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When A “Prescribed Burn” Is Really A “Practice Burn”

Military Funding And NJ DEP Forest Fire Service Capture Pinelands Conservationists

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(Caption: Cover of NJCF Winter 2017 Newsletter – Photo by Jason Howell, PPA)

NJ State officials fail to mention that New Mexico wildfire not only has scientific lessons for the DEP’s prescribed burn program, but it illustrates the very poor public policy adopted in passage of a recent NJ State law that eliminates liability for damages caused by a prescribed burn that gets out of control, like the USFS fire in New Mexico.

The Prescribed Burn Act, specifically see C.13:9-44.16 Prescribed burn deemed to be in public interest; immunity from liability, also exempts wildfires caused by prescribed burns that get out of control and damage people and property. 

Because hundreds of homes and properties were destroyed, the liability issue is front and center in New Mexico. ~~~~ 7/22/22 post

A friend sent me the photo above yesterday. It pretty much visually sums up the sad state of NJ conservation, I guess you could say.

The fire was conducted by the NJ Forest Service at the NJCF Franklin Parker Preserve in the Pinelands.

The photo was featured on the cover of the NJ Conservation Foundation (NJCF) Winter 2017 Newsletter and taken by Jason Howell of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA).

Proud of his work, Jason eagerly granted me permission to use it, and we engaged in an email exchange about what it illustrated.

Not surprisingly, deception was again used.

The NJCF newsletter describes the project as a “prescribed burn”:

Our cover photo may look like an environmental catastrophe; it’s anything but. Jason Howell, a wildlife photographer and cinematographer, captured this striking image during a prescribed burn at franklin Parker Preserve (sic). the (sic) burn helps renew Pine Barrens habitat and reduces the risk of wildfires. Jason serves as stewardship coordinator for the Pinelands Preservation alliance, (sic) and is a Master naturalist, wilderness first responder, and volunteer with Mid-atlantic (sic) search and rescue.

But when I suggested to Jason that it was my understanding that a prescribed burn was designed to be “low and slow” along the ground to combust excessive “fuels” on the forest floor and not a “high and hot” fire that gets into the canopy, Jason moved the goalposts and admitted that the real rationale for the project was to:

“simulate natural wildfire, but in a way that the forest fire service could contain to a specific area. there (sic) are some homes nearby FPP that could be seriously threatened by an actual unplanne/ unmanaged (sic) fire. “

In other words, it was practice for the NJ Forest Fire Service.

NJCF and PPA recently worked together to support the DEP Forest Fire Service’s controversial Pinelands wildfire plan, which involved logging and herbicide treatments on 1,400 acres of forest (a “thinning” of 95% tree removal, significant reductions in canopy cover, and 2.4 million trees cut) and clearcutting a 100 foot wide “firebreak” along 13 miles of isolated Pinelands roads.

I recently exposed the fact that DEP flat out lied to the public and the Pinelands Commission about the justification for that logging project, which really was to secure US Department of Defense (DoD) funding under the “REPI” program to protect the US Air Force’s mission at the Warren Grove bombing range, see:

I previously exposed the fact that the DoD REPI program considers NJCF a “partner”, see:

None of this was disclosed or discussed during the Pinelands Commission’s review or the press coverage of the DEP’s Pinelands forest fire plan.

DEP not only concealed the DoD REPI funding and purpose, but they also offered up false justifications for the project, including implementation of a climate “carbon defense” policy.

The DEP engaged in a total fraud.

The NJCF and PPA went right along with it and – even worse – manufactured their own false rationales for the project.

While aggressively supporting DEP logging of Pinelands forests purportedly to prevent and reduce wildfire risks to people and property, curiously both NJCF and PPA did no work on and refused to support a petition to direct the Pinelands Commission and DEP to strengthen regulation to limit new development in extreme wildfire hazard lands and fireproof existing development located there, see:

The concept of “regulatory capture” – of government – is well developed in the academic public policy literature.

But I’ve not read academic treatment of the form of capture – of conservation groups – that appears to be operating here, see:

In this case, DoD money and the NJ DEP Forest Fire Service program interests seem to have captured and corrupted the conservationists.

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So sad  – and so disgraceful that they fail to disclose and even lie about it. See:

We’ll have more documentation to reveal on the DEP – DoD – REPI partnership, as DEP finally responds to my OPRA document requests.

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