Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Young Forest Initiative harms mature forests

And we need old growth forests to combat climate change.

Logging harms old growth forests - Credit: Yale University

As it is across the earth, from the Amazon to Alaska, forests are crucial in mitigating climate change.  Their mature trees store carbon through photosynthesis.  Generally, the larger and older the tree, the greater capacity it has to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store it within its trunk, and sink it into the ground.  A benefit of mature forests is offering protection for wildlife living within them.  It also shelters and supports a diverse array of plant life, plays a crucial role in water filtration and is a natural shield for stormwater runoff and soil erosion.

In particular, forests in the United States have been subjected to decades of clear cutting.   This is especially true here in New Jersey.   In the nineteenth century, as the U.S.A. was industrializing and before the widescale use of fossil fuels, people heavily relied on wood for residential, commercial and industrial uses.  

Most of the forest canopy was lost as the demand for timber increased dramatically during this period, to satisfy the demand for building materials, railroad ties, and fuel for industry. As a result, large-scale clear-cutting became a common practice in many parts of the eastern United States, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains.

Clear-cutting, as performed then and now, involves removing all of the trees in a particular area, often without regard for sustainable forestry practices or the long-term health of the forest. This leads to significant environmental damage, including erosion, soil depletion, and wildlife habitat loss.  Sadly, the clear-cutting forestry practice has not stopped. It continues today, and the damage caused is as relevant as one hundred years ago.

Clear cuts in Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area, New Jersey

As fossil fuel adoption rose, the demand for wood lessened somewhat.  However, forests remain threatened by the demand for wood products in construction projects, the increasing demand for paper and packaging, and the need to clear land for new housing.  The remaining forests have recovered to a point where, in New Jersey, you have forests that contain mature trees again.

Now, instead of a natural variation of old and young trees, there is a situation where the age of most trees in the forests is about the same - 80 to 100 years.

What is the Young Forest Initiative (YFI)?

The Young Forest Initiative (also called the Young Forest Project) (YFI) is a movement, started around 2011, to promote the growth and conservation of young forests, at the expense of older, mature trees. The YFI approach is to establish human led forest management.  The basis of YFI forest management is logging older, mature trees, ostensibly allowing younger trees to take root and grow.  YFI proponents state that by allowing younger trees to grow, specific wildlife species, e.g. the golden winged warbler, that depend on younger forests and grasslands benefit from restoring habitat lost decades ago during the early American industrial revolution.  Aside from the purported biological benefits used to justify the removal of mature trees from an ecological perspective, significant economic benefits drive much of the sponsorship from the federal and state governments.

Who directly benefits from it, and how?

YFI provides economic benefits to non-governmental stakeholders such as private landowners, forest product industries, and recreation and tourism businesses. By actively promoting and managing young forests, these stakeholders can benefit from producing valuable forest products, such as timber and wood chips, and the increased recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.  Thus, significant economic drivers exist to harvest trees, and these drivers are not inconsequential.

Are there any drawbacks?

Well, the wildlife adapted to mature forests will lose their habitat.

American bald eagle - Sparta Mtn WMA - Credit: NJ Forest Watch

Removing mature trees from old-growth forests can negatively impact the habitats and populations of species that depend on these forests for food and shelter.  With their mature trees, old growth forests provide a diverse range of habitats for a wide variety of species, many of which are adapted to specific stages in the forest's natural succession.

For example, many birds, mammals, and insects rely on old growth forests for nesting sites, foraging opportunities, and protection from predators. The loss of mature trees can result in the loss of these critical habitats, reducing the ability of these species to survive and reproduce.

In addition, old growth forests also provide important habitats for species that depend on the specific microclimates created by the mature trees. For example, some bat species rely on the cooler, moister environments created by the shade of mature trees for roosting and rearing their young.

The consequences of habitat loss for wildlife species can be significant and long-lasting. It can lead to declines in populations, the loss of biodiversity, and changes in the overall structure and function of the ecosystem.

In some cases, habitat loss can also result in the extinction of species that cannot adapt to the new conditions created by the loss of mature trees.

And then there is the invasive species issue.

Japanese barberry - a pervasive threat to New Jersey’s forests -

Removing mature trees from mature forests can increase sunlight on the forest floor, increasing invasive species.  For example, in mature forests in the eastern and southern USA, invasive plant species from Asia, such as Japanese barberry and Kudzu, have invaded native forests. Invasive species such as these can quickly spread and outcompete native plant species, leading to changes in the composition and structure of the forest ecosystem.

Doesn’t removing mature trees contribute to climate change?


As stated before, the removal of mature trees increases the carbon in the atmosphere, contributing to the harmful effects of climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, and as they mature, they store large amounts of carbon in their wood and leaves. When mature trees are removed, this stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to the overall increase in atmospheric carbon levels.

How is the state of New Jersey promoting similar goals?

The state of New Jersey is currently implementing selective tree harvesting on several of its public forests, some of which are contained in defined Wildlife Management Areas (WMA).  One WMA in particular, Sparta Mountain, has active logging activities conducted under the direction of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) agency.   This logging activity, performed under the context of forest management, removes healthy mature trees from the forest using mechanized logging equipment.   This tree removal not only destroys habitat and increases the threat of invasive species spread, but it also increases groundwater pollution.  

What does this mean for NJ municipal parks such as Roaring Rock?

Along with White Trail in Roaring Rock Park - Credit:

Granted, much of this forest activity is currently being conducted on NJ state public lands.  That said, recently proposed New Jersey legislation would require all public lands within the state, including municipal parks, to have forest management plans if they are at least twenty-five acres in size.  That legislation, introduced in 2021, met with local government opposition since it created a statewide unfunded mandate on local governments, which helped stall its progress.   Although currently stalled, the state may modify the legislation to remove the controversial funding issue and advance it in the future.

What can I do, as a New Jersey resident, to help?

New Jersey Senator Bob Smith announcing task force - Credit: Insider

New Jersey Senator Bob Smith commissioned a forest task force in 2022 to define and shape future legislation.  This legislation will have an impact for decades to come on New Jersey’s public forests.

New Jersey residents may contact Senator Smith's office to express support for preserving New Jersey's public forests. You may either

  1. Call his office at (732) 752-0770,
  2. Send mail via USPS to this address: 216 Stelton Rd., Suite E-5, Piscataway, NJ 08854, or
  3. Use this convenient online form (click HERE to take you to it)

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Response to NJ Forest Task Force report

New Jersey state house Trenton NJ

Team SRRP member Laura Oltman prepared the following written statement, in reponse to the New Jersey Task Force's final report that was submitted to a joint session of New Jersey's Legislature on February 22, 2023. Laura was an active participant of the yearlong Task Force proceedings in 2022.
SRRP took the position to not sign onto the Task Force recommendations. The following statement outlines our rationale why.

Dear Senator Smith and Members of the Senate and Assembly Environment Committees,

I participated in the NJ Forest Task Force convened by Senator Bob Smith.  I represented a grassroots group that was formed to oppose commercial logging in a 395-acre wooded park in Washington Twp., Warren County.  The park is Roaring Rock Park and the group was originally named Save Roaring Rock Park.  I am extremely pleased to report that public pressure brought the logging operations to a close after the first season of logging.  Now our group is re-named Support Roaring Rock Park, otherwise known as SRRP.  

In that capacity as supporters of Roaring Rock Park, our group is opposed to the task force recommendations as presented at the joint legislative committee hearing on Feb. 22, 2023.  Our experience halting logging in Roaring Rock Park has taught us exactly how easy it is to initiate a commercial logging plan on publicly owned land.

To describe briefly the history of events, after Hurricane Sandy blew down a number of trees in Roaring Rock Park, Washington Township officials investigated removing damaged or blown down trees from the park.  They contacted Green Acres, who funded the purchase of the park, and found that they would need to hire a state-certified forester to create a forestry plan that needed approval from the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry.  The idea languished until a few years ago when it was revived with the idea that the township could realize added income from selling tees in the park.  They hired the forestry firm of Gracie and Harrigan to create a Forest Management Plan that was approved for the park by the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry.  After this approval was gained, it became known that this plan existed and public opposition grew.  The township committee decided to hold a public hearing to explain the plan.  This was after the fact of approval and signing of contracts for logging operations.  As an aside, Gracie and Harrigan not only created the plan but was hired to oversee its implementation.  They were to receive a percentage of the returns on the sale of logs.  They also were charged with hiring a logging company, Heacock Lumber in Ottsville, PA, which was found to be a violation of laws requiring a public bidding process for the logging.  

The first phase of logging began in the spring during nesting season for birds and many other animals.  In addition to this, the ground was very soft and heavy logging equipment severely damaged soil and tree roots, eventually killing a number of standing trees.  Felled trees, and there were many, were filled with nests at this time of year and no one will ever know how many nests were destroyed.  Logging was carried out almost in the water of a tributary to the C1 designated Brass Castle Creek.  Slash was allowed to fall in the water and nothing was done to prevent stormwater runoff or silt from the mud creating by logging equipment to enter this tributary.  Complaints were registered with the Division of Parks and Forestry and a few meager efforts were undertaken after the fact to mitigate some of the damage, but they were by far not the “standard of care” for the damages done.  After the logging operations were completed for the season there were several large rain events that took place, including Hurricane Ida, that washed untold amounts of silt and slash into the water and the Brass Castle Creek.  The forestry plan had stated that logging “should” be done in winter when the ground is frozen or late in the summer when it is more likely to be dry.  Instead logging commenced in spring and was followed by several huge rain events.  The forestry plan called for certain best practices, such as a 65’ buffer along the banks of C1 water and avoiding allowing slash to enter the water, that were not employed.  The plan also advised site remediation after logging, a suggestion rejected by the township government.  So, the minimal safeguards described in the forestry plan were meaningless in practice.

The NJ Highlands Coalition appealed to John Cecil, Assistant DEP Commissioner and head of the Division of Parks and Forestry, pointing out that there are many important public trust resources in this park that were and would continue to be damaged or destroyed by logging.  C1 waterways were at the top of the list, as was wildlife habitat, a rare heritage strain of native and naturally reproducing trout in the fishery of the Brass Castle Creek, flood mitigation provided by the wooded landscape on steep slopes, clean water for drinking and very important was a source of recreation for the communities in Warren County and the State of NJ.  

Mr. Cecil replied that there was nothing amiss about the process that resulted in logging this park and there was no legal bar to it.  Therefore, there was no justification for him to revoke the approval of the logging plan.

It is extremely important for the Legislature to understand that there is no regulation of logging on public land separate from the process created for private landowners to get a tax abatement for an agricultural use of land. Therefore, there is no public hearing process before plan approvals are granted or process for the public to challenge approvals.  This applies to land owned by the public and typically bought to protect it from some kind of unwanted development.  In fact, because logging is legally an agricultural activity, logging operations are exempt from regulations that otherwise protect land being developed and disturbed.

Another key misunderstanding is the purpose of forestry.  Forestry is an agricultural activity which seeks to produce wood products.  Goals include creating the maximum number of the desired or most valuable trees of a size that will produce adequate profit when harvested.  Also, forestry seeks to continue to harvest trees from an area of land into the foreseeable future.  Forestry plans typically last 10 years but can be renewed for decades.  In northeast NJ forests, like those in the Highlands, the typical target species for loggers are oaks and tulip poplars.   Forestry plans seek to created ideal growing conditions for as many oaks and poplars as possible.  Other trees might be harvested for firewood or bio fuels but are not cultivated, as are oaks and poplars.  Any benefits to wildlife from logging would be limited to those species of fauna and flora that can rely mainly on food and shelter provided by oak and poplar trees.  That would exclude the Federally-listed Endangered Indiana Bat, known to live in the bark of shagbark hickory trees, a tree species of little value to foresters that would likely be eliminated from managed forests for use as firewood.  Wildlife would also need to be able to adapt to periodic, indiscriminate removal of large swaths of trees and the damage that occurs in that process.

SRRP cannot support the task force recommendations because they perpetuate logging for profit on public lands in a number of ways.  The task force leaders did not allow any discussion of the exemptions from land use regulation granted to forestry activities.  We and others maintain that the current way the DEP is approving these plans is illegal because it is using a permitting framework that is specifically intended for private property and for tax purposes of private property owners.  That process cannot be applied to publicly owned land, which is not taxed.  These exemptions created significant damages in Roaring Rock Park and also Sparta Mt.

Recommendation 15 of the task force report implies in one sentence that there should be no commercial logging on public lands:

The NJDEP should not include commercial profit as a goal in any forest management plan* on public land. Commercial timber management should not be a goal for any forest management plan on public land.

But in the next sentence says that logging should be allowed on public land for certain undefined purposes:

Wood products can be sold in instances where cutting and removal of wood is a necessary part of an approved plan with ecological health, climate, or other non-commercial goals.

*includes Ecological Restoration Plans, Natural Resource Stewardship Plans or other plans on public forested lands

This statement cements the status quo that the public is witnessing with horror.  The plan to log Roaring Rock Park was approved under the premise that it was intended to improve the health of the forest by thinning the trees.  This same plan, with all its exemptions and profit motives, would still be approvable under Recommendation 15.  This is completely unacceptable.

The task force recommendations do not have any guiding principles or goals.  This is a fatal flaw.  Lots of inventory and planning is proposed, but with no particular purpose expressed.  We believe the unstated purpose of creating a forest inventory is to find areas to log with less likelihood of successful public opposition.  A forest inventory could be an incredibly valuable step if the goal was to determine how we might best increase carbon sequestration in our existing public forests and how we might create more contiguous canopy to benefit the interior forest species that have few areas of habitat left in NJ due to canopy clearing and forest fragmentation.  For an inventory to have meaning, goals for the use of our forested public lands would need to be agreed upon and this was not possible in the task force process.  

SRRP advocates for making the goal of forest management twofold.  One goal should be to increase carbon sequestration in our public forests by allowing trees to remain in the forest, either standing or decomposing.  It has been repeatedly demonstrated by scientific research that mature deciduous trees with lots of leaves sequester far more carbon in each tree than even a large number of smaller trees that do not have large leaf area.  We should prioritize allowing native trees in our mature forests to continue growing, as well as preventing these mature forests from being converted to other uses.  The Princeton University Net Zero America study demonstrates that stopping deforestation is the best way to increase the carbon sequestration of forests in NJ as well as nationwide.  Protecting forests to increase carbon sequestration would align with state and national goals to reduce carbon emissions.  

The second goal, which is a happy consequence of protecting trees in our forests is that it also would protect the innumerable ecoservices they provide, like filtration of stormwater runoff that cleans water and mitigates flooding, all kinds of habitat for wildlife that rely on intact forests, and one of the most overlooked benefits for our forests, peace and quiet and beauty for people who visit to hike, picnic or just drive by.  It is not expensive to simply let forests grow.  It is technically entirely feasible, unlike carbon capture or some other high-tech climate solutions.  It is also a readily available solution, as NJ already has forested public land.  Task force leaders have said that there is somehow a dichotomy between advocating for carbon sequestration in forests and fostering biodiversity, recreation and other forest benefits.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Protecting forests from logging will readily provide all these benefits, in addition to increasing carbon sequestration.  Another big problem for NJ forest health is deer browse.  Cutting down areas of forest only increases available habitat for deer, who thrive at the edges of forested areas.  Allowing trees to remain standing will reduce habitat for deer in public forests and deer were identified in the task force report as a threat to NJ forests.  

One key recommendation that we agree with is the need for state policies codified by statute for management of NJ public forests, adopted pursuant to the administrative procedures act.   At the very least, this would ensure that the public has some say in the process of approving management plans for NJ forests.

The idea of letting forests grow is not novel.  Since the late-19th century New York state has protected vast acres of forested land under its “forever wild” designation.  Far from being “unhealthy”, as foresters claim unharvested forests to be, the effort to protect over 6 million acres of forest in a natural state has been extremely successful.  It can be and has been done.

The public will have the last word on what happens to our publicly owned forests and I am confident beyond the shadow of a doubt that the public is opposed to logging and removal of wood products from NJ publicly owned forests.  People do not believe that logging is even allowed in parks purchased with Green Acres funding.  Sadly, it is allowed. But it should not be and now is an ideal opportunity to take the necessary steps to protect one of our best hedges against climate change as well as a beloved public asset-- our forests.


Laura Oltman
Support Roaring Rock Park

Saturday, February 18, 2023

NJ Forest Task Force to publish final report to Legislature

Logging at Sparta Mountain WMA
Credit: New Jersey Forest Watch

The NJ Forest Task Force commissioned by Senator Bob Smith (Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee) is about to produce its final report and present to a joint legislative session on Feb. 22, 2023.  Members of the legislature as well as the public and press need to understand how the task force arrived at its recommendations and the science behind them in order to evaluate them.

In forming the task force Senator Smith stated:  Forests are critical to the environmental welfare of our State. They can play a major role in mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide; providing habitats for endangered wildlife; helping clean and protect drinking water sources; and stabilizing soils. Proper management of forests is also necessary for preventing wildfires which are becoming more frequent and intense.[1]

The purpose of the task force was “to study and identify ways in which the State can best manage its [public] forests in order to fight climate change, prevent forest fires, improve ecosystems, and protect soil and water quality.”[2]

A major impetus for creating the task force appeared to be the ongoing mechanized, commercial style logging (clearcutting) on Sparta Mountain of 10+ acres per year since 2011, conducted by the NJDEP in partnership with the NJ Audubon Society.  To date, approximately 110 acres have been essentially clearcut on Sparta Mountain.

Among the many issues uncovered by the task force is the fact that there are no state policies codified by statute for management of NJ public forests adopted pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act.  There are also no formal DEP rules and regulations for this purpose.  The NJDEP along with partners like NJAS are making public policy with no authorization, very little public input and virtually no oversight.

The task force leaders set two key objectives:  1) develop a process to reach consensus where it was possible and 2) base all recommendations on peer-reviewed science.  Consensus was defined as having about 95% of participants in agreement on a topic.  Only policies with consensus support were to become recommendations.  Proposals backed by peer-reviewed science findings were solicited from participants.  After several meetings it was clear that it was going to be very difficult to achieve consensus on almost any topic and the team leaders stated that the science was too deep and complex and the task force did not have the resources to properly evaluate it.  Participants created over 75 proposals but only 40 were discussed.

At that point, the leaders changed tactics and asked for a list of any topics on which we might be able to find consensus.  This started a less than totally transparent process. First, the random list was aggregated by the leaders into a monolithic all-or-nothing package of elements called the Framework.  Participants were asked to vote on accepting or rejecting it in total.  Participants were urged by the leaders to support the entire Framework even if they disagreed with portions of it.  There were several rounds of votes in November and December (and participants were then also able to vote on individual topics), but the leaders never produced a quantitative report on the support for any elements or the total package. In the last iteration of the Framework, all the previously labeled “elements,” suddenly became “Recommendations,” and now form the basis of the task force output.  As of this date, there has been no report demonstrating consensus on any elements in the Framework or the overall document itself, yet it is described by the leaders as ideas that enjoy broad agreement among diverse Task Force participants.

While there are a number of good recommendations in the Framework there are also bad recommendations.  Most egregious is the late inclusion in the Framework – long after task force meetings had ended and, therefore, without any discussion amongst the participants – of Recommendation 15 which states:

The NJDEP should not include commercial profit as a goal in any forest management plan* on public land. Commercial timber management should not be a goal for any forest management plan on public land. Wood products can be sold in instances where cutting and removal of wood is a necessary part of an approved plan with ecological health, climate, or other non-commercial goals.

*includes Ecological Restoration Plans, Natural Resource Stewardship Plans or other plans on public forested lands

This packages a very good recommendation (disallowing commercial logging) with a very bad recommendation (allowing the sale of wood products from approved logging plans for private gain).  This packaging made it impossible for many participants to approve of disallowing commercial logging because the recommendation includes the continuation of the status quo logging, justified through false and misleading claims, as seen on Sparta Mountain.  Moreover, the opposition to this DEP program appeared to be a major factor in creating the task force, but has been manipulated, without consensus support, to now be a recommendation.

Space does not permit a thorough explanation of the arguments used to justify the current and future logging program, the lack of data behind recommendations and omissions from the recommendations.  Briefly,

  • No substantive actions were recommended to fight climate change – the first item on Senator Smith’s list of goals
  • Recommendations were not based on any quantification of the existing or necessary increase in carbon sequestration called for in the Global Warming Response Act 2020 Report
  • It ignores many studies showing that maturing and mature forests store and sequester more carbon than young forests, which are net emitters of carbon for their first two decades
  • Recommendation 15 undercuts efforts to fight climate change by increasing carbon emissions from tree cutting and removal
  • Despite acknowledging the open question of DEP legal authority to set policy for public forests and lack of regulations, the task force specifically recommended that existing plans continue to be implemented
  • Arguments for the need to increase habitat for certain bird species through logging have been debunked[3]
  • There was no consideration of the logging harms to many interior forest bird species, other animals such as amphibians, bobcats and bears and the essential network of mycorrhizal fungi, essential for healthy forests
  • There is no science-based evidence that cutting and removing wood has any climate benefits as included as a rationale in Recommendation 15 – the reverse is true
  • There was no consideration of the harms caused by mechanized logging
  • There was no consideration of any standards for ecological restoration
  • There was no review of the scientifically proven ecological benefits of leaving cut wood on the ground to allow its carbon to be sequestered and the absence of need to remove wood for virtually any ecological purpose
  • There was no willingness to recognize the scientific basis of proforestation forest management in the Framework
  • There were no recommendations on protecting soil and water quality
  • There was no discussion of the often-stated need for a moratorium on logging, until regulations are written

In summary, the task force produced no provable consensus, has not followed the science and recommends the status quo on logging public forests for private gain.  NJ residents have not paid to preserve their forests in order to generate profit for private entities.

Silvia Solaun, Executive Director, New Jersey Forest Watch

Ken Dolsky, Vice President, New Jersey Forest Watch



[3] Kellett, M. J., Maloof, J. E., Masino, S. A., Frelich, L. E., Faison, E. K., Brosi, S. L., and Foster, D. R. (2023). Forest-clearing to create early-successional habitats: Questionable benefits, significant costs. Front. For. Glob. Change.

Monday, January 23, 2023

NJ Highlands Coalition Press Release

Mature forest - credit Yale University
Credit: Yale University

New Jersey’s recent investment in urban forestry and management of established public forests at cross purposes, says advocacy group

(Boonton, NJ) The New Jersey Highlands Coalition releases the following statement today in response to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette’s announcement of the Murphy Administration’s awarding of $24.3 million in Natural Climate Solutions Grants.

Urban tree planting has many benefits, from flood mitigation to air filtration, cooling cityscapes in the summer, reversing blight, providing carbon capture to mitigate against greenhouse gas emissions, and improving the overall quality of life in New Jersey’s cities. We applaud Governor Murphy in making this significant and wise investment in projects to establish urban canopies in Atlantic City, Berkeley Heights, Camden, Kearny, Linden, Newark, Brick, Stafford, Princeton, Trenton and Readington, and awarding grants to implement many of these projects to organizations with histories of excellence in greening urban New Jersey, such as New Jersey Conservation Foundation, American Littoral Society, the Nature Conservancy and Partnership for the Delaware River Estuary.

But we must caution the Governor that, no matter how many trees are newly planted, or how many acres of tidal salt marshes are restored, if at the same time his Division of Fish & Wildlife continues to cut down mature forest stands in established forests, or the Green Acres Program approves Forest Stewardship Plans that clear cut acres of public forests, the Governor’s climate mitigation strategies will result in a zero-sum gain, or worse.

Today, on a regular schedule, acres of mature forests are clear-cut in New Jersey’s publicly owned forests justified and funded by the Young Forest Initiative, to access New Jersey’s remaining mature and valuable timber in the name of spurious ecological goals of habitat restoration and enhancement. And if certain interests succeed, bills currently introduced in the Legislature, if passed, would require that all public forests of 25 acres or more, purchased in whole or in part with Green Acres funds, whether state, county, municipal or non-profit-owned, would be required to implement Forest Stewardship Plans where logging is encouraged.

In early 2021 we discovered that a town in Warren County had contracted with a State-approved forester to implement a 10-year timber harvest plan of the type allowed under the pending bill. It was approved by the NJDEP and the State’s Green Acres program and was for the expressed purpose of raising revenue for the municipality by harvesting timber. If this type of harvest was to occur on all public forests of 25 acres or greater the impacts would be devastating, and the Governor’s initiative to plant urban trees as a measure to mitigate for carbon emissions would not only would be meaningless, but silly.

A recent study by the US Department of Energy has shown that it would take 151 newly planted oak trees 16 years to equal the yearly carbon capture of one 40 foot oak tree, yet today we are cutting down 80-175 year old trees on public lands.

“There is a tremendous disconnect between what the Governor wants to achieve by positioning New Jersey’s public forests to mitigate for our carbon emissions and the State’s approval criteria for managing public forests. We continue to cut down our best defense against climate change,” said Elliott Ruga, Director of Policy and Communications at the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “No amount of urban tree planting can make up for the loss of carbon capture from our mature forests when they are cut.”

Highlands Coalition board member, Dr. Sara Webb, Director of the Drew Forest Preserve and Professor emerita of Biology and Environment at Drew University said, “Our most mature forests in the Highlands provide society so much in the way of a clean water supply, habitats for the greatest diversity of species, accessible public recreation, carbon sequestration and more. Cutting down our oldest and tallest trees is so destructive to all of these resource values. It defies common sense that we continue to manage our high conservation forests in such a manner.”

“If we want to get serious about climate adaptation in New Jersey we must allow our most mature forests to transition to old growth”, said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “The harvesting of timber requires bringing heavy equipment into the forest, turning rudimentary foot paths into logging roads, which exposes forest soils to invasions by non-native species and creates habitats that nurture an already over-abundant deer population. Extracting timber prevents soil replenishment and the loss of favored habitat for many healthy forest indicator species such as fungi, insects, amphibians, birds and mammals.”

The New Jersey Highlands Coalition, which advocates for the protection of the region’s natural and cultural resources recognizes that the forests of the Highlands hold the greatest concentration of natural resource values, which is why the Coalition is leading the effort to protect public forests in New Jersey.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Roaring Rock Park tree replanting

Township residents hiking along Dick Flint Trail Roaring Rock Park Washington Township Warren County NJ
Township residents lending their time and talents to make Roaring Rock Park a special place
Township residents volunteering at Roaring Rock Park

Washington Township, Warren County NJ, organized a Trail Day at Roaring Rock Park on March 26, 2022.  The day started out somewhat rainy and dreary, but spirits were lifted as Trout Unlimited and Team Support Roaring Rock Park volunteers arrived by the carload.  Soon enough over 25 volunteers were on hand to tackle two important activities...

Stream Restoration / Tree Replanting

Volunteers from local NJ Trout Unlimited Chapter plant native trees along Brass Castle Creek within Roaring Rock Park March 26th 2022
Trout Unlimited planting native trees along Brass Castle Creek

The first major activity, a stream restoration effort, was led by members of the Ridge and Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU).  This local TU chapter coordinated a tree replanting effort within the June 2021 logging site at Roaring Rock Park with Washington Township via its Passive Recreation Area Coordinator.

Trout Unlimited planted replanted poplar and oak trees at RRP June 2021 logging site
Replanted poplar and oak trees at RRP June 2021 logging site

TU is a national organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring trout streams and their watersheds.  In order to achieve their goals, local TU chapters conduct habitat improvement projects, stream restoration projects, stream clean-ups, and educational programs such as Trout in the Classroom, among other activities.

Approximately 35 trees, mostly poplar and oak, were replanted along an access road which the loggers used to haul out mature, healthy trees of the same species for sale on the timber market during the June 2021 commercial logging activity.   The specific location is the logging site east of Brass Castle Road, between Harmony Brass Castle and Hartmans Corner Roads.   This is the logging area which came uncomfortably close to Brass Castle Creek, generating concern about soil erosion.

Brass Castle Creek is one of a small number of classified streams in New Jersey supporting native brook trout, capable of natural reproduction.  Team SRRP raised concerns last year about the creation of logging haul roads, and their negative effects not only on the park terrain, trees and wildlife, but also the risk of silt being deposited in the creek due to storm water runoff.   

Brass Castle Creek segment close to where tree replanting took place
Brass Castle Creek, close to where tree replanting took place

This section of Brass Castle Creek, in particular, has ideal sun shade and water temperature characteristics that support fish populations living within it.  Another adverse result of commercial logging within the park is mature tree removal decreases the shade providing canopy, thus removing important temperature regulating effects on the creek.   Brook trout are particularly sensitive to warm water temperatures.

Team SRRP contributed funding to TU to support the acquisition of the trees used in the replanting project.

RRP Trail Clean up

Team SRRP volunteers at March 26 2022 RRP Trail Cleanup
Team SRRP volunteering at March 26 2022 RRP Trail Cleanup

As Team TU was planting trees, Team SRRP and volunteers led by Washington Township's Passive Area Recreation Coordinator hiked along the Dick Flint Trail, widening the paths by cutting back invasive plant species such as Japanese barberry.   

Japanese barberry is a particularly aggressive shrub introduced from Asia in the late nineteenth century as an ornamental to be used in gardens.   Over the last one hundred years the species has made its way outside of backyard gardens and into forests across the eastern United States.   Once barberry establishes a foothold on the forest floor, like most invasive species it crowds out native plants and tree saplings.  Not only does Japanese barberry have strong thorns, which are a painful nuisance for hikers and discourages deer from browsing the plant itself, it also has characteristics that attract ticks.  Pennsylvania plans to ban the commercial sale of barberry in 2023.

We had good volunteer attendance which allowed canvassing the full length of the trail with the clean up effort.   Area residents who value local Warren County parks can contact Washington Township's Passive Area Coordinator to learn about upcoming trail days.

Township residents hiking along Dick Flint Trail Roaring Rock Park Washington Township Warren County NJ

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

We changed our name !

Support Roaring Rock Park website name change announcement December 2021

What happened to the websites?

As we decided to change our name, we also decided to change the website names to reflect that decision. An unfortunate side effect of that website name change is that it creates a bunch of broken links, which use our prior website name, to blog posts that have been shared around social media sites and email newsletters.

We did move over the old blog posts to this site. If you find yourself reading this message, rather than a specific blog post, you may scroll down through the list of posts below to find what interests you.

.. and when you are through ..

Click on this link to take you to our new landing page!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

2021 FMP concerns, requests and call to action

Ladies of mystery Save Roaring Rock Park
Concerned Township residents showing their support!
Washington Township, Warren County, NJ

The following is an archive of our "About Us" page, as it existed during 2021 when Washington Township Warren County had an active Forest Management Plan with Gracie and Harrigan, a forestry consultant. At that time, the Township was embarking on the first year of a ten year commercial logging plan for Roaring Rock Park. After nine months of public lobbying, Township terminated the FMP by adopting Resolution 21-193.

What are our main concerns?

  1. The Township Committee has developed a forest management plan without visible notice to the public or adjacent landowners.    After this issue was brought to the Committee's attention during open public meetings in March 2021, the Township still proceeded to start commercial logging in June 2021 ("Phase One") without prior notice to public.   Even after a request made in an open public meeting, they have rejected the public's reasonable request to implement stakeholder management and proactive communications.
  2. The June 2021 logging activity at the park occurred during the summertime, during peak vegetative growth and wildlife reproductive seasons.    Forest Management activities are typically performed during winter months.    The Township and its logging contractors clearly disregarded what is usual and normally performed, despite the Plan referring to "Best Practices" will be utilized in the park, 
  3. The June 2021 logging activity cut ten foot wide access roads where pristine forest floor once lay.   Moreover, these access roads come very close to Brass Castle Creek with its natural reproducing trout populations.   The access roads lay well within the 300 foot activity free buffer typically specified by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP),
  4. Access roads created by contractors
    close to Brass Castle Creek

    Roaring Rock Park, Washington Township, Warren County NJ
  5. By bulldozing these access roads so close to Brass Castle Creek, the summertime rain season is creating muddy conditions around the logging area.  These conditions pose soil erosion and silt runoff threats to Brass Castle Creek and its native fish populations, 
  6. The repeated removal of trees , which typically weight over 1000 pounds, over access roads by the heavy “skid steer” machinery will damage the established and sprawling root systems of the trees which exist adjacent to the access roads.   By damaging their root systems, these trees that are not subjected to harvesting will likely die a slow death ("die off") compounding the total tree loss in the forest,
  7. Shallow root system of trees in Roaring Rock Park
    Shallow root system of trees
    Roaring Rock Park, Washington Township, Warren County NJ
  8. Removal of trees open up the forest canopy to sunlight, and when sunlight increases on the forest floor the invasive plant species that now exist at Roaring Rock Park will flourish and increase their foothold.    As the FMP and its amendment do not provide for control of invasive plants, the remaining native plants will be further overrun by invasive species,
  9. It is clear that the logging contractor is removing mature, healthy tree trunks and logs from the site.    During Phase One logging in June 2021, the loggers left an amazing amount of tree crowns (tree tops) which have been cut off the trees prior to their removal.   These crowns have been left piled deeply in the woods, trampling the forest floor habitat.  These piled branches and leaves will add to the forest floor fuel load as they dry, compounding the risk of wildfire.    You often hear one of the benefits of FMP is to reduce forest fire hazard.   This particular activity is increasing the fire load and threat.  
  10. The current FMP, and its amendment in June 2021, do NOT specify remediation of the site after logging activities cease.  Therefore, there is no proactive plan to remediate the soil erosion and run off conditions created by the summertime rain storms on the access roads.   These muddy access roads will continue to pose these threats until the forest "naturally recovers" as indicated in the Plan and its amendment.    The threats to Brass Castle Creek will only be remediated by Mother Nature and on her timetable, and it is uncertain when she will get around to it,
  11. Deer population in New Jersey poses a threat to vegetation.    Deer are particularly fond of tree saplings and small plants for a food source.   As stated in point #8, the Township and its logging contractors are making a conscious decision to let the forest "naturally recover."   What this means: if the trees are to regenerate without planting, seeds must sprout and saplings must develop, and browsing deer will naturally attack them for a food source.   Therefore, the FMP plan for forest regeneration will be compromised by browsing deer.   Note the FMP does not address deer population control. 

What are our requests of Washington Township Committee?

Area residents speak out on July 20 2021
Area residents speak out
Open Public Meeting on July 20th 2021
  1. IMMEDIATELY CEASE, and DO NOT ENGAGE IN FUTURE, summertime logging activities (in other words: follow FMP best practices!),
  2. Create and implement a proactive stakeholder management plan which now does not exist.    The Township does not inform the public of activities it takes in a public park whose maintenance is funded by public tax dollars,
  3. Through stakeholder management, inform the public of future logging activities, BEFORE THEY START,
  4. Meet with the New Jersey Highlands Coalition and their subject matter experts in forest ecology to collaborate on a forest management plan that is ecologically focused and provides for sustainable forest regeneration, with minimal threats to the wildlife that live inside the park.

What can you do ?

Team SRRP at NNO Aug 2021
Team SRRP present in the local community
National Night Out, Washington Township, August 3rd, 2021
  1. Visit and use Roaring Rock Park.    If you do not know where it is, click HERE to pull up a Google Map of its location.   Use the hiking trails that were built from years of volunteer labor.   If you are a fisherman, enjoy fishing Brass Castle Creek.
  2. Consider visiting the June 2021 logging sites at the intersection of Brass Castle and Brass Castle/Harmony Roads, and on the eastern side of Brass Castle Road between Brass Castle/Harmony and Hartmans Corner Roads.  Stare at the logging access roads at these locations.  Observe the conditions left by the logging contractors after they finished harvesting fifteen acres during a few weeks in June.   If you do so, be mindful as you walk around the logging sites.
  3. Read the blog posts on this site from Sara Webb, Ph. D., Professor emeritus of Biology, Drew University, and John Trontis, former Assistant Director of NJDEP Division of Parks and Forestry, that convey their concerns about the Roaring Rock Park FMP.
  4. Consider the opinions of those who believe that FMP will help the forest grow stronger after the harvesting of trees.
  5. Then imagine, and visualize in your mind, how the results of a few weeks of logging in June 2021 will scale across Roaring Rock Park over the ten year duration of the Forest Management Plan.
  6. Then ask yourself:  will you and your children, decades from now, be able to enjoy Roaring Rock Park as it currently exists?  Or will your and your children's experience of the park be different as it struggles to "naturally recover?"  Will "different" be "better"?  Will you and they be satisfied, in the end, from the results of ten years of "forest management" being started by the Township and its logging contractors?
  7. If, after you do these activities, you find yourself as concerned and fired up as we are now, engage Washington Township Committee during their regular open public meetings which occur the third Tuesday of each month, starting at 7:30 PM.   Tell them during the open public comment part of the meeting agenda the concerns now in your mind.    If you can not attend in person, or if public speaking makes you anxious, write them a letter with your concerns and ask them to enter it into the public record.
  8. Washington Township, Warren County NJ Municipal Building
    Washington Township, Warren County, Municipal Building
    211 Route 31 North, Washington NJ, 07882

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