Position: NJA strongly supports the bills, which promote evidence-based management to sustain healthy forests that support a diversity of wildlife and ensure people and property are protected from wildlife.
A4843 – Forest Planning: NJA strongly supports A4843, which would require the development of forest management plans on forested lands greater than 25 acres and purchased through Green Acres or other state funds. While incentives exist for privately owned lands to develop plans, no such incentives or planning requirements exist for public lands. These plans do NOT require timber harvesting. Depending on the specific forest, a stewardship plan can be implemented to address invasive plants or pests, effectively deal with an overabundant deer population, or restore a previously planted stand of trees that has been degraded because of pest, disease, or deer.
A4844 – Municipal Approval: NJA supports A4844, which clarifies that municipalities do not need to review and approve Forest Stewardship Plans. Such local review would be duplicative with the role that the New Jersey Forest Service plays. Municipalities lack the staff expertise to develop and implement Forest Stewardship Plans. Such reviews needlessly delay plan adoption.
A4845 – Prescribed Burning Goals: NJA strongly supports A4845, which sets a minimum acreage goal (50,000 in the Pinelands area and on an additional 10,000 acres statewide) and schedule for prescribed burns in Pinelands area and Statewide. It builds upon the Prescribed Burn Act that became law in 2018, which is critical in reducing the risk to humans and property from potential catastrophic wildfires like we’ve seen in California, as well as promoting the ecological health of our forests. Prescribed fire restores a natural disturbance mechanism to the fire dependent pinelands forests and also the rest of NJ’s forests which have evolved with less frequent fires. Fire helps forest by clearing out weak trees and shrubs allowing healthier trees and shrubs to thrive. Fire stimulates new growth and can create habitat conditions and increase available resources that many wildlife need.
A4846 – Pinelands Coordination: NJA supports A4846, which establishes a working group to evaluate coordination and cooperation between government and private landowners with respect to forest stewardship in the Pinelands area. To ensure these critically important forest lands are being adequately protected, conserved, and stewarded it is important that the many public and private landowners in the region deliberately and proactively work together to conserve the Pinelands forests and associated resources. The working group created by this bill, will have a specific and targeted focus that is time bound to develop recommendation for policies and actions that will further protect the Pinleands forests. The specific nature and task of this commission makes it unique and necessary to ensure the Pinelands remain a New Jersey natural treasure for generations.