Forest Harvest Bill
The Forest Harvest Bill (S1954) has been dramatically changed to the New Jersey Healthy Forests Act (S1085). It now requires the development of forest stewardship plans and an independent third party certification of plans by the Forest Stewardship Council.
The controversial forest harvest bill was first introduced in early 2010 to create a demonstration harvesting project in the Pinelands. Pinelands Preservation Alliance and New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) opposed this bill and were successful in stalling S1954 in its early stages.
Since that time, the bill has dramatically transformed into what is now called the NJ Healthy Forests Act. PPA, NJCF, the Highlands Coalition, and many other environmental groups were able to join the NJ Farm Bureau, NJ Audubon, NJ Forestry Association and sportspersons’ groups including the NJ Outdoor Alliance in support of a new version of the bill, S1085, released by the Senate Environment Committee in May and passed by the full Senate in late June 2012.
Two key changes to the proposed legislation included a provision that all forests have a forest stewardship plan and that all forestry on state land would be independently certified by a third party auditor, to conform to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards and practices, both in planning and implementation. The FSC standards were carefully examined by PPA, NJCF and The Nature Conservancy and other forest restoration experts. The Nature Conservancy is one of the leading international conservation groups serving on the FSC Board.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Smith, indicated as the bill passed out of committee that including FSC certification was the “only way to lend credibility” to the concept of using our public lands for wood product extraction while also practicing habitat stewardship.
The bill was passed by the full Assembly in June, but conditionally vetoed by Governor Christie. His changes included removing all whereas clauses that state the purpose and intent of the legislation and removing the FSC certification. With the removal of independent third party certification and audit requirements, PPA, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and other environmental groups withdraw their support for the NJ Healthy Forests Act.
It is now up to the Senate sponsor to either disregard the veto and let the current bill die or ask the Senate to vote on the conditional veto language. Senator Smith has unti the end of the year to decide.