Experts Oppose Legislation To Permit Logging On State Lands

STATE – New Jersey state parks and forests could be opened to commercial logging under a bill currently in the Legislature, S1954 (Smith)/ A4358 (McKeon). Environmental scientists, ecologists, land restoration experts, and environmental groups have all come out in opposition to this bill that would cause significant damage to our treasured public lands.

Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy New Jersey parks each year due and commercial logging operations would close off public access, critics say. The most environmentally sensitive portions of the state’s public lands could be logged with no requirements for monitoring and ensuring restoration is successful, opponents of the bill say. This legislation would also make forests less healthy and resilient to real challenges such as climate change and invasive pests such as the Pine Beetle, they say.

“If you go to the doctor with a pain in your chest, you don’t expect your leg to be amputated! That’s how this bill treats restoration issues facing our forests,” said Emile DeVito, manager of science, New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “Overabundant deer and alien plants, animals, and pathogens threaten our forests; logging makes these problems worse. We need careful restoration work, with baseline data and monitoring, species surveys, and deer reduction, not logging plans based foremost on timber value.”

Thirty-seven New Jersey biologists, ecologists, and forest scientists have submitted a letter to lawmakers opposing the legislation and the science behind it. The bill is being proposed to create new habitat for threatened species but that type of desired habitat will not become established due to problems such as extensive deer over browse and the proliferation on non-native invasive species in our forests, the experts warn. The removal of canopy forest and constructing access roads will only make those problems worse. The bill does not include standards to ensure restoration occurs on our public lands such as requiring monitoring for invasive plants or deer fencing.

“New Jersey parks and forests are ecologically diverse, thus should not be treated with one management technique. A holistic, ecological approach is necessary for managing the public’s land, and this bill does not fully incorporate this approach,” said Jaclyn Rhoads, director for conservation policy, Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

“We need forest stewardship that is based on sound science, not simplistic notions of how our activities (logging or otherwise) will benefit forests,” said Dr. Jay Kelly, professor of biology and environmental science at Raritan Valley Community College. “Increasing light conditions may benefit some plant and wildlife species in the forest, as some have claimed, but it will also make conditions far worse for many other forest interior species that are already rare or declining. There is no shortage of open habitats in and around the forests of northern and central New Jersey; what is lacking is the opposite – large areas of intact, mature forests that have not been disturbed or fragmented by human activities. The logging proposed by this legislation may do irreparable damage to these forests and the species that depend upon them,”

The bill is also being proposed to help expand the biomass market but more and more information is coming out on how harvesting biomass increases climate change pollution, experts say. A recent study at the Harvard Forest found that in older growth forests, counter to previous projections, the amount of carbon stored over time increases significantly with age, helping to slow climate change impacts. Carbon capture increases over time as dominant, longer living trees become established. The researchers also projected that carbon storage at sites could be more than doubled if protected from logging activities. When burned for biomass, the wood releases carbon back into the atmosphere. When left to rot in the forest and contribute back to the forest, that carbon is recycled in the ecosystem.

The Office of Legislative Services has found that the logging program will cost the state $2.7 million to implement. Commercial loggers would have to cut down $2.7 million worth of trees before any money would go towards restoration. Or if the revenue is dedicated to restoration projects, the state would have to cover the $2.7 million price tag.

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