Thursday, August 26, 2021

Project outcomes are not always according to plan

tree crowns discarded on RRP forest floor increasing fire load and hazard
Discarded tree crowns which increases fire load
Roaring Rock Park, Warren County, NJ

This is especially true with the Forest Management Plan (FMP) now being executed at Roaring Rock Park, by the Washington Township Warren County NJ municipal government and its logging contractor.

How it started...

If you talk to proponents of forest management, you often hear that managed tree harvesting is a means to reduce the risk of

  1. forest fire hazards, and   
  2. legal liability stemming from potential lawsuits raised by victims harmed by falling dead trees.    

To achieve this goal at Roaring Rock Park, one would think the logging contractor, hired by the municipal government, would need to remove diseased and dead trees from the forest.

How is it going?

The municipal government, through its hired logging contractor, has started to log the park in June 2021, kicking off ten years of tree harvesting.   So will the recent logging activity lead to reduced risks? 

The "reduce forest fire risks" "benefit"

This is a large debate now, as you see forest fires raging in places such as California, Australia and even the Pinelands in southern New Jersey.   You hear that removing trees will reduce the fire load within the forest.

Aside from this ongoing debate, did the outcome of recent logging at Roaring Rock Park, decrease the fire load?

What occurred: the Township's logging contractor cut down mature healthy trees.  As they did this, they lopped off the tree crowns (tree tops) and discarded them on the forest floor.     

As these discarded tree crowns die and rot, they will increase the risk of forest fire by increasing the fire load of the park.   

The "dead trees falling on people" threat

If you observed the tree extraction by the loggers, you will notice that the logs taken were not diseased or dead.   They came from mature healthy trees that were not "ready to fall on residents."

Off to a bad start, let's get back on track

Our group urges Washington Township to:
  1. stop the current logging activity which not only harms the ecology of the park, but runs counter to the benefits its touts, and 
  2. inform the public through regular public meetings that state, on public record, the outcome of recent logging activities and plans for the future phases over the ten year FMP period. 
  3. meet regularly with the New Jersey Highlands Coalition to design a more ecologically responsible FMP that reduces the harm to the forest ecology and wildlife that lives within it.
  4. monitor future logging activity to minimize deviations from the plan.

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