Woodcutters and Conservationists at Loggerheads Over Forest Bill


By Desiree Taylor

A bill that would allow private timber harvesting companies to chop and sell wood on 800,000 acres of state-owned land is sparking heated debate from forest scientists, conservationists, and private foresters.

Under the bill, the state would hire a private contractor to oversee the five-year forest harvest management program.

Forester Doug Tavella supports the bill because he says harvesting or cutting down trees in dense forests will help to regenerate them. He says overcrowded forests are prone to fires and they’re more susceptible to insect attacks and disease.

But Emile DeVito, from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, paints a much different picture. He says the forests aren’t losing habitat because there are too many trees. The real threats, he says, are deer and invasive species and the bill doesn’t address those concerns. He and other opponents also question if the proposed forest management program will be revenue driven because of the potential to make money from the sale of the wood products. But the legislation requires the proceeds to be deposited into a dedicated account within the State Department of Environmental Protection which would be used to help pay for the program.

Sensitive ecological areas would, in most cases, be protected from forest harvesting activities. Any work done in the Highlands would have to comply with all provisions of the Water Protection and Planning Act. And Tavella points out that timber harvesters will be required to follow strict harvesting standards.

A host of different stakeholders have taken sides on this issue. Dozens of academics, biologists, and forest scientists have spoken out against the bill. But supporters have been equally vocal. They include the New Jersey Farm Bureau, the New Jersey Audubon Society, and the New Jersey Forestry Association.


If the bill is approved, forest management plans would be presented in public hearings before being implemented.

  • Rosina Van Strien

    I can’t imagine why NJ Audubon has sold out to the industry that also destroys the groundwater retention by removing larger trees and killing the retention root systems. I suggest that their donor lists be looked into. I certainly will no longer contribute to Audubon if they are now in the business of supporting private interests. The jobs which would be created locally would be minimal and short-term. We wind up with little diversity and a damaged ecology for this administrations profit. As New Jerseys people are sold out to the highest bidder under this present administration, I hold citizens responsible for the habit they were entrusted to protect by demanding that they fight for their State treasures. We should not be handing over diversity to a ‘bully’ administration’s indifference to the health and welfare of it’s people. We all should know about loopholes in protection for collected monies not to be used for other purposes. On the other hand, large growth cutting would improve the ‘deer habitat’. I the idea to create more understory for them to eat? In these protected areas, roads would need to be constructed, which leads in longterm to more development by special interests as the Governor sells off the state. This isn’t even piece by piece. This a small State and the areas earmarked for plunder are invaluable as they are. The folks who donated and dedicated never meant for this to happen. What will the deforesters want when all the hardwoods are gone?
    I am sicked by the indifference and greed!
    Rosina Van Strien

    • zipper

      As a former Jerseyite(perhaps you remember), I would not want to see valuable woodlands destroyed. On the other hand, unless you know the details of the proposed logging plan, you cannot make an informed choice as to whether it would be done responsibly, and hence, be of benefit. Mr. Tavella makes a good point. Limited and selective removal can be beneficial. I think you are jumping to conclusions when you talk about “deforesters” and removing “all the hardwoods.”(actually, they most likely are more interested in softwood species, as they’re more commercially valuable)