The New Jersey legislature overwhelmingly passed a Democrat-sponsored forest stewardship bill that will allow targeted logging in state forests. The bill’s supporters say targeted logging will help restore forests to a more natural condition after decades of aggressive fire suppression have unwittingly created conditions that make fires more likely. Gov. Chris Christie has yet to sign or veto the bill.
The New Jersey Senate passed the bill by a 36-3 vote. The Assembly then passed it by a 46-27 vote.
Democrats Propose Logging
The bill, first introduced by State Sens. John McKeon (D-Morris), Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester), Donald Norcross (D-Camden), and Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), directs the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to create forest management plans for forests on state-owned lands that do not have such plans. The standards must comply with standards promulgated by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council.
The language of the bill allows targeted logging as a forest stewardship strategy, and the bill’s Democratic sponsors made it clear they consider targeted logging a necessary component of wise stewardship for many state-owned forest lands.
The envisioned stewardship plans are expected to cost approximately $2.7 million, but fees paid by logging companies will likely cover the cost.
Fine-Tuned for Environmental Support
McKeon made several changes to the bill’s initial language, responding to concerns voiced by various environmental activist groups. Most importantly for environmental activists, McKeon added the language ensuring forest stewardship plans comply with Forest Stewardship Council standards.
The New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Audubon Society, Highlands Coalition, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, and New Jersey Farm Bureau voiced their support for the final bill. The Sierra Club and Environment New Jersey oppose the bill.
“Our longtime, well-intentioned strategy of putting out all forest fires—natural or manmade—as soon as possible has resulted in unnatural forest conditions,” said Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News. “Forest lands are overcrowded, especially with too much undergrowth, as fire and forestry officials prevent forest fires from playing their important role in ecosystem management. This bill attempts to restore New Jersey forests to their more natural conditions.
“What is most striking about this debate is the extremist position taken by the Sierra Club and Environment New Jersey,” Lehr added. “Their Democratic legislative allies wrote the bill, a slew of environmental groups recognize the benefits of the bill, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection supports it, and the bill requires all forest management activities to comply with the Forest Stewardship Council. For a certain number of environmental extremists, they would rather see forests and wildlife suffer than allow ‘evil’ logging companies to obtain work doing an important public service.”
Alyssa Carducci (firstname.lastname@example.org ) writes from Tampa, Florida.