Another Successful Forest Stewardship Council Audit for NJA

On April 9th, 2012 New Jersey Audubon (NJA) became the first organization in the State of New Jersey to become Forest Stewardship Council certified. Now under supervision of the Rainforest Alliance, NJA can provide FSC certification to qualifying NJ landowners. Lands certified under the Forest Stewardship Council are held to a higher standard of land management. NJA has already certified 13,000 forested acres in New Jersey, including both public and private landowners. For more on FSC qualifications and specifics you can refer to an earlier blog post by Stewardship Project Coordinator Jeremy Caggiano. (http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionConservation/StewardshipProgam/StewardshipBlog/tabid/2006/entryid/68/New-Jersey-Audubon-Earns-Forest-Stewardship-Council-FSC-Group-Certificate.aspx)clip_image002

In order for us to become FSC certified, the Rainforest Alliance had to perform an extensive five day assessment of all enrolled properties. After a successful completion of that first assessment in 2012, NJA was awarded an FSC Group Certificate. On January 16th, 2013 we underwent our second annual FSC audit. Over the course of one day, the NJA forestry staff was questioned about both past and future forest management activities to ensure cooperation with all FSC guidelines.

The Rainforest Alliance dispatched an auditor from coastal Maine and we convened at the historic Green Pond office on the Newark Watershed. Being from rural Maine, he had a few remarks about the six lane highways and strip malls he had to endure along the journey from Newark International Airport. However, once he arrived at Green Pond, a 250 year old stone house tucked into tall pines and situated on an expansive wetland, he felt more at home.

One of the main goals of the meeting was to prove we were in compliance with a few minor non-conformities that were addressed at last year’s audit. These minor non-conformities are instances where NJA has not met or adequately documented a standard required by the Forest Stewardship Council. These items need to be addressed and corrected within one year to uphold our FSC group certificate. One non-conformity was the illegal trespass in the form of unauthorized vehicle use on some properties, which we addressed by erecting more signage and gates along access points and woods roads. Another required us to carefully map out power line easements, which pass through FSC certified properties but are excluded from the certification. One interesting non-conformity that was addressed was the fact the several of our properties include pine and spruce plantations, some of which are made up of non-native species, like Norway spruce. The Forest Stewardship Council does not allow management of exotic species under their certificate, but in some locations the native trees are suffering due to pests and climate change. Through discussions we were able to work out a compromise in which we may attempt to re-establish alternate species that is adapted to a warmer climate and can provide similar habitat for wildlife. In places where the native evergreens are dying back, such as Eastern hemlock, this strategy may protect critical habitat. All of our non-conformities from 2012 were addressed and have come back into compliance. No new non-conformities were found this year.

blowdownAfter we wrapped up in the office, we headed out to the field to visit a few of our Forest Stewardship Council certified properties in the area. First we visited a Newark Watershed location in Oak Ridge where a large swath of evergreen plantation had been blown down in Hurricane Sandy. Here we discussed our plan to attempt to salvage the fallen timber, which will reduce the fire hazard as well as allow regeneration of a new forest. We also visited NJA’s Janet Van Gelder Wildlife Sanctuary, a proposed location for an evergreen planting to attempt to reforest an area where Eastern Hemlocks are dying back.

The second audit was completed with great success and was an excellent accomplishment for New Jersey Audubon’s ecological forestry project. All the non-conformances from 2012 were corrected and no new infractions on FSC requirements were found. We will continue to maintain the ecological integrity of New Jersey’s forestlands through stewardship and certification. Those interested in certification are encouraged to contact New Jersey Audubon at Wattles Stewardship Center in Port Murray at (908) 837 – 9570.

 

By: Liz O’Rourke and Lisa Dunne – New Jersey Audubon Forestry Technicians