Monday, January 30, 2012

Written Testimony: Presented to the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee

Susan Russell, Wildlife Policy Specialist
League of Humane Voters of New Jersey, Animal Protection League of New Jersey

January 30, 2012

Thank you for the opportunity to provide written testimony related to S1085, an act to permit commercial timbering on state-owned lands, with certain exemptions.

A disputed tenet of the legislation is that commercial timbering operations will essentially replace or mimic natural and/or historical human disturbance – and prudent, non-commercial stewardship.  Its proponents claim that contract logging is necessary to ensure the continued health and biodiversity of New Jersey’s public forests.

Our state forests should remain off-limits to commercial logging interests.  S 1085 and similar legislation and/or policy in other states coincide with the growing economic value of re-growth stands, and relatively recent national and state commercial-conservation partnerships and coalitions.

Natural disturbances – wind and ice storms – create openings over time. Natural events, augmented if and when necessary through non-commercial stewardship, should suffice.

S1085 sets in stark relief our state’s incoherent white-tailed deer policy (and beaver policy:  beavers create natural forest disturbance, yet are trapped for fur) and commercial-conservation coalitions that too frequently transmute closed arrangements into public policy.

Not least among the legislation’s consequences:  a stimulation of white-tailed deer reproduction and a possible increase in predation on forest-interior birds. New Jersey Audubon, a principal advocate of the legislation, simultaneously works for the systemic destruction of deer and hunter-partner access to protect “forest systems” and forest-interior birds, and classic enhancement of deer breeding range.

The resultant deer are expendable, justify even greater hunter access, and are dispatched under vague, stewardship nostrums. Ethical and humane imperatives remain unaddressed.  On S 1085, New Jersey Audubon writes:
“Deer herbivory [a direct result of commercial timbering promoted in S1085] and invasive species are two of the challenges that will always be a concern in New Jersey but, recognized as such, can be addressed in a quality forest stewardship plan before practice implementation begins.”
Translation:  Last session’s S2649, which would have expanded depredation practices to lands under the Forest Stewardship or Woodland Management Plans.

The practices included poaching and banned marketing hunting practices long considered unethical, unsporting, and unsafe:
New Jersey Senate Bill 2649 permits killing animals at point-blank range over food, with “a firearm or weapon of any kind,” to “kill, destroy, injure, shoot, shoot at, take, wound, or attempt to take, kill, or wound, a deer, or have in possession or control any firearm or other weapon of any kind for such purposes.” Participants may “utilize an illuminating device or devices, including but not limited to a spotlight, flashlight, floodlight, or headlight, whether portable or fixed to a motor vehicle or any other kind of vehicle, to locate and stun deer,” and shoot from vehicles.
The national Teaming with Wildlife (TWW) Steering Committee  includes all facets of the shooting industry, including ATK Ammunition Systems and the Archery Trade Association (“nature related businesses). New Jersey Audubon is the TWW co-director. The New Jersey Forestry Association is a member.

Working with the Legislature, the animal protection community has obtained several landmark wildlife protection laws, among New Jersey’s statutes banning steel-jaw leghold traps and the importation of wild-caught, exotic birds for the pet trade. National and state humane organizations represent the interests of well over 700,000 of New Jersey voters. We appreciate this opportunity to comment on legislation affecting wildlife and wildlands held in trust for all citizens. The chasm between commercial timbering contracts, the potential for abuse,  and bona fide stewardship in state forests is wide. We urge the committee to act accordingly.