Roaring Rock Park


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Washington Borough, Hunterdon County NJ oppose forest management bills

Shabbacong Creek, Shabbacong Mountain Preserve, Washington Borough, Warren County NJ
Shabbacong Creek
downslope from Shabbacong Mountain Preserve

Washington Borough, Warren County NJ

On Tuesday June 1st, 2021 the local municipal council of Washington Borough in Warren County and Hunterdon County Board of Commissioners passed resolutions in opposition to three bills (A-4843/S-3549 A-4844/S-3550 A-4845/S-3548) being considered by the New Jersey state legislature.   These two local municipalities' actions followed that of Warren County on May 12th, 2021.

If passed, these bills would have a devastating effect on New Jersey public lands, for parcels whose size is as small as twenty five (25) acres.   These bills will mandate municipalities to obtain and implement "Forest Management Plans" (FMPs), similar to the one being considered for Roaring Rock Park in Washington Township.  These "plans", despite their benign sounding titles, are primarily commercial logging plans whose primary intent is to transform New Jersey public lands into large scale tree farms, and away from what should be their purpose: to preserve, protect and promote their natural resources and to provide recreational opportunities to residents.  

For Washington Borough the impact would be realized on the Shabbacong Mountain Preserve, an approximate 80 acre tract of land acquired with Green Acre Funding.   Washington Borough residents, in coordination with the local municipality, have designated this property for recreational use.

The actions of Washington Borough and Hunterdon County acknowledge:

  1. These bills will essentially create new unfunded mandates, requiring compliance by local government to state law while not providing state funding to local municipalities to facilitate compliance, and remediation of the damage that will result from logging activities;
    1. Adding insult to injury, these bills will prohibit local governments, and their taxpayers, from influencing activities arising from FMPs (the same constituents who would be paying for the implementation!);
    2. These bills will primarily facilitate commercial logging activities, not the retention, protection and promotion of the natural resources (trees, water and wildlife) that reside on New Jersey's public lands (the same resources that make the lands valuable in the first place!)

    Washington Borough and Hunterdon County join a growing list of local municipalities and organizations in opposition to these bills:

    1. Washington Borough, Warren County
    2. Warren County
    3. Hunterdon County    
    4. Monmouth County
    5. Ringwood
    6. West Milford
    7. Raritan
    8. Buena Vista
    9. Clinton
    10. Hardyston
    11. Washington Township, Burlington County
    12. Harding Township 
    13. Rockleigh
    14. Tenafly 
    15. Parsippany – Troy Hills 
    16. South Brunswick 
    17. Lacey Township 
    18. Shamong Township
    19. Princeton
    20. New Jersey League of Municipalities

    We commend Washington Borough Council and the Hunterdon Board of County Commissioners for adopting a well written resolution and proclamation that acknowledge the ecological and recreational value of public lands and forests, and their positive effects on making their communities desirable places to live.   

    Below are images of the adopted Borough resolution and Hunterdon County proclamation. We urge local New Jersey municipalities to consider adopting similar resolutions, especially if they have open public space greater than twenty five (25) acres.


    Sunday, May 16, 2021

    Warren County NJ opposes forest management bills

    Roaring Rock Park Hiking Path Brass Castle Creek Washington Township Warren County NJ
    Roaring Rock Park Hiking Trail
    Brass Castle Creek

    Washington Township, Warren County NJ

    On Wednesday May 12th, 2021 Warren County New Jersey Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to three bills (A-4843/S-3549 A-4844/S-3550 A-4845/S-3548) being considered by the New Jersey state legislature.   If passed, these bills would have a devastating effect on New Jersey public lands, for parcels whose size is as small as twenty five (25) acres.   These bills will mandate municipalities to obtain and implement "Forest Management Plans" (FMPs), similar to the one being considered for Roaring Rock Park in Washington Township.  These "plans", despite their benign sounding titles, are primarily commercial logging plans whose primary intent is to transform New Jersey public lands into large scale tree farms, and away from what should be their purpose: to preserve, protect and promote their natural resources and to provide recreational opportunities to residents.  

    The Warren County NJ resolution also acknowledges the short sighted wording of the current bills:

    1. these bills will essentially create new unfunded mandates, requiring compliance by local government to state law while not providing state funding to local municipalities to facilitate compliance, and remediation of the damage that will result from logging activities;
    2. examples of such remediation costs will include, but are not limited to, 
      1. replanting of harvested trees;
      2. removal of silt deposited in waterways, resulting from soil erosion and deposits from commercial logging machinery;
      3. restoration of fish and amphibian populations that will be diminished and killed off by silt pollution of streams and wetlands;
      4. increased control of invasive plant and insect species, both of which will expand their current footholds as the protective tree canopy disappears;
      5. increased control of browsing deer, who will target young tree saplings in a recovering forest for a food source;
      6. destruction of hiking foot paths that may exist on New Jersey public lands if they are to be widened as access roads for commercial logging machinery.
    3. adding insult to injury, these three bills will prohibit local governments, and their taxpayers, from influencing activities arising from FMPs (the same constituents who would be paying for the implementation!);
    4. it acknowledges the bills are primarily focused on commercial logging activities, not the retention, protection and promotion of the natural resources (trees, water and wildlife) that reside on New Jersey's public lands (the same resources that make the lands valuable in the first place!)

    We commend Warren County Commissioners for drafting and passing a well written resolution which acknowledges the ecological and recreational value of public lands and forests, and their positive effects on making Warren County a desirable place to live.    Warren County Commissioners are joining other municipal leaders across this state, such as Albert B. Kelly, mayor of Bridgeton, in recognizing these bills are short sighted and ill designed for New Jersey's municipalities.

    Below is an image of the adopted resolution.   We urge local New Jersey municipalities to consider adopting similar resolutions, especially if they have open public space greater than twenty five (25) acres.


    2021 Warren County NJ Resolution opposing Forest Management Plans Page 1
    2021 Warren County NJ Resolution opposing Forest Management Plans Page 2
    2021 Warren County NJ Resolution opposing Forest Management Plans Page 3
    https://blog.saveroaringrockpark.org/post/651443943653916672/warren-county-commissioners-unanimously-oppose

    Sunday, May 2, 2021

    Legislation threatens New Jersey public forests

    Brass Castle Creek, Roaring Rock Park, Washington Twsp, Warren County
    Brass Castle Creek, Roaring Rock Park,
    Washington Township, Warren County, New Jersey

    There are four bills proposed in the New Jersey Legislature (A-4843/S-3549 A-4844/S-3550 A-4845/S-3548 A-4846/S-3547) that would require all publicly owned forested land to be managed under the context of a "Forest Stewardship Plan", likely by a professional forestry logging contractor, in accordance with practices laid out in these four bills. My opinion is that these four bills are ill conceived, but for northern New Jersey there are two that are particularly onerous.

    The two that directly apply to northern New Jersey, A-4843/S-3549 and A-4844/S-3550, pertain to logging plans similar to the one created for Roaring Rock Park in Washington Township, Warren County. One of these bills mandates that all public property purchased with Green Acres funding and having a forested area of 25 acres or more must be subject to a forest stewardship plan. Green Acres open space is managed by state, county and municipal government as well as non-profits, which would all be required to hire foresters to create and carry out logging plans in forested areas.

    The second clause in the second bill (A-4844/S-3550) would prohibit county and municipal governments from passing any ordinances or other rules that would in some way prevent logging of public lands within their jurisdiction, and it would preclude county or municipal approval of forestry plans.   It essentially shuts out local oversight and influence on logging activities on public lands.

    The other two bills (A-4845/S-3548 and A-4846/S-3547) mainly affect the Pinelands in southern New Jersey. A-4845/S-3548 requires a certain amount of acreage in the Pinelands and elsewhere be burned every year and the other, A-4846/S-3547, requires a new government panel to facilitate these logging and burning plans.

    These bills will create these issues:

    1. These bills are primary commercial logging plans, written with the focus and intent to allow widescale tree harvesting with little to no accommodation to the preservation of the natural resources within the public forest land - trees, plants, wildlife and water resources.
    2. These bills make no clear accommodation to remediation of the forest if and when logging activities will cease. The forests will likely be left to recover on their own, since local and county governments will not be afforded funds to provide proactive recovery i.e. widescale tree planting.
    3. A-4843/S-3549 will not require post management restoration requirements to be established. Without these, non-native plant species will have new footholds for invasions. Ruts and overturned soils created by the new access roads and the dragging of heavy mechanized logging equipment across the forest floor, expose forest soils to wind-, animal-, and vehicle-born opportunistic invasive seeds. 
    4. One bill (A-4844/S-3550) will remove local oversight by county and municipal governments, by preventing them from passing local ordinances that would prevent the logging of public lands within their jurisdiction. 
    5. Furthermore, the removal of local oversight will prevent local municipalities, to the extent that they can, from influencing logging activities performed on private held land and under the guide of "forest management plans."   This will complicate the operations of municipal boards such as  Shade Tree Commissions and the ordinances under which they operate.
    6. These current bills amount to unfunded mandates to local and county governments, as it is unclear whether this legislation will provide funding to pay for the logging contractor costs, restoration of the forests after logging ceases, and remediation of environmental issues or damage caused by logging activities to the park itself or adjacent properties that will be left to the local governments to sort out.
    7. It is unclear who will bear the cost burden of remediation of environmental damage that will result from widescale logging, for example, polluted water resources (lakes, rivers).
    8. It is unclear what legal rights adjacent landowners will have to bring lawsuits against the logging contractors, local and state government if their property is damaged by this logging activity.

    If the Forest Management Plan being considered in Roaring Rock Park will be used as a template for all of the public forests within the State of New Jersey, then it is clear the New Jersey Legislature is facilitating the commercial, for profit harvesting of up to 1 million acres of publicly owned forested land. The focus of this plan is treating the public forests more as an expansive tree farm rather than its intended purpose - providing safe recreation experiences for residents and safe habitats for wildlife and native plant species to thrive.

    These bills, if enacted into law, will spell disaster for the continued health and vibrancy of New Jersey's forests. Citizens who use and value these forests - hikers, mountain bikers, fisherman, hunters, Boy and Girl Scouts, bird watchers (to name a few) should be alarmed that the public lands that they pay for maintenance with their tax dollars, will now be exploited by industry with unclear benefits back to the taxpayers (other than decimated public parkland).

    A common rebuttal point you will hear: "these are forests, with living trees, and living trees will grow back." This broad statement glosses over the challenges that will present themselves to forests. Once trees are cleared, more sunlight will enter the park. This will create a situation for the invasive plants to grow more aggressively, and stymie the new tree growth. A cleared forest will make it easier for deer to browse, and tree saplings make for easy food for hungry deer. Taken together, these two points will be significant impediments for a forest to recover.

    Concerned citizens should write their New Jersey Assembly and Senators (in Warren and Hunterdon counties:  Doherty, DiMaio, and Peterson) and ask them to oppose this legislation, the good of our forests, and to retain them as an enjoyable recreational resource for ourselves and for future generations.

    Monday, April 5, 2021

    Brass Castle Creek

    1. a C1 designated Wild Trout Stream;
    2. one of only 41 Wild Trout Stream segments managed by New Jersey Fish & Wildlife;
    3. has naturally reproducing populations of brown trout and brook trout.

    Concerns regarding the commercial logging plan:

    1. how close will logging be to this creek?
    2. will sediment and run off be deposited into the creek?
    3. will logging machinery traverse the creek?
    4. what impact will there be to the naturally reproducing trout in the creek?
    5. what impact will there be to the fishing stock?

    Saturday, March 20, 2021

    Washington Township halts commercial logging to reassess plan

    image

    On March 16th 2021, residents presented Washington Township Committee an open letter asking to halt the planned commercial logging activities inside the public forest until points, outlined in the letter, are addressed with full public oversight.

    On March 18th 2021, Washington Township posted a message on their website indicating they will reassess the logging plan, and halt commercial logging for the time being.

    Thank you to:

    1. The Washington Township Committee for granting the reassessment request;
    2. The group of determined and concerned citizens who petitioned their local officials;
    3. New Jersey Highlands Coalition for their expertise, knowledge and support !

    We look forward to keep our engagement up with the Township Committee to preserve and SAVE ROARING ROCK PARK !

    Wednesday, March 17, 2021

    Open Letter to Washington Township, Warren County, NJ

    image

    The following is an open letter, which was read into the public record during the March 16th 2021 Washington Township committee meeting.

    The open letter is signed by environmental organizations, Township residents and concerned citizens. The letter calls on Washington Township to halt the planned commercial logging activities on the public forest in 2021 until points, outlined in the letter, are addressed with full public oversight.

    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

    Wednesday, March 10, 2021

    Roaring Rock Park logging plan needs to be stopped

    By Laura Oltman

    Roaring Rock Park Washington Township Warren County New Jersey

    The March 5, 2021 article regarding logging of Roaring Rock Park in Washington Township accurately portrayed some key points made during the special meeting on the logging plan held by the township committee. The forester who created the park logging plan spoke at length about it. A forest ecology professor from Drew University debated the alleged ecological benefit of logging a forest. I am not an expert in biology or forestry and won’t speak to these topics, but I have read the forestry plan and I know what it says. In the public record of discussion about the park and in the forestry plan itself, the clearly stated goal of logging is to sell wood products. The forestry firm will earn 20% plus fees from the harvest and a logging company will be paid to carry out logging.

    The most important topic concerning Roaring Rock Park is government turning over public trust resources of the park to private interests for financial gain without conducting a stakeholder process or otherwise notifying the public in advance of a plan to significantly damage the character and natural resources of this woodland park. The park was purchased with taxpayer dollars through the New Jersey Green Acres program. It belongs to every resident of New Jersey. Commercial logging in publicly owned parks is a perfect example of privatizing gains while socializing losses. As an expert taxpayer, I can say this is a raw deal.

    Roaring Rock Park Washington Township New Jersey

    Volunteers in Washington Township built a network of woodland hiking trails in the park. The Warren Highlands Trail, a 52-mile long spur of the long-distance Highlands Trail extending from New York to Pennsylvania, traverses Roaring Rock Park. Brass Castle Creek, which runs through the park, is designated by New Jersey Fish and Wildlife as a Wild Trout Stream due to its naturally reproducing brook trout population. Brook trout is the only native New Jersey trout species.

    How much will people enjoy hiking on rutted logging roads while listening to chainsaws and trucks in the woods? Will it be safe for kids to be in the park when logging is going on? Will there be any native brook trout able to survive in Brass Castle Creek after it is silted from vehicles driving through it and erosion from logged hillsides pouring into it? What will happen to neighboring properties when stormwater is no longer absorbed by tree roots and cascades unimpeded down steep slopes onto their property?

    Roaring Rock Park Logging Plan is a raw deal

    The forestry plan describes these and other problems likely to require remediation but there is no specific plan or cost estimate for accomplishing it. There is no guarantee that reforestation would work because of deer browse and invasion of non-native plants. It is extremely difficult and expensive to battle deer browse and weeds, as any homeowner can tell you. The forest as it is now took 100 years or more to develop. Park users will not see this forest again in their lifetimes.

    Who will fix things after logging? There is no “after”. Forestry is a long game. The current logging plan lasts 10 years, but the goal is creating an ideally stocked forest of the largest and most valuable trees for continual harvest.

    This is not what New Jersey taxpayers wanted or paid for with Green Acres funding. It is wrong and needs to stop now.


    Laura Oltman is a member of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition Natural Heritage Committee. She lives in Phillipsburg.
    Source: LehighValleyLive.com Opinion

    Tuesday, February 23, 2021

    WRNJ Interview with Julia M. Somers regarding Roaring Rock Park


    Are you looking for more information regarding the Roaring Rock Park logging plan?

    The following two audio recordings were taken at WRNJ radio station, Hackettstown NJ.  In the recordings Julia M. Somers, Executive Director, New Jersey Highlands Coalition, outlines the impacts of the proposed logging plan for Roaring Rock Park, Washington Township, Warren County NJ. The original airing was Thursday morning February 18 2021.


    Recording #1




    Recording #2




    Why the Roaring Rock Park Forest Management Plan Should Not be Implemented

    image

    Context:

    Roaring Rock Park, Washington Township’s beautiful natural public park in Warren County New Jersey, reflects a local story about the loud roar that can be heard as the water of Brass Castle Creek rushes past certain boulders during periods of very high water. The land for this park, which covers a few hundred acres, is set aside for passive use, including hiking and picnicking. Fishing is allowed in the creek, which is stocked with trout.

    In 2020, the Township government passed a resolution #2020-110 which called for a “Forest Management Plan” to be developed. The resolution signaled the intent of the Township government to hire a professional logging firm to selectively harvest the trees within the public park over a ten year period. The resolution also indicated the Township would share in the revenue of the timber harvest. Note that this park was acquired by the Township in the 1999 for preservation using New Jersey Green Acre Funding. This is noted on the Township government’s web site.

    The New Jersey Highlands Coalition reviewed the Forest Management Plan, and has stated their concerns about the environmental impacts to the public forest.

    Sara Webb, Ph. D., Professor emeritus of Biology, Drew University, has reviewed the Plan and identified impacts to the ecology of the public forest.

    image

    Sara Webb, Ph.D., Forest Ecologist
    Professor emeritus of Biology, Drew University
    swebb@drew.edu
    February 21, 2021

    The proposed Forest Management Plan for Roaring Rock Park would damage the region’s quality of life, wildlife, and the environment. The plan provides a comprehensive description of the Park’s forests, but it is a logging-focused plan with negative consequences. It proposes to log 260 acres of forest (40% of a square mile), counting both large timber trees and cords of mid-sized firewood. This plan of action carries costs that might well offset any gains from timber sales. It thus should not be implemented.

    The plan does not detail what sort of revenue might be possible, and serious questions must be asked about this, particularly because of expenses that the Township will face after logging: to plant trees, control invasive species, restore trails, and the losses of key ecosystems services.

    All should recognize, however, that this plan is a simply a logging plan. Thousands of large trees will be lost. The wood will be hauled away, with its lost value as habitat, carbon sequestration, and soil replenishment. The impacts will be enormous. Damage from logging will be considerable and costly to repair.

    Often today such plans are presented as “management” or “stewardship” plans, because as foresters tell me that “logging” sounds so negative. Often these plans assume incorrectly that New Jersey’s forests must be managed to be healthy: to be thinned and cut down for maintenance. We often hear incorrectly that all our trees are the same age, unhealthy, or low in diversity. These assumptions are true at Roaring Rock Park. However, all should recognize that tree harvest and log removal is at the heart of this plan. If our goals were biodiversity and forest health, we should instead manage deer and invasive species, not extract living healthy mature trees.

    THIS PLAN IS UNWISE BECAUSE:

    1. The Plan calls for cutting down large swaths of forest from Roaring Rock Park, clearing 260 acres (40% of a square mile).
    2. The Plan would cut down 3,500-14,800 trees over the next ten years, some 40% of them very large trees with 60% mid-sized firewood trees.
    3. The Plan would convert walking trails through the woods into wide logging roadways for logging equipment, cutting into the forest on either side, exposing soil to erosion, especially where the roads are on steep slopes, and to invasive plants. Even if restored sufficiently for use as trails, they will pass through a very changed, cleared landscape which will look very different from the perspective of trail users drawn to using the park.
    4. Logging management beyond the roads also would increase soil erosion, increase stormwater runoff and flooding, and decrease groundwater recharge. These problems will be even most severe where logging is planned on Roaring Rock’s steep terrain.
    5. Truck traffic would be heavy on local roads, to transport heavy machinery and logs.
    6. Water quality is at risk in at least one trout stocked C1 creek: Brass Castle Creek. Water quality in other locations could suffer. Increased runoff would cause more flooding and more seasonal dips in surface and groundwater supplies.
    7. Habitat and wildlife of natural forests would be greatly harmed, except for deer which would increase. Our region has much open land and plenty of young brushy woods, but little intact mature forest as required by many of our birds, from owls to woodpeckers. Wetlands within the Park are critical habitats also at risk from logging activities. Saying that Best Management Practices will be followed is no guarantee of minimizing damage.
    8. Invasive species, as the plan explains, are already established at proposed logging areas. They will take over completely wherever the canopy is opened through logging. Roaring Rock would see increased threats from in tree-strangling invasive vines and other invaders that outcompete native wildflowers and young trees. Controlling invasive species is difficult, labor intensive, and often dependent on pesticides. Prevention is best, by maintaining the intact forest canopy cover.
    9. Logging thus accelerates the steep decline of forest ecosystems by promoting the combination of invasive species and high deer populations.
    10. With abundant deer and invasive plants, it is very difficult to get forest back after logging. Any natural regeneration is heavily browsed. Planting enough new trees is expensive and they too are devoured by deer. New trees need watering to get established, a logistical challenge on the scale of this logging plan. Ultimately, we must recognize that a future forest simply might not take hold.

    Another reason to reject this plan is that climate resilience is greatly harmed when the largest marketable trees are lost. The latest science shows our oldest trees and most intact maturing forests both store and take up the greatest amount of carbon from the air.

    COSTS TO THE TOWNSHIP

    After logging, there will be major expenses for the Township. We must recognize the limited role of foresters. It is not the role of the Forest Management Plan to take care of or pay for problems that logging will cause; to its credit, this Plan does explain most of the post-logging work that must be done (by others).

    It is expensive to replace lost trees and keep the land forested. Even with great effort and investment, it can be impossible to restore forests, because of deer and invasive species. Costs include the purchase and the planting of new trees of sufficient size to survive, the challenge of watering them, and the cost of somehow protecting new trees from deer and invasive plants. Effective deer fencing [10’] and its maintenance as well as herbicides are extremely expensive.

    To restore trails from widened logging roadways is also costly and will require extra effort to control invasive plants.

    It is also costly and difficult to manage increased storm water runoff, to minimize erosion of bared and disturbed soil, to plan for greater flooding and to grapple with more widely fluctuating water supplies.

    The ecologists of the state agree that forest management by logging is not appropriate for northern New Jersey’s natural parks and conservation lands, because of all of these challenges and because intact maturing forests are quite uncommon. Such established forests like those of Roaring Rock provide ecosystem services of many types that should not be squandered lightly. This logging-focused forest management plan is not appropriate.

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