Four bills are under consideration by the NJ Legislature that would force all Counties and Municipalities in the state to adopt Forest Stewardship Plans (FSP’s) for publicly owned and managed woodlands covering 25 or more acres. FSP’s, as the draft resolution explains, are essentially a plan for mandating logging and controlled burns meant to prevent forest fires.
Under this legislation, not only would towns be required to pay for the development of these plans, but their adoption would pre-empt any local zoning or land use ordinances. As an inducement to adopt FSP’s future Green Acres funding could be made contingent on whether FSP’s have been adopted for existing public forest lands.
As a group, these bills (A4843, A4844, A4845, A3086) provide that the State shall prepare an FSP for any new land purchases using Green Acres grant money, that future Green Acres Grant money to municipalities be contingent on whether or not municipalities have created FSP’s for existing parks and reservations, that DEP created FSP’s can override municipal zoning and planning ordinances, and establishes a prescribed burning schedule for public forests that are not based on need or scientific studies.
This is an issue for Montclair, as we are bordered by 3 County parks (Mills Reservation – 157 acres, Eagle Rock Reservation – 468 acres, and Brookdale Park – 121 acres) that meet this threshold. In addition, other Essex and Passaic County parks nearby would also be tagged for logging under these bills, including Hilltop Reservation in Verona (284 acres), South Mountain Reservation (2000 acres), West Essex Park (1,360 acres), Garret Mountain Reservation (568 acres) and Rifle Camp Park (189 acres).
Active logging in these parks would displace hikers, dog walkers, birdwatchers, and even dirt bikers from being able to enjoy these wooded sanctuaries. The noise and the traffic would disrupt wildlife and bird habitat and disturb nearby neighborhoods, while erosion and run off would negatively impact water quality in streams that have their sources inside these parks.
These bills are a direct attack on municipal home rule and would have a most deleterious impact on the quality of life of Montclair residents. Montclair residents should write our State Senator Nia Gil and Assembly representatives Britney Timberlake and Thomas Giblin to oppose these bills, and urge our Town Council and the Essex County Board of Commissioners to likewise oppose passage of these bills.