Forestry bill held; Smith gives stakeholders time to confer, submit recommendations

TRENTON – The state’s proposed forest-management plan for public lands was held today from a Senate committee vote, but sponsor Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, warned those who have issues with the bill to get together, agree on their concerns and how to address them, and get their recommendations to the committee by March 8, the next committee meeting.

Smith essentially limited testimony today to the basic issue of the state of New Jersey’s forests.  There were groups last year that argued for passive, hands-off management but Smith and other supporters have said in the past that doing nothing is not an option.

State forester Lynn Fleming said this morning that the public forests are in need of active management due to the threats to endangered plant species.

Opponents fear the program would turn into a giveaway to private interests and actually end up creating more of a threat to the health of the state forests.

The bill, S1085, would direct the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a forest harvest program to provide for the harvest of timber on state-owned lands, excluding the Pinelands area.

The program would allow forest management activities on state-owned lands identified by the department. The program to be directed by the DEP will require the commissioner to select a project manager to implement and supervise the program after public advertisements for bids. A contract will be awarded to the bidder whose bid is most advantageous to the state. The duration of a contract will be five years.

This bill cleared the Senate at the end of the last session but the Assembly never voted on it. Forestry bill held; Smith gives stakeholders time to confer, submit recommendations