No Management is not Best Management

forestlandf njAVEThe New Jersey Audubon Society supports S1954/A4358 which establishes a much-needed forest harvest program on State-owned land. Science has shown that the health of NJ forests is declining. It is vital that we actively manage our forests in order to protect them and the species that reside within. If we are to appropriately manage all of our hundreds of thousands of acres of public forested land with declining Department of Environmental Protection staff and budgets, we need to look to new funding methods to support appropriate management while continuing to focus on restoration and stewardship that is protective of habitat and species. We believe this legislation is a step in the right direction to change the paradigm of the current "hands-off" approach to our forests.

NJ Audubon fully understands that the issue of forest management is a polarizing one and that there are, and always will be (as there is in every region of the world that performs forest management), obstacles to the best laid management/stewardship plans. Deer herbivory and invasive species are two of the challenges that will always be a concern in New Jersey but, recognized as such, can be addressed in a quality forest stewardship plan before practice implementation begins. As stated in the 2002 paper entitled "The Illusion of Preservation -A Global Environmental Argument for the Local Production of Natural Resources", prepared by Harvard University (Harvard Forest paper No. 26, Berlik, Kittredge and Foster), "the most crucial change is undoubtedly one of philosophy and practice. Mainstream environmentalist ideology must embrace multiple uses of the forest including harvesting-and local citizens must consider the use of resources in their own backyard while maintaining a keen awareness of the global environment."


Decline of Forests: Healthy forests provide numerous benefits including a variety of habitat for species, water protection, soil conservation, carbon sequestration, wood products, and much more. Today’s forests are faced with numerous human-induced impacts that our historical, pre-settlement forests never evolved to deal with. For example, climate change and the globalization of commerce have allowed for the introduction of exotic plants, insects, and diseases from other countries. If we do not take active measures to counter these stressors and make our forests more resilient, we will continue to see results similar to the devastating effects of the chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, gypsy moth, and more. Additionally, studies from the Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis at Rutgers University predict that the forests of northern New Jersey will cease to be a net carbon sink in approximately 20 years. Forests in the NJ Pinelands will cease to function as a net carbon sink 10-20 years thereafter.

 
Need for Management: Our forests do not comprise a stand-alone system but, rather, a human-ecological system under numerous other pressures. forest wcThe suburbanization of New Jersey over the past few decades has had profound consequences on what would have otherwise been normal forest growth. Fire exclusion, fragmentation, and excessive deer populations have left most of New Jersey’s forested land in the mid-successional stage of development; a stage when forests tend to have the least biological diversity and their corresponding growth and vigor begin to slow down as well. This severely reduces the natural resilience that is essential to combat negative stressors that have become common ailments in our forests. Such a situation compels active and responsible management for a sustainable future. Many scientists agree that thinning and cutting are some of the proper management tools that can help restore the health of our forest ecosystems. For example, the technical report Southern Pine Beetle II (Coulson, R. N.; Klepzig, Kier, 2011) describes thinning treatments in dense forest stands as an effective means to control outbreaks of the southern pine beetle that would otherwise decimate entire forests. What science and research clearly show is that, in some instances, we need to cut trees in order to grow healthy, carbon-absorbing forests in New Jersey.


NJ Audubon’s experiences in Forest Management: NJ Audubon promotes sustainable forest management and actively manages tracts of forested land throughout the State. We also confront the challenges associated with paying for that management. For example, in an effort to offset the restoration costs of a 300-acre habitat project that would serve as a model for local and State management while managing for ecological benefits including for threatened and endangered species (e.g. northern pine snake, red-headed woodpecker, sickle-leaved golden aster), we offered the wood by-product generated during the project as a commodity to the contractor. Most contractors had no use for the wood and the bids to complete the project were in excess of $1,000 per acre. After two years of outreach, we connected with a company with a small out-of-state market for mulch that was able to complete our project for $300 per acre. Without the reduced costs made possible by selling forest products, these types of projects will neither be possible nor replicable on a larger scale as is needed across the State.

ovenbird nEstProtecting Natural Resources: For a forest harvest to be approved in NJ, a minimum set of requirements must be met to address threatened and endangered species, water quality, wetlands and riparian areas, soil erosion, wildlife, and forest resources. To ensure that management strategies fully meet these requirements, S1954/A4358 requires a Forest Stewardship Plan for every public forest before any management practices including cutting is performed. There are many different variables that go into deciding what course of action is appropriate for each forest because each is unique. A Forest Stewardship Plan is crucial to the bill because it ensures consideration of many key variables and that each forest is treated individually as an irreplaceable component of the environment worthy of conservation and stewardship, not as a commodity to be exploited.

The Forest Stewardship program was started by the Federal Government in the 1990's - these are revised as of 2009. Each state forest service administers the federal program within their respective state. The state forest service reviews the content in reference to the standards. See http://www.fs.fed.us/spf/coop/library/fsp_standards&guidelines.pdf#xml=http://www.fs.fed.us/cgi-bin/texis/searchallsites/search.allsites/xml.txt?query=forest+stewardship&db=allsites&id=4d8a91680 .  In New Jersey the guideline of a forest stewardship plan are modeled after the federal standards. See http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/forest/stw_inc_prog.html.

While we anxiously await the forest stewardship rules required by the Forest Stewardship Act of 2009, we believe thatbwwarbler current requirements in place are sufficiently protective of habitat, water, and forest resources. Many states throughout the country practice responsible forestry. In so doing, they are improving the overall health of forested ecosystems, diversifying the local economy, and creating quality job opportunities for thousands of citizens in the forest products industry. NJ Audubon recognizes that our forests contain value well beyond timber and, because of this, we support this type of program. This landmark legislation clearly recognizes the importance of nurturing New Jersey's forests through active management and acknowledges that forest lands are not being managed effectively in New Jersey.


This legislation starts the process we desperately need to properly manage our forest resources and we urge your support for S1954/A4358. The dire state of our forests compels active and responsible management for a sustainable future which comes at some significant financial cost. We believe this legislation forms a foundation for a means to offset the costs to manage our forests by harvesting the by-products and returning those proceeds to help offset the cost of much-needed stewardship.