STATE — A coalition of environmental groups has asked the Governor to veto a bill a forest stewardship bill that would allow for commercial logging on public lands. If signed, the legislation would open up some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in our state to logging, they say.
The bill requires that a “forest stewardship” plan be prepared for each state park. Organizations are concerned that the bill would hurt our open spaces, biodiversity in our forests, public access, and pristine resources people have worked for decades to protect. The Assembly passed the bill by a slim margin last week, sending the legislation to the Governor’s desk.
“The publicly owned forests in New Jersey are under attack day in and day out from development, invasive species, intrusive human activity, climate change, and natural disasters. We need to protect these forests and the vulnerable ecological assets they hold such as forested wetlands and vernal pools through effective stewardship, not logging and commercially-driven ‘management’. We call on Governor Christie to veto S1085 to uphold his responsibility to the taxpayers who care so deeply about our state forests that they have paid for their protection,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
The bill does not include adequate protections for natural resources and has no enforcement, the groups contend. 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 June 10th letter to legislators. Currently there is only one organization in the entire state certified to produce FSC plans.
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. There has been no financial analysis to determine how much logging that would entail. In the past, the state has received $75 per tree for oaks that sold on the market for over $2000.
“If Governor Christie can see the forests for the trees, he will quickly veto the logging bill. He has to choose between preserving our forests and drinking water or looking out for special interests who see forests as a money tree,” said Jim Walsh, Eastern Region Director, Food and Water Watch.
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