Stewardship Blog

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.

New Jersey Audubon’s “Jersey Grown” S.A.V.E.TM Initiative Earns 2011 New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for Land Conservation

December 2011 – The New Jersey Audubon Society’s “Jersey Grown” S.A.V.E.TM Support Agricultural Viability and the Environment) initiative promoting the production of agricultural products that are economically and ecologically sustainable, has earned a 2011 New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.gov award

The program was chosen from among numerous entries for the Land Conservation Award, which requires that the selected applicant demonstrate a commitment to and experience in the preservation of open space that protects land from future development.

“This initiative extended across all departments here at NJA and I’d like to personally acknowledge and thank everyone for their great work with S.A.V.E. TM Together with our partners and supporters, we’re investing in local economies, preserving agricultural landscapes, reducing the carbon footprint, and growing endangered species,” said Tom Gilmore, President of New Jersey Audubon.

“Jersey Grown” sunflower birdseed – the first product marketed under New Jersey Audubon’s S.A.V.E.TM brand – is now in its fourth year, and has continually grown in scope during its tenure. 260 acres of sunflowers seeds were planted this season – almost double the 140 acres planted last year. The state Department of Agriculture has been instrumental in the growth of the S.A.V.E. TM project, approving the use of the “Jersey Grown” label on birdseed and designating a new label, ‘Made with Jersey Grown Wood,’ for related S.A.V.E. TM birdfeeder and bird house products.

PC090027Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher congratulated the NJA ,stating, “The Department of Agriculture is pleased to have participated at so many levels with this initiative and looks forward to continued partnering to further the interests of agriculture and the environment for all New Jersey residents.”

The sunflowers, from which the birdseed is being harvested, have been planted by New Jersey farmers who are cooperating with New Jersey Audubon to produce the certified “Jersey Grown” sunflower birdseed. The growth in sunflower acres planted for harvesting by 120 acres illustrates the seed’s significance to the farmers’ revenue stream, as it provides direct access to a local niche market for a crop that offers them a greater price per acre than traditional grain crops, most notably corn and soybeans. However, it is equally, if not more, significant to the birds and New Jersey Audubon’s conservation mission. For every 5 acres planted for birdseed, New Jersey Audubon manages and maintains 1-acre of grassland habitat for threatened and endangered birds.

New Jersey Audubon has seen strong benefits to grasslands it is managing as part of the project at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area in Raritan and Hillsborough Townships. State-listed species such as Eastern Meadowlark, meadowlarkAmerican Kestrel, Bobolinks and Grasshopper Sparrows have all been recorded onsite using the restoration fields.

The S.A.VE. TM program’s innovative partnerships are evident in the work with the agricultural community and commercial seed retailers, as well as in other key supporters of the program. The project benefitted from the early support and vision of Gurdon and Kathy Wattles, as well as won a competitive Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“NRCS is proud to have provided support to this initiative through the CIG program,” said State Conservationist Donald J. Pettit of NRCS. “The SAVE initiative combines conservation objectives with agricultural viability and clearly meets the goal of our grant program to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches.”

The program benefits consumers due to the growth in the availability of the green, sustainable sunflower birdseed that further benefits New Jersey’s agricultural community and the environment. Because it is grown locally, S.A.V.E. TM birdseed eliminates the need for extensive use of fossil fuels in transit, thus reducing its carbon footprint.

Jean Lynch, Southern Stewardship Project Director for New Jersey Audubon and coordinator of the S.A.V.E. TM program, stated,. “This recognition is a tribute to everyone who has worked on the S.A.V.E. TM program and to our many supporters. It will help us build momentum as we continue to strengthen and expand the program.”

“I cannot thank the farmers that participated in S.A.V.E. TM  enough for their help, guidance, insight, and most of all, their commitment and participation in the project for making it a great model for finding common ground with agricultural producers and the conservation community!” said John Parke, Northern Stewardship Project Director for New Jersey Audubon and recent graduate of the New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program.  “It is this type of innovative, progressive  open-mindedness that these farmers demonstrate that will keep farming and natural resource protection sustainable in the New Jersey landscape.” Parke added.  “Working with the farmers, in particular, current S.A.V.E. TM farmers Mark Kirby, Jim Laine, Tom Zeng, Brant Gibbs, Raj Sinha, Jeff Angel, Buddy Shimp, as well as previous S.A.V.E. TM farmers Rodger Woolf and Phil Brodhecker, on this project that has really helped us have a greater understanding on how certain conservation initiatives can impact NJ agriculture and we now have a better focus on how we can better recognize the connections between all types of farming while still preserving the integrity of natural ecosystems in New Jersey.”

New Jersey Audubon would like to additionally thank the following people and entities (not named above) for their help, guidance, participation and support in the S.A.V.E. TM initiative: The fine staff at NRCS, especially Tim Dunne and Janice Reid, the NJ Jersey Department of Agriculture, especially Sec. Douglas Fisher and the excellent staff at the Jersey Fresh/Jersey Grown Program, the MBA Team Consulting Program at the Rutgers School of Business, New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife, Hunterdon County Parks Department, Conservation Resources Inc. and Duke Farms, the King/Wesley Family Charitable Trust, Suasion Communications Group, all those who attended the 2011 S.A.V.E. Event at Restaurant Daniel NYC, Union Green, Ms. Judith Bland, the Citizen Science Program and it's wonderful volunteers, the membership of NJ Audubon and the retailers and general public that supported the initiative by purchasing this locally grown product to benefit NJ agriculture and wildlife; and the Staff of New Jersey Audubon, especially Troy Ettel!


save award

New Jersey Audubon’s award-winning Jersey Grown S.A.V.E. TM sunflower birdseed is readily available and being sold in 10- and 20-pound bags this season for easy transport from store to home. For pricing, please check with the NJ Audubon Center or S.A.V.E. TM birdseed retailer nearest you.

For more information about participating NJ Audubon Centers, retailers and farmers or to place an online order for S.A.V.E. TM Birdseed, please visit www.njaudubon.org