Archive for April, 2023

Murphy DEP Commissioner Misled The Legislature: He Tried To Cover Up Real Reasons For DEP Illegal Clearcut Logging

April 25th, 2023 No comments

LaTourette Claimed Individual DEP Staffer Merely “Made A Mistake”

Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette - a corporate lawyer - takes one for the team during Assembly Budget Committee

Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette – a corporate lawyer – takes one for the team during Assembly Budget Committee

Yesterday, Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette testified before the Assembly Budget Committee on the DEP’s FY ’24 budget.

Among other things, LaTourette seriously misled the Committee in response to questions about how and why the DEP illegal clearcut of Glassboro Wildlife Management Area happened.

LaTourette claimed that the logging was simply a “mistake” and that it was made by un-named individual(s): (you can watch the testimony here).

In response to softball questions from Assemblyman McKeon (D), after trying to divert with a straw man focus on DEP’s enforcement response, Latourette said: (time 32:00)

It was a mistake … People are people. Mistakes get made. …

Screen Shot 2023-04-24 at 12.44.32 PM

In response to a more specific and harsher line of questioning from Assemblyman Scharfenberger (R-Monmouth), starting around time 1:36:00 Latourette said:

We know where the breakdown was and we are fixing it….

Importantly, LaTourette did not identify where the breakdown was or how he planned to fix it. That is a lie of omission.

That testimony was blatantly false and misleading. Full stop. (As LaTourette himself likes to say).

The testimony was more than just a lame, misleading, and transparent attempt to cover up DEP’s literal crimes. It was a flat out lie.

In contrast, as I’ve written, that illegal logging project was not an anomaly or an individual “mistake”. It was the rule and reflected DEP policy, see:

Facts that have not been mentioned thus far demonstrate this.

1) There was a specific detailed DEP plan for the Glassboro WMA clearcut logging project that specifically identified wetlands and specifically noted a forest “clearcut”.

2) The plan was prepared by DEP staff and approved by DEP managers.

3) That plan reflected and was the result of DEP’s wildlife management and forest management plans, policies, and programs .

4) That plan reflected the professional training, views, twisted values, and egregious biases of DEP staff.

5) That plan reflected DEP’s staff interpretation of wildlife and forestry science.

6) That plan exploited numerous loopholes and exemptions in NJ laws and DEP regulations.

In light of Commissioner LaTourette’s failure to specify the cause of the problem and his plans to fix it, and in response to his false and misleading testimony, I repeat my call for legislative oversight, see:

Legislative oversight must focus on DEP policy, including the DEP:

  • State Wildlife Action Plan,
  • State Forest Action Plan,
  • draft Natural And Working Lands Strategy, and
  • Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force Framework Recommendations

All of these plans promote false justifications for the logging that went on at Glassboro (and elsewhere across the state) and to promote hunting.

We can not trust DEP Commissioner LaTourette to “fix” these problems on his own. He has misled the public and can no longer be trusted.

Legislative reforms are required to close loopholes and establish mandatory requirements. DEP discretion can no longer be trusted either.

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Murphy DEP Commissioner Dropped A Bombshell Today In Budget Hearing: NJ State Parks Face A $720 Million Maintenance Deficit (almost double prior $400 million)

April 24th, 2023 No comments

State Parks Constitutional Dedication of $32 Million/Year Stripped By Open Space Ballot

Over $224 Million In State Parks Capital Funds Diverted Since Then

LaTourette Gaslights And Poses Straw Man Revenue Source Of Park Admission Fees

As the Director of the NJ State Park Service now coping with the reality that our entire Parks capital budget will be completely eliminated beginning July 1, 2015 as a result of the YES vote I can say this is the darkest day I have faced in my professional career. Worse than Superstorm Sandy….This is New Jersey’s Inconvenient Truth hidden from voters throughout this campaign. ~~~ NJ State Parks Director Mark Texel

I’ll write about what went on in today’s budget hearings in a subsequent post, but for now I just want to focus on a bombshell dropped by DEP Commissioner LaTourette.

LaTourette shocked longtime environmental leader Assemblyman McKeon in response to a McKeon question by casually noting that the DEP State Parks capital maintenance deficit was $720 million.

McKeon was forced to admit openly that he was blindsided and disturbed by this estimate, having operated under the assumption of a prior estimate of a $400 million capital deficit.

We have been involved in and worked on the State Park funding issue for over a decade, and also were surprised and shocked by that new estimate, and disturbed by how casually DEP Commissioner LaTourette presented it.

We were also baffled by LaTourette’s repeated insistence that the DEP relied exclusively on the Constitutionally dedicated Corporate Business Tax (CBT) revenues for State Parks capital maintenance funding.

But LaTourette failed to mention that the previously Constitutionally dedicated $32 million of CBT revenues to State Parks maintenance – a constitutional dedication approved by NJ voters specifically to provide funding to resolve the $400 million State Parks capital maintenance backlog – was stolen by the Keep It Green Open Space campaign.

Keep it Green waged a $1 million PR campaign that misled NJ voters to approve a ballot Question that eliminated that prior $32 million dedication to State Parks.

The loss of Constitutionally dedicated $32 million annual funding thereby forced State Parks capital funding to compete with annual Legislative budget appropriations of extremely scarce and sharply reduced total Green Acres, open space, private lands “stewardship”, and historic preservation funds. Obviously, the State Parks suffered.

We exposed that huge mistake several times, most recently in this post:

As the Director of the NJ State Park Service now coping with the reality that our entire Parks capital budget will be completely eliminated beginning July 1, 2015 as a result of the YES vote I can say this is the darkest day I have faced in my professional career. Worse than Superstorm Sandy. ~~~ NJ State Parks Director Mark Texel

The elimination of the $32 million per year dedication has resulted in at least $224 million in lost State Parks capital funding since 2016 (This is a low estimate. The real amount is far more as a result of increasing the dedication of CBT revenues from 4% to 6%, which significantly increased total CBT revenues). (Murphy “FY24 Budget data):

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Here’s (Gov. Murphy’s ‘FY 24 Budget in Brief):

Commissioner LaTourette also failed to note that Governor Murphy’s budget slashed the CBT tax by $400 million, thereby slashing open space and state parks funding by at least $36 million:

Here’s how Gov. Murphy’s ‘FY 24 Budget in Brief hides and spins that cut:

This budget will allow the temporary 2.5 percent Corporate Business Tax surcharge to expire. Ending this surcharge is one way we can compete for the world’s leading companies and make New Jersey the place where entrepreneurs will want to come to start new ones.

Commissioner LaTourette also failed to discuss specific additional new revenue sources to fund State Parks that we have recommended for many years, including increased Regional Greenhouse Gas (RGGI) carbon emission allowance fees; increased corporate State land lease fees, and Natural Resource Damage enforcement: (see our most recent post):

Legislators also might want to ask why NJ has not demanded, during RGGI update renegotiations, that the paltry RGGI carbon allowance price ($12.50/ton) be increased to reflect the Social Cost of Carbon.  […]

2) DEP Leases of State Land Fail To Reflect Market Based Value

OLS has also conducted at least 3 audits of the DEP’s leases and concessions program and made negative findings. Over a decade ago, the Legislature directed DEP to Report on the fair market value of State land leases and concession, yet DEP has failed to renegotiate leases to reflect current market value. As result, the State is losing millions of dollars, see:

Instead, LaTourette misled the Committee by asserting a Straw Man argument that the legislature would have to increase Park admission fees.

It was a disgusting and shameful display of gaslighting, diversion and Straw Man tactics.

Exactly what we would expect from a former corporate lawyer.

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Internal DEP Documents Show DEP Deliberately “Clearcut” Forested Wetlands In Glassboro Wildlife Management Area

April 24th, 2023 No comments

DEP Logging Mocks Senator Smith And His Forestry Task Force

DEP Documents Are Highly Revealing

The Legislature Must Rebuke DEP’s Bad Faith, Arrogance, And Impunity

Logging machines in action. Source:  NJDEP

Logging machines in action. Source: NJDEP

Due to the matrix of forested wetlands present in Glassboro WMA, this tract provides NJFW with an opportunity to create ideal woodcock habitat by clearcutting upland forests to create fields that lay adjacent to forested wetlands. ~~~ (NJ DEP Plan, 8/8/22)

Because the news reports of DEP’s illegal clearcut logging in Glassboro Wildlife Management Area were so incomplete and misleading, I filed OPRA public records requests for the internal DEP documents.

Today, I finally received partial responses to my OPRA public records request and have reviewed some of the public documents underlying the illegal logging in Glassboro Wildlife Management Area.

DEP denied my request for all of the DEP internal review email documents – another example of how DEP routinely abuses the OPRA “deliberative privilege” exemption – and the DEP denied my request for the enforcement penalties levied and restoration plan for the site because DEP claimed it was not final yet. I also filed additional OPRA requests for more documents today, including contracts for the work and disposition of the timber. So, there is more to come on what exactly went on.

But for today, after reading and being outraged by the DEP’s management plan for the logging, I fired off this letter to legislators demanding legislative oversight:

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <………….>

To: senbsmith <>, sengreenstein <>, “”, asmmckeon <>, “”, “”, “”, Robert Hennelly <>, “” <>

Date: 04/23/2023 4:27 PM MST

Subject: Oversight of DEP Forest Management

Dear Chairman Smith:

I am writing to urge you to conduct legislative oversight hearings on DEP’s forest and wildlife management policies, regulations, science, and practices in light of the illegal logging in Glassboro Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

At the outset, to illustrate DEP’s bad faith, arrogance, and impunity, consider the fact that DEP developed and received management approval of this illegal clearcut logging during the deliberations of your Forestry Task Force.

In order to provide the regional scientific and forestry management context for this oversight, I urge you to read this recent peer reviewed scientific publication by seven renowned scientists, which does a superb job outlining the science and exposing the public relations campaign that has been developed to mask what amounts to a logging project:

  • “Forest-clearing to create early-successional habitats: Questionable benefits, significant costs”

A campaign is underway to clear established forests and expand early-successional habitats—also called young forest, pre-forest, early seral, or open habitats—with the intention of benefitting specific species. Coordinated by federal and state wildlife agencies, and funded with public money, public land managers work closely with hunting and forestry interests, conservation organizations, land trusts, and private landowners toward this goal. …

Taken together, and in the face of urgent global crises in climate, biodiversity, and human health, we conclude that public land forest and wildlife management programs must be reevaluated to balance the prioritization and funding of early-successional habitat with strong and lasting protection for old-growth and mature forests, and, going forward, must ensure far more robust, unbiased, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

 Upon recently learning of DEP’s illegal clearcut logging of Glassboro Wildlife Management Area from news reports, I filed OPRA public records requests with DEP to obtain the underlying management and enforcement documents.

I was disturbed by reading DEP’s management plan for this project, titled and dated:

  • “Glassboro Wildlife Management Area Woodcock Habitat Creation (8/8/22)” (see attachment).

I strongly encourage you to read that management plan. It illustrates many seriously flawed DEP forest and land management policies and the narrow and flawed science upon which they are based.

As you know, these are longstanding controversies, are Statewide in scope, and are not unique to the Glassboro WMA.

I have read exactly the same justifications used by DEP, NJ Audubon, and private consultant foresters to advance logging across the State on public and private lands, including in the high conservation value forests of the Highlands and Pinelands, where forests statutorily receive heightened regulatory protections.

The DEP’s justification of the logging project –  i.e. to create habitat for a game species – illustrates deeply troubling forest and public lands management policies that reflect undue influence of special interests that demand legislative oversight and new laws to prevent this abuse:

The purpose of this project is to create and enhance American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) habitat in Glassboro WMA. Declines in American woodcock populations is attributed to a decrease in suitable habitat (Dwyer et al., 1983)

The DEP’s singular objective to create habitat for a game species revealed their total disregard for the natural resources of the State.

This was no innocent mistake: DEP knew exactly what they were doing. DEP openly and with impunity acknowledged the presence of wetlands and the practice of clearcut management:

Due to the matrix of forested wetlands present in Glassboro WMA, this tract provides NJFW with an opportunity to create ideal woodcock habitat by clearcutting upland forests to create fields that lay adjacent to forested wetlands. A clear cut of the proposed project area would create 4,403 feet of additional field perimeter adjacent to forested wetlands.”

We have read exactly the same “forestry” and “wildlife” management methods used by DEP, including “mowing”,  “disking”, “thinning”, “seed tree treatments”, “ecological health”, “young forests” and “feathered treatments” – all of which are euphemisms for logging.

The DEP’s latest slogan to justify logging is “carbon defense”.

The fact that DEP gives the economically valuable timber, cord wood, wood chips, and other forest products from these logging operations away for free is an outrage.

It not only masks the costs of these ill advised logging projects but it provides a fig leaf for DEP to misleading claim that these are not commercial logging projects.

The fact that logging NJ forests is exempted from DEP wetlands permit requirements – and other state and local laws and regulations including Category One stream buffer and water quality protections – is an outrage, see:

Here are the applicable wetlands regulations that exempt logging:

7:7A-2.4 Activities exempted from permit and/or waiver requirement

(d) Normal silviculture activities, in accordance with a forest management plan approved by the State Forester before the conduct of the forest management activities, are exempt from the requirement of a freshwater wetlands permit, transition area waiver, or open water fill permit, subject to the limitations of this section.

Finally, to illustrate DEP’s bad faith, arrogance, and impunity, consider the fact that DEP developed and received management approval of this illegal clearcut logging during the deliberations of your Forestry Task Force.

These abuses demand legislative oversight – the lack of any public participation only adds insult to natural resource injury.

I am available to provide additional information – including DEP’s photos and enforcement documents – at your request.

I look forward to your timely and favorable reply,


Bill Wolfe

Logging trucks on site. Source: NJ DEP

Logging trucks on site. Source: NJ DEP

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Verde Valley – On The Edge Of Red Rocks Country

April 22nd, 2023 No comments

1 (140)

My Front Yard

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Why Can’t We Have Whale Protection Regulations?

April 21st, 2023 No comments

NOAA Regulations Not Even On The Public Radar Screen

Environmental Groups And Media Ignore Regulatory Issues

Academic Institutions And Foundations Are AWOL

A whale surfaces on July 8, 2018 just east of Montauk, New York in the Block Island Sound.

A whale surfaces on July 8, 2018 just east of Montauk, New York in the Block Island Sound. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Why Can’t We Have Whale Protection Regulations?

That was the title of an email a friend just sent that passed on a superb story on the right whale out of Georgia, please read the whole thing:

Federal efforts to protect the whale species, which spends most of the year off the coast of New England, from collisions with ships and entanglements in fishing gear — incidents that represent the two leading causes of death for right whales, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — remain stymied.

That’s because some policies meant to preserve the right whale are also seen as an existential threat to another treasured icon of New England: commercial fishing.

[Read CBD lawsuit against NOAA]

In addition to fishing issues, there are an additional set of regulatory issues before NOAA as a result of a regulatory petition to NOAA from many ocean protection groups: (PEER)

The Ocean Foundation and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) on Wednesday filed a rulemaking petition with NOAA, urging the agency to create “whale safety zones” for all large ships, with mandatory speed limits and other preventive measures.

The petition, the first to propose a nationwide minimum standard to reduce vessel collisions with whales, comes as whale species — particularly the endangered North Atlantic right whale — face increased risks from larger, noisier and faster ships.

In addition to opposition by the commercial fishing industry, there are other reasons that federal regulatory efforts are stalled, including: 1) the politically powerful commercial shipping industry; 2) the bought and paid for NJ Congressional delegation and NJ Governor; 3) the cowardly and corrupt coastal and ocean conservation groups; and 4) a depleted and stenographic media.

These failures are made worse when a Democrat is in the White House, because environmental groups tend to cheerlead and media tend to give democrats a pass on failures.

A Trenton veteran replied to that email question with this explanation:

Because they [NJ conservation groups] are getting big bucks from Orsted Atlantic Shores and PSEG – Orsted lobbyists is Maddy Urbish – Former NJ Audubon staffer /Coalition for Delaware Watershed -LCV Board Member -Murphy staff – etc 

Here was my reply to my friend who ask such an important question:

XXXXX – good question.

Why don’t we even hear or read about these regulatory issues from NJ coastal groups and NJ media?

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance just wrote an Op-Ed in NJ Spotlight on whale deaths and there was not a word about NOAA and regulations.

The same silence comes from Clean Ocean Action, American Littoral Society, NJ Audubon, NJ Conservation Foundation, and virtually every NJ group that pretends to “work” on ocean issues.

Ditto the academic groups – Rutgers and Monmouth University Urban Coastal Institute both have marine programs, but are nowhere to be seen, from where I sit.

Is Pew Foundation still in Philadelphia? Are they doing anything? I saw them in a recent NJ Spotlight story about an event at Monmouth University, but no mention of NOAA and regulations.

Of course you never hear a peep about any of that from the NJ DEP marine and fisheries programs, who are in the pocket of commercial and recreational fishers.


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