Archive for December, 2022

EPA $10.3 Million Grant To Restore Long Island Sound Raises An Important Question: Why No EPA Money For Cleanup Of Barnegat Bay?

December 20th, 2022 No comments

Murphy DEP Embraced Christie Administration’s Failed “10 Point Plan” For the Bay

EPA Grant Funds Tied To Clean Water Act Cleanup Program DEP Rejected

Barnegat Bay Goes From Crisis To Crickets

Rutgers Professor Mike Kennish testifies to joint Legislative hearing to warn of "insidious ecological decline" (8/13/12)

Rutgers Professor Mike Kennish testifies to joint Legislative hearing to warn of “insidious ecological decline” (8/13/12)

US EPA Region 2 recently announced the award of a $10.3 million grant to restore the health of Long Island Sound.

EPA Region 2 press releases announcing distribution of federal money typically come in duplicate or even triplicate – to highlight shared federal money for New York and New Jersey and sometimes Puerto Rico.

So I was intrigued: why was there no EPA money allocated to New Jersey to cleanup Barnegat Bay?

Well, it turns out that although the EPA Long Island money is part of a broad partnership, it is driven by and part of a comprehensive federal Clean Water Act based cleanup program for Long Island Sound known as a “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL).

The Chesapeake Bay is undergoing a massive cleanup and receiving huge federal funds under the same Clean Water Act TMDL program.

A TMDL sets a science based enforceable numeric limit on pollution and mandates pollution reductions required to restore water quality. It is reviewed and approved by EPA and has real teeth.

So, of course, the anti-science, anti-regulatory, and anti-federal EPA oversight Christie DEP rejected the Clean Water Act’s TMDL program.

The Murphy DEP, in another example of continuity, embraced the failed Christie DEP plan (some “New Day” eh?)

Thus, here we are: No cleanup of Barnegat Bay and no federal EPA money.

The pollution problems and declining ecological health of the Barnegat Bay used to be a very high priority issue in NJ environmental circles. There was even talk of severe restrictions on future development in the watershed due to pollution problems.

The media covered it.

Coastal environmental groups were active.

Rutgers scientists warned of “insidious ecological decline”spoke out about the problems, and criticized the lack of DEP effort.

The public was outraged by symptoms like stinging jellyfish and toxic harmful algae blooms and was engaged.

And the Legislature passed bills and held oversight hearings to hold DEP’s feet to the fire.

Today, the Bay has gone from crisis to crickets. Where are the coastal groups on the failed Christie DEP plan and DEP refusal to enforce the Clean Water Act’s TMDL requirements?

But they all have very prominent and visible fund raising projects (and other lame voluntary feel good measures).

So, I wrote Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith, who once held oversight hearings on the declining health of the Bay, to ask him to rattle a few cages over at DEP and hold oversight hearings.

Maybe some intrepid journalist will ask a few questions, like: what is going on with the cleanup, why not TMDL, and why is DEP losing EPA federal funds, including to the coastal groups who have abandoned any real scientific and regulatory work and focus on accountability at DEP:

Dear Chairman Smith – Today, US EPA announced allocation of $10.3 million in EPA grants to restore Long Island Sound, see the EPA press release:

$10.3 Million in Grants Awarded to Improve the Health of Long Island Sound

This federal funding is part of implementation the Clean Water Act “Total maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) developed for Long Island Sound, see the EPA webpage:

TMDLs at Work: Long Island Sound

As you know, many have been calling for a TMDL to address severe water quality and ecological problems in Barnegat Bay.

Over a decade ago, on August 13, 2012, Rutgers Professor Mike Kennish testified to your Committee that Barnegat Bay was on the verge of ecological collapse and that DEP needed to seriously ramp up State efforts, including a TMDL, see:

Barnegat Bay Suffering “Insidious Ecological Decline”

However, the Christie DEP blocked a TMDL efforts for 8 years. The Murphy DEP has continued these negligent regulatory policies. 

As a result, the water quality and ecological health of the Bay has continued to deteriorate.

And now, it appears that NJ is missing opportunities for receipt of federal EPA grant funds due to the lack of a Clean Water Act TMDL restorative program framework.

I urge you to inquire with DEP Commissioner LaTourette about the health of the Bay, the status of DEP’s Barnegat Bay program, and why NJ is not eligible for or not receiving these EPA funds.


Bill Wolfe

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Murphy DEP Is Issuing Regulatory Approvals Of Warehouse Developments With Virtually No Public Awareness Or Media Coverage

December 19th, 2022 No comments

Gov. Kean Dictated and Signed A Toothless State Planning Act

Gov. Florio Issued Executive Order To Fix That Failure By Directing DEP To Integrate State Plan In DEP Regulatory Programs

Gov. Murphy DEP Does Nothing But Issue Regulatory Approvals

I get tired of correcting the errors and omissions of NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle, particularly on the warehouse sprawl issues.

Today, Hurdle made another huge error in the close of his “warehouse sprawl year in review” story with this:

“Now that the [DEP] Inland Flood Rule and the warehouse siting guidance are approved, West Windsor can reconsider its mammoth error in judgement and do what’s best for the entire region.” 

The “Inland Flood Rule” (sic) was not “approved”. It was proposed on December 5, 2022 and won’t be adopted for several months. But even if it were adopted, it would not apply to the West Windsor project. Meanwhile, DEP continues to issue land use and water permits in the absence of this rule, thus putting more people and property at risk of flooding.

So, Hurdle misleads readers and gives them false hope by printing that error, all while creating the false impression that DEP is doing the right thing, instead of reporting the FACTS about how many warehouse developments DEP has approved.

And Hurdle again ignored mentioning any DEP regulatory role in the approval of warehouses, which must be intentional, because I’ve sent him several detailed emails informing him of DEP’s prior and pending regulatory approvals, most recently as last Wednesday, a time when he had to still be researching or writing today’s story.

I told him to LOOK at this DEP public notice, the latest 442 acre sprawling warehouse:

December 19, 2022

Proposed Amendment to the Lower Delaware Water Quality Management Plan

In accordance with the Water Quality Management Planning rules, N.J.A.C. 7:15, a public notice for a Proposed Amendment to the Lower Delaware Water Quality Management (WQM) Plan will be published on 12/19/2022, in the New Jersey Register. The proposed amendment, identified as “Northpoint Pilesgrove Warehouse” (Program Interest No. 435441, Activity No. AMD210003) would create a new discharge to groundwater (DGW) sewer service area (SSA) of 442.28 acres to serve a proposed industrial development consisting of five (5) warehouse buildings and an onsite subsurface sewage disposal system located on Block 45, Lots 1 & 7, in Pilesgrove Township, Salem County. The project will generate a projected wastewater flow of 75,000 gallons per day (gpd) based on flow calculated in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:9A-7.4.

How can a reporter ignore that?

The pattern of failure to even mention DEP approvals, while at the same time printing fact errors that lead readers to falsely believe DEP regulations are in place can not be an accident.

But why would Hurdle and Spotlight editors do that?

Spotlight mischaracterized local “home rule” numerous times (until I forced correction of those errors) and consistently highlights the fact that the State Plan lacks regulatory authority. They did so again in today’s story:

No authority to impose recommendations 

But the commission stressed it had no authority to impose its recommendations on local government, which staunchly defends a long tradition of home rule, and so it said the guidelines on warehouse siting, design, traffic impacts or community relations were purely advisory.

Why would they fail to mention that they themselves broke a huge story, quoting former Kean aide and State Planning Commissioner James Gilbert about how Gov. Kean directed State planners to draft the State Planning Act to assure that the State Plan was toothless and provided no regulatory authority? See:

And that Gov. Florio sought to address that failure by issuing Executive Order #114  that directed DEP to integrate the State Plan in DEP regulatory programs? See:

So, Spotlight is missing the warehouse and larger land use story in many ways – and that gives Governor Murphy and the Murphy DEP a huge pass.

And it fails to empower citizens to organize and pressure DEP to deny approvals.

That is, at best, journalistic negligence.

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The Murphy DEP Just Inadvertently Admitted That DEP Urban CSO Permits Have No Teeth

December 18th, 2022 No comments

DEP Confirms Our Criticism Of Toothless Urban CSO Permits

DEP Spinners And DEP Cheerleaders Just Exposed Themselves

DEP issued a self congratulatory press release this week, ironically praising themselves for issuing the “first” Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) permit “with schedules” for “projects”:

The draft New Jersey Pollutant Discharge System (NJPDES) renewal permits issued by the Department of Environmental Protection are the first to be issued that lay out schedules for combined sewer overflow reduction projects under long-term plans to reduce or eliminate combined sewer discharges affecting surface water quality in urban parts of the state. […]

The permittees were required to advise the public when combined sewer overflows occur, which is continued in this renewal. The DEP is moving into the next important phase of this effort by issuing these NJPDES permits that will lay out schedules for a variety of projects to address combined sewer overflows identified in long-term control plans.

The LaTourette DEP was so eager to praise themselves that they didn’t realize that they were admitting that their prior CSO permits were toothless; that DEP intentionally misled the public about those permits; and that DEP’s environmental group cheerleaders also misled the public about those permits.

Specifically, the DEP press release now confirms our criticism at the time, where we explicly critiqued these toothless DEP permits for failure to include enforceable requirements, including implementation schedules and milestones.

Back on January 8, 2015, we wrote:

The DEP’s new “Combined Sewer Overflow” (CSO) permits are getting lots of media play today, and lots of very basic misconceptions, like this in the Bergen Record story:

“It’s great news – exactly what we’ve been asking for,” said Bill Sheehan, the Hackensack Riverkeeper. “It sets New Jersey on course to do real work to fix this problem once and for all. The cities and towns will now actually have to do stuff. And if they don’t, the permits are enforceable.

Yes, the DEP permits do require that cities “do stuff” – lots of “stuff”.

“Stuff” like numerous studies and plans, the “stuff” they’ve been doing for decades that gets the big engineering and water resource consulting firms huge contracts but does nothing to improve water quality or stop the discharge of raw sewage from CSO’s when it rains.

But no, Captain Bill, the permits are not “enforceable” and they are intentionally written to be not enforceable.

So, just to be clear, below are the actual provisions of the DEP permit regarding implementation of CSO controls, i.e. actually constructing solutions to the problem within a specified and enforceable deadline. […]

You will note several glaring gaps and loopholes that make these permits unenforceable:

1. There are no mandatory deadlines to implement CSO controls. The only actual deadlines pertain to submission of plans and Reports.

2. The construction and financing schedule that must be submitted may bephased” (an undefined and unbounded term that makes implementation unenforceable) and may consider the “permittee’s financial capability” (that too is an undefined term which will allow poor cities to escape costly CSO controls). […]

3. Note that implementation of the LTCP is to begin after DEP approval, “in accordance with the schedule contained therein”.

The important point to take away is that the DEP regulations and the DEP permits do not have schedules. Schedules are to be developed at some future time in the LTCP process. No mandatory schedule means no teeth.

No money and no mandates means that this round of DEP CSO permits is more of the same status quo study and delay.

Wow! There’s some accountability that needs to happen because:

  • The DEP’s own press release this week specifically validates our criticism.
  • The DEP’s own press releases exposes prior DEP efforts to spin the press and mislead the public about these toothless CSO permits.
  • The DEP’s press release exposes the fact that the NJ press corps uncritically printed the DEP’s spin at the time.
  • The DEP’s press release exposes the rank cheerleading by environmental groups, who praised these toothless permits.

Finally, the DEP press release includes praise from a DEP cheerleader, the corporate dominated group NJ Future. They too expose the fact that they have also been misleading the public for years by praising the prior toothless DEP permits:

New Jersey Future appreciates NJDEP’s efforts on this issue and welcomes the release of the first of many CSO permits. Implementing these permits will allow communities to incorporate green infrastructure and climate change preparation to reduce overflows, flooding, and hazards using funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and funding allocated by the Governor and Legislature from the American Rescue Plan Act.”

We are truly in the Twilight Zone when DEP can mislead the public about toothless CSO permits, get praised by so called environmental groups (NJ Future was not lone in praising those prior toothless CSO permits), and then years later openly admit that the prior CSO permits were toothless, and get praise again!

Is there no memory?

Maybe some intrepid reporter will ask DEP some tough questions, like:

1) when will all those other toothless urban CSO permits be modified to include enforceable schedules and milestones?

2) Whether and how urban communities will invoke the current permit provision to consider a “permittee’s financial capability”?

3) Whether and how the urban CSO communities will be eligible to invoke DEP’s new “variance” loophole, which provides relief based on “widespread social and economic impacts”, particularly on low income communities?

For the “variance” loophole story, see:

ps – this is only happening because of federal money will pay for it.

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

December 17th, 2022 No comments

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

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Legislative Forestry Task Force Recommendations Are A Non-Starter (Part Two)

December 16th, 2022 No comments

Vague Platitudes, No Priorities, No Specifics, and No Tough Choices

9 Months Of Deliberation Delivered This Pap?

Part one set the context, basically so people could get a feel for how broken and biased the current DEP forestry policies, plans and programs are (and it’s been that way for a long time, cheerled by many conservationists, like entrepreneurial Mike Catania, see this.)

Part Two today highlights excerpts of the recommendations of the Legislative Forestry Task Force, each followed by my brief criticism (in red). This is off the top of my head and a first cut (I walked out of the Task Force after the first meeting, when they issued a gag order  and rejected a Resolution I proposed without discussion, designed merely to stop the damage, set priorities, and endorse proforestation:

In the full Task Force document the below excerpts are followed by a short paragraph of text. Readers should read the whole document. I only provided the boldfaced headlines from the document (the Task Force provided those boldface headlines, not me).

The Task Force process was initiated by Senator Smith purportedly to significantly reform those DEP policies in light on the climate and ecological emergencies, se:

Let me begin by noting that document does not discuss or critique the current conditions of the forest or evaluate the current DEP forestry planning and policy. Thus, it is impossible to know what the issues of concern are and the reforms that must be addressed.

Worse, the recommendations do not state clear goals, objectives, priorities, criteria, or standards upon which a Statewide Forestry policy or plan could be founded. Where goals are mentioned, they are limited to the DEP’s “80X50″ Report and the Global Warming Response Act. Both those documents are already obsolete in terms of climate science and with respect to the goals and timetables. Plus, the GWRA goals are purely aspirational and not enforceable. And they do not even reflect the goals and timetables of Gov. Murphy’s Executive Orders. That’s truly pathetic and unacceptable.

There are no recommendations that forestry be subject to the full suite of NJ DEP environmental laws and regulations, that standards be strengthened, and that loopholes be closed, like wetlands, stream encroachment, stormwater, water quality standards, Highlands, Pinelands, CAFRA, soil erosion, and steep slopes.

The recommendation do not begin to address climate and proforestation policies and include recommendations that would allow expansion of logging in NJ’s vanishing forests. They apply only to public forests, which are only half of NJ’s forested lands, the other half are privately owned. Most logging occurs on private land, according to DEP FAP: (p. 84)

Virtually all harvest removals of merchantable bole volume of sawtimber trees on timberland has occurred on private lands according to FIA for 2009 to 2017 (Figure 73).

And they do not recommend that numerous loopholes be repealed, BMP documents be revoked, and do not include any explicit new enforceable regulatory standards. Thus are a complete sellout.

Finally, the entire approach is overly technocratic, anti-democratic, and reliant on “expertise”. This approach is an assault on the public’s control of public lands and the future of all forests, public and private. Forests are a public good, not a commodity. The private property interests in ownership of forested lands must be subordinated to public objectives and public controls.

Recommendation 1:

The NJDEP should be directed to initiate and conduct a statewide planning and mapping process for forested public land

The recommended planning process is just that, a process. No goals, priorities, objectives, standards, criteria or timetables are specified. The plan is not tied to funding or regulations. The DEP is given control of this process, with unfettered discretion. That is a prescription for the status quo. The DEP can state that they already adopted a Forest Action Plan. The recommended scientific advisory panel would serve to blunt democratically expressed public preferences and is far too technocratic a body to be controlling the policy agenda (“trust us, we’re experts!”). There is no suggested integration with current plans, like the Highlands or Pinelands plans. The highlighting of protection of indigenous lands is an indentity politics virtue signaling sham. The Gov. and the DEP Commissioner are shielded from any demands for leadership or policy accountability.

Recommendation 2:

The NJDEP should be directed to commence a formal rulemaking process for the development of forest management plans* on public forests

This is a completely empty gesture. What would be in such regulations? They would only be “informed” by the mapping and plan?. And the 3 YEAR timetable is far too long and absurd.

Recommendation 3:

The NJDEP should be directed to initiate and complete rulemaking to provide interim guidelines for forest management plans* on public lands.

This two step interim and final procedure is bureaucracy run riot. All process, no substance.

Recommendation 4:

The NJDEP should be directed to revitalize and implement the existing Natural Areas Program.

I support this recommendation. It specifies a real existing program, the expansion of that program (but not fully clear where) and recommends appointments, funding, and staffing to implement the program (but no staff or revenue targets are provided, so it’s essentially toothless).

Recommendation 5:

The NJDEP should be directed to identify areas where afforestation and reforestation should occur on public lands.

I support the intent of this recommendation, but not its limitation to public lands, which ignore private lands. There also needs to be a formal and enforceable linkage to the carbon storage/sequestration related goals of the Global Warming Response Act. Also, there needs to be some linkage to a “no net loss” or “mitigation” scheme such that there would be an enforceable mechanism to assure implementation. Finally, there needs to be acreage, biomass, carbon or some other standards and objectives specified, or else this is merely a platitude.

Recommendation 6: 

The NJDEP should be directed to establish a new program within the agency to designate carbon reserves, as identified through the planning process, with a primary goal of protecting mature forests and providing for future old growth forests (as defined by the science advisory panel*) for their carbon benefit.

Bad idea. “Carbon reserves” should not be designated and isolated little ghettos. The carbon imperative must be statewide, as should be the goal of promoting and protecting mature forests – and it needs to be accompanied by a repudiation of DEP’s current politics of promotion of “young forests”. Finally, this recommendation includes an “oversight council”, while no public members are specified, it does include “private interests representing appropriate expertise.” That’s another bad idea – both the restrictions to private and experts.

Recommendation 7:

The NJDEP should be directed to identify areas where active management is needed to promote future carbon sequestration, maintain biodiversity, and to address current and future threats to ecological health

VERY Bad idea. Active management is a sham. This is the program DEP is now implementing.

DEP’s interpretation of “active management” and the forestry programs they implement under that slogan are NOT consistent – as claimed – with the goals of the GWRA or DEP’s “80X50″ Report.

Recommendation 8:

The NJDEP must recognize the importance of adaptive management during the inventory and planning process, whereby planning, inventory, and management approaches are adjusted over time based upon new data and changing circumstances in our forests.

This is a formula for backsliding, ad hoc and site specific compromised decisions, and infinite revisions. We need reliable clarification goals and objectives, not a slippery slope.

Recommendation 9:

The NJDEP must recognize the significant variation in our forests, both on a macro (landscape) level and micro level as a guiding principle of the planning and rule-making process

So what?

Recommendation 10:

NJDEP must protect and manage NJ’s public forestlands to maintain and enhance carbon sequestration and storage as necessary to advance state climate goals* while advancing equally important goals of ecological health, biological diversity, climate resiliency, and protection of water and soil resources while providing low-intensity, safe public recreation opportunities.**

DEP has already estimated carbon sequestration and storage in their GHG inventory and “80X50″ Report. Are these goals adequate? No.

The carbon goals are to be measured in the aggregate, which allows all sorts of averaging and off-site trading schemes to avoid compliance. Think wetlands mitigation banking. Bad idea.

Hunting is stealthed into this climate goal – in the fine print of an asterisk no less, which is a despicable practice – as “safe recreation”. DEP already manages forests for hunting, which provides a disguised motive for logging and the creation of edge habitat to benefit a small minority of hunters, contrary to healthy forests and the public interest.

The term “sound science” is an industry slogan that should never be used in a public document.

Recommendation 11:

NJDEP forest management plans on public land must be developed in accordance with the process established through rulemaking noted in the previous section (Recommendations 2 and 3).

Another all process, no substance.

Recommendation 12:

The NJDEP should continue to use fire as an important management tool based upon sound science.

Sound science. Sounds like science to me.

The Task Force failed to address major flaws in current laws and regulations, including failure to consider air pollution and health effect of prescribed burns, carbon implications, the flaws and limits in current prescribed burn models that have been shown not to consider climate change driven conditions, and the liability relief for damages of a prescribed burn that gets out of control (think USFS prescribed burn in New Mexico this summer. At least the USFS admitted that their models failed and conducted a review and made reforms).

The TF went in the opposite direction with this off the wall recommendation for MORE deregulation:

“The legislature and NJDEP should identify and address any legal barriers that hinder the use of prescribed fire by trained land managers.”

Recommendation 13:

The NJDEP should be directed to amplify efforts to address the impacts of invasive non-native species, including insects, animals, plants, pathogens, and microorganisms.

Sounds like an excuse for abusive active management to me.

Recommendation 14:

The NJDEP should be directed to measure and reduce deer densities in our public forestlands to ecologically sustainable levels, with guidance from the Science Advisory Panel.*

This is a bone to the hunters. Unacceptable. DEP is already mismanaging forests to promote hunting as well as mismanaging the deer population.

Recommendation 15:

The NJDEP should not include commercial profit as a goal in any forest management plan* on public land.

Do they think we’re stupid? Commercial profit can’t be a goal, but DEP can still sell the timber and other wood products! Look at this absurd loophole!

“Wood products can be sold in instances where cutting and removal of wood is a necessary part of an approved plan with ecological health, climate, or other non-commercial goals. 

DEP currently masks and defrays the costs of their forests program off budget by giving away the wood in “stumpage contracts” to contractors. If DEP foresters support active management, take the money out of their budget, so their salaries are on the line.

Recommendation 16:

The legislature and others must identify and implement funding mechanisms to ensure success of the recommendations in this report.

Just as I predicted, they’re going after Biden Inflation Act money (but they forgot the infrastructure bill money!) And they even threw a bone to Senator Smith by dreadging up his very old and failed water tax bill.

And they are promoting “tapping carbon markets”. JUST SAY NO TO THAT!

How much money are we talking about?

How about if we take some of the Green Acres, “stewardship”, and watershed planning money that now goes to the non-profits?

Why not set a revenue target?

Like the rest of the recommendations, that’s Lame.

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