Home > Uncategorized > Murphy DEP Claimed That Illegal Clearcut Of Mature Wetlands Forest Was “Agriculture”

Murphy DEP Claimed That Illegal Clearcut Of Mature Wetlands Forest Was “Agriculture”

DEP Abused Exemption For “Agriculture” From Soil Conservation Regulations

USFWS Federal Woodcock Habitat Plan Seeks Huge Logging Of NJ Forests

Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service (links below)

Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service (links below) recommends clearcuts

As I secure more DEP documents on the illegal DEP clearcut at Glassboro WMA, the plot thickens and evidence of DEP lies and mismanagement proliferate.

The latest round of DEP OPRA replies provided more disturbing documents: 1) the US Fish and Wildlife Service plans that DEP relied on and 2) the DEP’s “after the fact” application for an exemption from soil conservation requirements. The serious negative implications of these documents is discussed below.

These documents reveal that DEP is exploiting regulatory exemptions for habitat management projects as a form of  “agriculture”. DEP is doing this in DEP land use regulations (see Wetlands Forestry BMP permit exemption) and State soil conservation regulations, among others.

This is a key Statewide issue, not limited to the Glassboro WMA, because DEP conducts many habitat management and “stewardship” projects in not only many State Wildlife Management Areas, but in State Parks, State Forests, and other public lands – and for many species, not just woodcock. (hit this link and take a look at all the DEP habitat and stewardship projects DEP already is implementing now, with an unknown number of additional future projects in the pipeline).

For context, DEP based the Glassboro clearcut on the US Fish and Wildlife Service American Woodcock Conservation Plan,(2008).

According to that plan, USFWS is seeking management (logging) on 1.3 million acres in the Piedmont mid-Atlantic region (see page 129). USFWS found that NJ’s woodcock habitat goal is 262,072 acres! For just one species.

According to another USFWS Report that DEP relied on, USFWS American Woodcock: Habitat Best Management Practices for the Northeast (2010), US FWS recommends forest clearcuts to create that habitat (with absolutely no consideration of the environmental and carbon sequestration/storage and climate impacts).

USFWS BMP recommends:

Fifty-nine other species have been identified by New England States that require young forest and shrubland habitats of both deciduous and coniferous forest types for survival. All State Wildlife Action Plans can be accessed at  http://www.wildlifeactionplans.org.

Cutting trees to create young forest and shrubland habitats is necessary for the recovery of woodcock.

USFWS also uses an arbitrary (1970) and false historical land use and wildlife baseline for establishing population and habitat goals.

USFWS also views the conversion of farmland to forests and the expansion of mature forested lands as problems.

Here is how the reveal those major scientific and policy flaws. The USFWS BMP claims:

Woodcock populations were highest when working farms and forestlands dotted the landscape. Brushy field edges, streambanks, orchards, fallow fields, pastures, reverting agricultural fields, and managed woodlots provided the mosaic of habitats that wood- cock depended upon. Many of those habitats are gone today, replaced by either mature forests or human developments. Woodcock can recover to 1970 population levels if the right steps are taken to create and maintain better habitats. This relies in large part to the NRCS because working farm and forestlands provide the best opportunity to recreate the habitat mosaics of the past.

This kind of flawed land use, wildlife, and forestry thinking is not limited to the Glassboro WMA clearcut plan for woodcock habitat.

That “active management” philosophy and flawed set of policies are deeply ingrained at DEP (in staff, plans, and programs) and formally adopted in the DEP’s State Wildlife Action Plan and State Forest Action Plan. They must be stopped, rejected and reformed.

On the regulatory issues, as I previously noted, the DEP was granted an exemption from State soil conservation and sediment control permit requirements (known as a “Determination Of Non-Applicability” (DNA)).

The SCS permit is not some minor bureaucratic red tape, because those SCS permit requirements include delineation of wetlands and DEP could not have obtained a permit had they delineated wetlands on this site.

DEP documents I obtained today reveal that, to obtain the DNA, the DEP took the position that the forest clearcut project – to create habitat for woodcock – was “agriculture”. (see below letter)

To prevent further abuses of these “agricultural” exemptions from DEP land use and State SCS permit requirements – and to force reforms to Statewide DEP policies and practices – I fired off this letter to DEP Commissioner LaTourette, with a copy to legislators and environmental leaders:

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <>

To: “shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov” <shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov>, senbsmith <SenBSmith@njleg.org>, sengreenstein <sengreenstein@njleg.org>, asmmckeon <asmmckeon@njleg.org>, “asmScharfenberger@njleg.org” <asmScharfenberger@njleg.org>

Date: 05/08/2023 9:12 AM MDT

Subject: DEP staff false certification of soil conservation application

Dear Commissioner LaTourette:

I am writing to you in regard to the Department’s “after the fact” 3/22/23 application to the Gloucester County Soil Conservation District (SCS) for a “Request For A Determination of Non-Applicability” for land clearing activities at the Glassboro Wildlife Management Area (WMA). (see attachment).

DEP Fish and Wildlife staffer Tyler Kinney applied for that determination and classified the Glassboro WMA project as “agriculture”.

The term “agriculture” is defined on the SCS application form as follows:

“cultivation of land for the production of food, fiber, animals, and related activities necessary to agricultural production and operation”.

Clearcutting mature forest and forested wetlands, followed by land grading, for the purpose of creation of habitat, can not be considered a form of “agriculture” as that term is defined in the application or commonly understood.

Accordingly, per the SCS application, the SCS “Non-Applicability Determination” appears to be null and void. I will file a challenge with SCS and request that it be revoked (SCS rules do not appear to authorize an “after the fact” determination as well, so I will seek enforcement action).

This is a much broader issue than this single application for the Glassboro WMA. There are many examples of abuse of agricultural exemptions and regulatory relief.

I urge you to investigate the Department’s abuse of the term “agriculture” to evade regulatory requirements, public participation, and environmental protections, particularly to conduct environmentally destructive activities like logging.

I am copying legislators in hope of spurring legislative oversight and reforms.

Bill Wolfe

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