TRENTON – The Senate Energy and Environment Committee unanimously released bill S1085, which would direct the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a forest harvest program to provide for the harvest of forest products on State-owned lands, excluding State-owned lands located in the Pinelands area, for which a forest stewardship plan has been developed.
The program will require the commissioner to select a project manager to put in place a program after public advertisements for bids. The duration of a contract will be five years. The duties of the project manager will include: (1) adopting a management plan developed through a public process; (2) providing for the cutting and sale of wood on that land; (3) obtaining the best price for the wood; (4) obtaining all permits and approvals necessary to engage in forestry activities; (5) assuring that activities concerning the implementation of the forest stewardship plans on State-owned lands are consistent with the rules and regulations (which establishes standards for forest stewardship plans); and (6) developing a strategy for the creation of a viable economic market for forest products, including, but not limited to, the processing of forest products into wood pellets or other forms useful in producing alternative energy.
Several environmental groups were initially against the bill, but have come around to support it, Sen. Bob Smith (D-17) of Piscataway said.