between the Commission staff and the NJDEP staff in August. He said there were no responsive documents. He said the Governor should veto the minutes to stop this project.

That summary left an awful lot out. See below.

Verbatim Testimony (YouTube video, starting @ time 2:09:50)

My name is Bill Wolfe. I’d like to make some comments on your approval of the DEP forestry wildfire plan.

But before I do, I want to make some points clear to be sure I have the facts right, because I got conflicting information from Emile DeVito about what the forestry practices entailed.

Just listening to Commissioners Lloyd and Lohbauer, I got the range of 1,100 – 1,300 acres with 90 – 95% tree removal, for 2.4 million trees.

Is that correct?

[Staff and Commissioners respond]

Horner – I did not do those calculations. The approval talks about a percentage reduction in the trees, but I don’t know the numbers.

Lohbauer – that is an accurate count.

WolfeClearly, that would not constitute “thinning” that would constitute clearcut. And even thinning has been shown, the latest science shows that thinning does not mitigate or reduce wildfire risks, and it has enormous climate impacts that were not examined by the DEP and the Commission.

Admittedly, by Chuck who said that, if I can paraphrase, that staff lacked the expertise and deferred to the DEP, on both wildfire risks and climate and forestry management.

Is that correct?

Horner: I’ll say it a little differently. Yes, we recognized the expertise of DEP Forest Fire Service exceeds out staff’s and our regulations do not address the issue of climate change and carbon sequestration.

[Note: Horner just contradicted his prior remarks, where he explicitly stated that Pines staff lacked expertise and deferred to DEP expertise.]

Wolfe: OK. I understand that Commissioner Walter (sic), sorry if I didn’t get your last name, that there was no justification provided with respect to reducing wildfire risks or harm to people and property.

Is that correct?

That there was very little people and property in the areas to be logged or firebreak?

Is that correct?

Chair Matos – Commissioner Wallner, is  that an accurate representation?

Wolfe – I think he said that the “no alternative” was not explored as well.

Wallner – It didn’t seem like, in the amendment, and in looking at the parcels, that there was not any concentration of human occupation.But I guess the biggest underlying factor is that I didn’t see….

Matos interrupts – Sorry Commissioner, I didn’t want – I just wanted to be sure that this was an accurate representation of what you said. This is not a forum for debate on this … If its a misrepresentation of your statement , that all. I just want to make sure that the record correctly reflects what you stated, and Mr. Wolfe….

WallnerThat [Wolfe] is correct.

Wolfe – The final concern is that the initial area of herbicide treatment has been reduced, but that there still was a reservation of an area of about 1,000 acres of herbicide treatments.

Is that correct?

HornerThat [Wolfe] is correct.

Wolfe – Alright. Just in context, with all these deficiencies, I just find it the most extraordinarily irresponsible thing I can recall the Pinelands Commission ever making.

I just have to strenuously object as harshly as I possibly can on scientific grounds, on public policy grounds, on conflicts with the Governor’s Executive Orders on climate, on conflicts with DEP Commissioner’s  repeated public statements about taking seriously carbon sequestration and storage, about taking climate risks into consideration in decision making.

I just find this astonishing. Just for context, the amount of forest destruction in this plan is orders of magnitude greater than the forest destruction of the controversial south jersey gas pipeline. Enormous. Orders of magnitude greater.And there was enormous public outcry against that and months of public hearings.

How many people have testified to the Commission in public on this plan?

I tried.

I filed a petition for rulemaking on the topic, which the Commission didn’t even accept. So the Commission was not held accountable for its forestry and climate policies publicly, to have to at least explain that in response to my petition for rulemaking, which was the intent of the petition: to hold government accountable for their policies and explain why  in light of current science.

I then became aware of this project by reading the Commission’s July Monthly Management Report. I immediately filed an OPRA public records request for the documentation for the meeting held with the DEP, I think on July 16 or 23, I’m not sure, I don’t have that paper in front of me.

I filed an OPRA public records request the first week of August and the Commission staff denied it on the basis that there were “no responsive records”.  No responsive records.

How is it possible, for a meeting on a project of this magnitude with the DEP, to have no records? Not even attendance sheets. How is that possible?

I spent 13 years at DEP and I know how to document a meeting and summarize agreements, particularly if there was a modified plan in the works.

At the time, I don’t when the amended plan was submitted and you went back to de novo review, but there was an ongoing public review process and I was denied a public records request.

I find that – after both the petition and going out of my way, and I’m an expert involved in the field for almost 40 years. If I can’t figure this stuff out, how can the public possibly participate meaningfully under these conditions?

Really, I’m just appalled. I can’t even believe what I was hearing as I tuned it.

I drove 50 miles to get out of a National Forest to get an internet connection in order to participate today.

So, I’m just…. and Emile DeVito gave me bad information. He told me it was not a large project, it was not bad, there would be little tree removal, and I find exactly the opposite is the case.

So what the heck is going on here?

I’ll conclude my remarks by saying that –  and I hope this goes into the meeting notes and become somewhere available to the public – I assume that were are in a public setting now and this is live.

The only recourse at this point is to approach the Governor to veto the minutes to stop this insanity.

I urge the conservation community and the public to organize and mobilize a campaign to very quickly target the Governor to veto the minutes today to stop this project.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

2:18:30 end

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
You must be logged in to post a comment.