Controversial logging bill rolls through committee; environmental groups cry foul

TRENTON – The Senate Budget Committee released bill S1954, sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith (D-7), of Piscataway, which would direct the Pinelands Commission to come up with a 10-year tree-removal program from forests known as the “Forest Sustainability Demonstration Project.” 

The bill would also require the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop a logging program to provide “for the harvest of state forests” and sell the wood from the trees that are cut, providing the state with an additional source of revenue.  

Voting no were Sens. Michael Doherty, Joe Pennachio, and Linda Greenstein

The senators voting for the bill were Steve Oroho, Anthony Bucco, Kevin O’Toole, Teresa Ruiz, Jeff Van Drew, James Beach, Sandra Cunningham, and Paul Sarlo.

The bill states the goal behind the project “would be to evaluate the practicability and feasibility of establishing sustainable forest management practices supported by a viable forest products market and biomass energy industry in New Jersey.  To that end, the demonstration project would encourage forest management activities such as thinning and harvesting of wood of up to 15,000 forested acres within the pinelands area, and work towards creating a viable biomass energy industry using the forest products harvested from there.”

The forestry management project would last for 10 years.

In addition, the Pinelands Commission would select a project manager to supervise forest management activities, prepare annual reports, and a final report within six months after its completion.

Numerous environmental groups and advocates opposed the bill. Many said any revenue that would be produced would be overshadowed by the forestry management program’s costs.

Delaware Riverkeeper opposed the bill, saying it could produce “detrimental harm” to the forests.

Others said various species would be harmed.

A Pinelands Commission representative said the bill at this time “has not gone far enough.”

Another opponent said, “This bill is really about money.”

New Jersey Farm Bureau and New Jersey Audobon, however, support the bill.

Other supporters said the bill is not about logging, but about “forest health.”

Smith himself said that some trees will need to be cut, and that it’s impossible not to. Controversial logging bill rolls through committee; environmental groups cry foul