Home > Uncategorized > Time To Expand NJ’s Lame “No Net Loss Reforestation Act” To Address The Climate Emergency And Environmental Justice

Time To Expand NJ’s Lame “No Net Loss Reforestation Act” To Address The Climate Emergency And Environmental Justice

The Urban Heat Island Effect Already Is Killing People

The Murphy DEP, Conservation Groups, And Media Don’t Want To Talk About That

Where Did Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force Recommendations Go?

Prior aspirational goals, incremental approaches, and voluntary and market based solutions have all failed. It is time to be bold.

[Update: 3/10/23:

+ Between 2001-2010, monthly extreme heat events that would be expected to occur once every 1,000 years (a 0.1% chance in a given year) were now occurring once every 20 years—an increase by a factor of 50 over the previous three decades.

There’s a lot going on right now in NJ on forestry and climate issues and a lot of diversion and gaslighting to mask controversial issues. You probably never heard about any of it from media or environmental groups. Consider:

1. Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force recommendations seem to have fallen into a black hole. Reforms to address climate and carbon sequestration/storage were one of only two main focal points of that group.

2. The Murphy DEP is conducting a Stakeholder process to discuss revisions to NJ’s Green Acres regulations, including insane policies to allow logging (forestry & “stewardship”) on preserved Green Acres lands and expand logging on all public lands, including State Forests, State Parks, and Wildlife Management Areas (this would include county and local Green Acres parkland).

3. DEP adopted a statewide climate “carbon defense” policy in the pro-logging State Forest Action Plan and used that policy to justify logging 1,400 acres (2.4 million trees) in the Pinelands Wildfire Forestry Plan.

4. The DEP is about to adopt proposed regulations to implement the environmental justice law. That law is supposed to regulate “stressors” that disproportionately impact the environmental quality and health of poor and minority communities. There is no greater stressor than the urban heat island effect and no more serious adverse impact than mortality (death), but the DEP ignored all that in their proposed regulations. 

DEP’s EJ regulatory proposal fails to mention mortality and cites a 2006 study in Phoenix, Arizona (@ page 51. Phoenix is nothing like NJ’s climate) not their own prior 2004 regulatory science and findings. DEP relies on impervious surface as a surrogate indicator of stress, not canopy cover or actual NJ specific air quality (ozone, fine particulates, hazardous air pollutants, carcinogens) and health data on morbidity and mortality (or emergency room visits, et al). There are no mitigation mandates to address these stressors.

[Note: Why would DEP cherry pick a 2006 study in Phoenix, and ignore their own scientific basis of a 2004 DEP regulation? Obviously, the DEP scientists are either incompetent (e.g. unaware of their own scientific basis of regulation), or the DEP intentionally ignored this prior science to obscure the fact that they’ve known of these mortality risks and have done nothing for 18 years.]

No one wants to talk about any of that. And they are doing their best gaslighting and diversion so you don’t know about any of that.

[Note: DEP proposed a “Guidance Document” (EJMAP)  that identifies certain “stressors”. But the guidance and stressors are not proposed as regulatory standards and methods and are thus not enforceable and purely voluntary. The DEP is misleading the public about that by creating the false impression that this Guidance is meaningful and constitutes enforceable requirements.]

Similarly, the DEP’s “Extreme Heat Action Plan” is a misleading diversion. Any progress on these issues will require substantive changes to existing DEP regulatory programs, as I listed above. All these diversionary “action plans” and stakeholder processes are voluntary fake solutions that divert from enforceable requirements and from DEP’s failure to walk the talk.

5. The Murphy DEP recently used NJ conservation groups in a public relations campaign to rebrand a carbon sequestration program enacted under a 2007 climate law as the Murphy DEP’s “Natural Climate Solutions” program.

NJ Spotlight and Philadelphia’s PBS outlet WHYY both drank that Kool-aid and printed favorable and highly false and misleading stories.

Both stories failed to mention the DEP’s own 2004 science on the huge increase in mortality caused by the “urban heat island effect”.

The WHYY story not only failed to mention the urban heat island effect on mortality, but they falsely claimed the DEP’s “Natural Climate Solutions” program was funded by license plate sales and part of DEP’s “No Net Loss” reforestation program.

Both claims are factually false and flat out lies.

So, in an attempt to pull all of this together and establish a set of science based enforceable policy demands (before the fake NJ green mafia can sell them out), I wrote the below self explanatory letter to Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith. NJ DEP already enforces wetlands mitigation requirements and a mitigation bank. DEP already collects air pollution permit fees based on emissions. DEP regulations already require GHG emissions inventories for certain major emission sources. Under the Municipal Land Use law, towns are authorized to collect off site impact fees. Those approaches could be expanded to include carbon:

(* Note: a mitigation scheme would not replace the need for direct regulation of GHG emissions by DEP, as in NY State’s climate law)

Dear Senator Smith:

I am writing to urge that you consider legislation to expand the current No Net Loss (NNL) Reforestation Act of 1993 (N.J.S.A. 13:1L-14.1 et. seq.)


In light of the climate emergency, the current policy of “no net loss” must be scrapped and replaced by an affirmative reforestation approach that increases current tree biomass and canopy cover. That reforestation approach could be integrated with a broader new mandatory carbon mitigation program.

The current no net loss reforestation law is narrow in scope and not based on the science of carbon sequestration and storage and NJ’s climate and environmental justice goals.

The law fails to reflect DEP’s recent climate science reports and assumptions on carbon sequestration and storage. The law fails to reflect the carbon goals of the Global Warming Response Act or the recent Environmental Justice law.

The law applies only to certain State projects – not to the private sector – and deforestation of lands more than 1/2 acre in size. The reforestation requirements are not sufficient to meet climate or public health goals and lack scientific basis.

Back in 2004, DEP found that the urban heat island effect had dramatic negative public health effects, including huge increases in mortality:

“Human Health Impacts 

Rising temperatures will increase heat stress, especially for vulnerable urban populations, such as the elderly and urban poor. Climate models predict an increase in the number of  days per year with temperatures above 90oF in the New York City metro area, with a potentially significant impact on human health due to heat stress… By the 2020s, climate change could result in an increase in summer heat-related mortality of 55% and a more than doubling in related mortality by the 2050s.  ~~~  (NJ DEP, 2004)

A study just published in The Lancet confirms those DEP findings:


The population-weighted mean city temperature increase due to UHI effects was 1·5°C (SD 0·5; range 0·5–3·0). Overall, 6700 (95% CI 5254–8162) premature deaths could be attributable to the effects of UHIs (corresponding to around 4·33% [95% CI 3·37–5·28] of all summer deaths). We estimated that increasing tree coverage to 30% would cool cities by a mean of 0·4°C (SD 0·2; range 0·0–1·3). We also estimated that 2644 (95% CI 2444–2824) premature deaths could be prevented by increasing city tree coverage to 30%, corresponding to 1·84% (1·69–1·97) of all summer deaths.”


These serious adverse public health effects are clearly “stressors” as defined by the recent environmental justice law, but were not addressed by DEP’s proposed implementation regulations.

On January 18, 2023, DEP issued a press release touting what the DEP called their “Natural Climate Solutions” program. DEP emphasized the carbon sequestration and storage benefits of urban tree planting, but far more needs to be done.


As you know, the legislature established that program by the sequestration provisions of the 2007 Global Warming Solutions Fund Act P.L 2007, c.340 which authorized the use of RGGI proceeds.

Similarly, Pinelands Commissioner Lohbauer publicly stated that the Pinelands Commission would soon adopt a net net loss policy under the CMP.

I assume your Forestry Task Force also made recommendations along these lines.

There are numerous legislative strategies to codify and implement such a no net loss policy.

I recommend a carbon based approach with at least a 3/1 reforestation ratio.

Legislation should establish an enforceable Statewide reforestation goal and timetable, again based on carbon and the goals of the GWRA.

The thresholds in the current law should be abandoned and apply to any tree removal or cutting by any entity.

The program should be funded and implemented not only with RGGI proceeds, but as a carbon mitigation requirement in all DEP permit programs that would authorize any activity that produced carbon emissions. New carbon mitigation requirements would be based on a lifecycle carbon footprint for the authorized project. Mitigation options would include reforestation, as well as other energy and carbon management activities that produced real reductions in carbon emissions.

Prior aspirational goals, incremental approaches, and voluntary and market based solutions have all failed. It is time to be bold.

I look forward to your earliest and favorable response and of course am available to work with OLS in drafting such legislation.

Bill Wolfe

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