I was honored to introduce and have unanimously passed, a Resolution of the Borough of Raritan at our Council Meeting on Tuesday against a series of proposed bills in the New Jersey Legislature.
Four forest management bills (A-4843/S-3549, A-4844/S-3550, A-4845/S-3548 and A-3086/S-2001) have been introduced in the NJ State Legislature. These bills would totally upend and revamp New Jersey’s Forest management policies for about one million acres of “Green Acres” public forest lands, with minimal public and municipal input. None of these bills clearly articulate any problems they are solving.
A-4843/ S-3549 requires municipalities and non-profit land trusts to prepare and implement Forest Stewardship Plans (FSPs) for any forested public lands of twenty-five acres or more using municipal funds. FSP’s are the vehicles by which logging is permitted on public land.
In addition, A-4844/ S-3550 would remove municipal oversight from the FSP approval process, restricting public input and leaving it to foresters to determine how municipal land should be managed. However, municipalities would still be responsible for any injuries or property damage due to logging. These bills would impose significant costs on municipal, county and other governmental agencies making the requirement an unfunded mandate.
Bill A-4845/ S-3548 sets an arbitrary minimum acreage for prescribed burns: 50,000 acres in the Pinelands and an additional 10,000 acres anywhere else in the state. Mandating this acreage is not based on specific situations on the ground, which change yearly, and being forced to burn 10,000 acres anywhere, regardless of need, is extremely poor policy. Burns are risky, produce air pollution and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Bill A-3086/S-2001 requires the State Forester to support logging by “providing for acceptable transportation methods for timber, wood and other forest products for ultimate sale and identify strategies for the development of an economic market for forest products, and develop information on the marketing of harvested wood.” The intent of this bill is to log our public lands. Logging is enormously destructive to the environment and its ecology, including water sources, as well as to passive recreation and has the potential to harm local property values.
These bills contravene the intent for which forested land has been preserved in New Jersey, and undermine the enormous potential forests must be an asset to the state in mitigating the worst impacts of climate change, while adding unnecessary costs to multiple state agencies. There is nothing positive in these bills for municipalities or residents, just risk!
I want to thank NJ Forest Watch for bringing these destructive FSP bills to my attention and explaining the ecological consequences they would cause if they became law.