The Pequannock River Coalition has supported proposed legislation that allows commercial logging on public lands. Despite our reputation as “tree huggers” in this case we see the benefits of removing some trees.
Locally, most of our wild areas are now covered in mature forest. While this is good for those species that thrive in these habitats, including endangered birds like the goshawk, other birds and animals that prefer open land or young forest, such as ruffed grouse, woodcock, or the golden-winged warbler, to name just a few, are in serious decline. It would be wonderful to see some habitat restoration occur in the clearing of forest for the benefit of these species, but funding for this is mostly nonexistent. Commercial logging, however, if properly conducted, could be a solution.
Opponents of the bill recently released a letter detailing their opposition. Unfortunately, when we remove the hoopla and rhetoric, their four basic claims just don’t add up:
1) “Introducing invasive species to new areas, and exacerbating existing invasive species problems by allowing too much sunlight to reach the ground, where deer have removed native shrubs and invasive weeds are waiting to explode into prominence”
Any proposal for logging that would occur under this bill must include a forest management plan developed under the state guidelines for forest stewardship, and these are quite stringent. In particular, the proposal must meet the requirements for invasive species control – http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/forest/GIPS.pdf. Therefore, the stewardship could actually reverse the prominence of invasive plants in many areas.
2) “Making it even more difficult to preserve our dwindling natural heritage (there are now over 1000 species of rare plants and animals on our state lands, the list is growing rapidly, and VERY FEW of these species will benefit from commercial forestry)”
The statement needs support. Without that it is merely an unsubstantiated claim. For example, by a simple count the endangered and threatened birds in New Jersey requiring young forest or open country (10) far exceed those requiring mature woodland (4). Aren’t these birds part or our natural heritage?
3) “Growing the deer herd even more as a result of over-abundant sunlight reaching the ground and generating an even larger food supply, thus further impacting sensitive species and making it even more unlikely that native woody species will regenerate and outcompete alien invasive species”
This makes little sense. Invasive plants are NOT consumed by deer. This is a large part of the reason that these plants can thrive where native plant species do not. If, as claimed, the logging allowed under this bill will cause invasive plants to “explode into prominence” the effect will be to REDUCE forage for deer. Only if native plants do regenerate and thrive, as we hope, will they provide additional food for deer. But a surge in invasive plants AND increased forage for deer is not possible.
4) “Removing huge amounts of sequestered carbon biomass by removing massive canopy trees; even though current research is yielding new understandings toward the importance of these middle-aged forests (they are not old by any stretch). Our forests are now rapidly increasing the rate at which they store soil carbon in the soil, where it can remain sequestered for incredibly long periods of time.”
With every new report on this topic the pendulum on this thinking between the benefits of older and younger trees swings back and forth. For now, the jury is still out.
Beyond this, we must note that the bill provides for public notice, a hearing, and public comment, so that all interested parties will have ample opportunity to weigh in and assure that proposed logging is beneficial and in appropriate areas.
We believe this should begin with small trials to see what problems are encountered. There are certainly concerns here, and in any program, a potential for abuse. All of us must be attentive and diligent. But when has that not been the case?
In summary, we suggest that readers keep an open mind on this topic, listen to a variety of opinions, and educate themselves as much as possible.
Ross Kushner, Executive Director
Pequannock River Coalition
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