New Jersey’s Forest Stewardship Bill is a Giant Leap for Conservation

"The Habitat Organization" stands committed to helping shape a strong conservation title in the 2018 Farm Bill
New Jersey’s Forest Stewardship Bill is a Giant Leap for Conservation

Trenton, NJ –-(  The foundation of healthy forest ecosystems is regeneration: the act of renewing plants and trees.

Nature accomplishes regeneration through disturbance by using the forces of fire, wind, disease, insects, and other energies.

To the layperson, the disturbance may appear to be forest destruction, but deliberate doses of fire, disease, insects, and other forces provide for varying forest age classes, on which the survival of plant and animal species depend.

Disturbance and regeneration are dynamic processes that occur at different stages and provide for a distribution of age classes within a forest. This, in turn, produces biodiversity — a foundation for forest vigor and the health of dependent flora and fauna.

If a forest’s trees all belong to one age class, it will produce a habitat well-suited to some plants and animals but will not sustain the lives of many others. Some of New Jersey’s forests are in this state now.

New Jerseyans have done a fine job of buying open space, including forested areas, but have not managed the forests in their possession. Some people believe that the act of purchasing forests and setting them aside allows Mother Nature to manage them. This is a misperception. While we act to save forests from the leveling blades of heavy equipment, our society acts correspondingly to suppress or prevent the natural forces needed to manage them.

Suppression or prevention of natural disturbance compromises forest regeneration, particularly of the keystone oak and pine species that are of great importance to New Jersey’s forests, and, as a consequence, destabilizes the habitat needed to sustain plants and wildlife.

There is evidence that red-headed woodpeckers, indigenous plants, bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse and other wildlife border on extinction in New Jersey.

Although it appears counterintuitive, when humans prevent Mother Nature from managing forests by suppressing her natural forces, we act to compromise her immune system. Passive management creates severe imbalances in the ecosystem, which allow populations of insects, disease, and deer to intensify beyond the ability of nature to manage these forces efficiently. It also causes overstocking of biofuels. The result is a forest susceptible to massive insect and disease outbreaks, devastating wildfires, and increased vulnerability to wind.

Many of the people who understand the reasons why damage is occurring to forest health in New Jersey have spent more than three years creating a catalyst to implement forest disturbance and initiate regeneration — and it is incorporated into the forest stewardship bill.

S1085 allows certified foresters to work in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and with oversight from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to prioritize environmental needs as the basis for employing forest management techniques. These techniques mimic nature’s methods of providing disturbance. FSC oversight ensures that the sole purpose of providing forest management is determined by environmental needs and not economic considerations.

S1085 allows for by-products of environmental stewardship activities to be sold and directs the proceeds back to the DEP, where it is earmarked for implementing future forest stewardship initiatives.

A few of the most established and widely recognized environmental organizations in New Jersey endorse the legislation. These include the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, N.J. Audubon Society, the N.J. Farm Bureau, N.J. Conservation Foundation, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, the N.J. Forestry Association, the Nature Conservancy, the N.J. Tree Farm Program and the N.J. Society of American Foresters.

Experts in wildlife management, threatened and endangered species, invertebrates, soil management, and others committed to the protection of birds, mammals, other animals and plants also support the bill.

Forests provide many life-sustaining functions. They act as a “sponge” following rainfall, which in turn reduces erosion and allows water to seep into the soil, nourishing plants and filtering pollutants from groundwater. Forest canopies provide the shade that helps maintain the cooler stream temperatures aquatic organisms need. Forests remove large amounts of greenhouse gases and particulates from the air and store carbon in leaves and woody matter.

In short, forests are essential to all living things; we are therefore obligated to forest stewardship whether for purposes of altruism or our own selfish reasons.

Forest Stewardship Bill S1085 may be one small step for forest health, but it is one giant leap toward educating ourselves about the importance of forests and prioritizing the need for forest stewardship.

About Anthony P. Mauro, Sr

Anthony P. Mauro, Sr, (also known as “Ant” to friends and associates) is Chairman and co-founder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation, and New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Environmental Projects. Ant’s commitment to the principles of sustainable use of natural resources and environmental stewardship helped to create the New Jersey Angling & Hunting Conservation Caucus (NJA&HC). The NJA&HC is the first outdoor caucus of its kind in New Jersey and is designed to educate opinion leaders and policymakers about the principles of conservation; the foundation for healthy ecosystems, fish, and wildlife.

Anthony P. Mauro