Environmentalists rap N.J. forestry plan

Legislation aimed at improving the management of state-owned forest lands in New Jersey is coming in for some criticism.

The bill would allow the removal of some dying trees and debris with the goal of improving the health of woodlands and reducing the danger of forest fires.

Thinning trees in the forests could cause some harm, according to Jay Kelly, a professor of biology and environmental science at Raritan Valley Community College.

“Increasing light conditions in the forest will benefit some plant and wildlife species that need forest gaps and early successional habitat, but it’s also going to make conditions far worse for other forest interior species that are already rare or declining,” he said.

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Sen. Bob Smith, who argued that the state Department of Environmental Protection would set rules to protect the forest ecosystem, said money generated from selling the felled trees and debris would be used to support the forestry management program and purchase land for additional forests.

“Some of it can be turned into mulch. Some of it is biomass for energy facilities,” Smith said. “Any revenue that’s generated would be used to support the program, and any excess revenue would be used for the purchase of public lands for additional forests.”

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