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Logging Legislation Up on Monday

Date : Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:17:02 -0400

For Immediate Release

June 13, 2014

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Logging Legislation Up on Monday

Today the Senate Environment Committee passed S2034 (Smith), which would open our state parks up to commercial logging operations. The bill passed
(3-1-1). Governor Christie conditionally vetoed this legislation because he believed it as unconstitutional. This bill would open our state parks up to logging while sending the profits to the General Fund not forest stewardship projects. The bill would tie logging plans to guidelines from the independent, non-profit the Forest Stewardship Council. However these plans are meaningless since there is no council to actually enforce the plans. Our public parks and forests are held in the public trust and should not be destroyed for commercial interests. This bill is unenforceable and will lead to clear cutting in forests without any penalties. It is unconstitutional because it defers to a private non-governmental entity, the planning authority over our forests. The New Jersey Sierra Club has worked extensively to fix this legislative, but special interests have pushed to weaken the bill and open more of our state parks up to commercial logging operations.

"New Jersey's State Forests and Parks belong to all of us and are held in the public trust. This legislation breaks that trust by allowing loggers to take over these environmentally sensitive lands. We do not agree with Governor Christie on many issues, but we were in agreement for his reasoning of conditionally vetoing this legislation. This bill will result in limiting public access and environmental damage to wetlands, waterways, and forest habitats. This bill is not enforceable and supporters of the bill cannot see the forest for the trees," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

The bill does not include adequate protections for natural resources and has no enforcement. The bill ties the "forest stewardship" plans for public lands to the guidance documents of the Forest Stewardship Council
(FSC), an outside, non-governmental group. The FSC guidances would still allow logging in sensitive areas such as wetlands and steep slopes and the DEP has stated they will not enforce the FSC guidelines in a letter to legislators. Currently there is only one organization in the entire state certified to produce FSC plans.

"Not only will this law destroy forests but we will end up spraying pesticides above some of our most critical water supplies. It does not include adequate protections for natural resources and has a plan without any rules or enforcement. This bill is all about the privatization of our public lands for profit at the expense of the environment," said Jeff Tittel.

Logging operations will close off large portions of our Parks to the public. Hiking trails will be turned into logging roads, staging areas will be clear cut, skidders and other equipment will run through streams and wetlands. All this will lead to more erosion and stormwater runoff impacting pristine streams and reservoirs and aquatic ecosystems. Opening up the canopy will lead to a loss of biodiversity in our forests as more deer and invasive species take over. Invasive species infestations would require herbicide use which could impact sensitive streams and areas above reservoirs and water supply intakes.

If signed this bill could also impact future open space purchases. Public support for open space preservation could wan once people see what is being done on land held in the public trust. When public access is restricted for long periods of time and people see logging rigs pulling out 100 year old oaks from our state parks, will they continue to support future open space referendums?

The Office of Legislative Services has already estimated the program would cost $2.7 million to implement. Loggers would have to take $2.7 million worth of trees out of our forests just to cover those costs and additional revenue would go to the General Fund. It would not be earmarked for restoration or stewardship projects on public lands.

"These lands belong to all of us and are held in the public trust. The timber on these lands is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. With all the trees that have been knocked down by the storm we do not need to do any logging. We are concerned that the public will lose out both environmentally and financially as government now moves forward with this program," said Jeff Tittel.

There has been no financial analysis to determine how much logging would be required for New Jersey to cover the cost of the program. In the past, the state has received $75 per tree for oaks that sold on the market for over
$2000. Without a financial analysis this could happen again under this bill. We are giving away our forests for pennies on the dollar.

New Jersey's forests have been recognized nationally and internationally as important, whether it is the Pinelands National Reserve and UN Biosphere Reserve, the Highlands recognized as nationally significant with the federal Highlands Conservation Act or designation of the Delaware River in the Skylands region as Wild and Scenic by the Department of Interior.
 These forests are not just state but national and international treasures.

"Our forests are so important environmentally and nationally significant that we must scrutinize this program thoroughly and not move forward with something that would negatively impact our forests' health," said Jeff Tittel.

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