Three Pieces Of Good News
Pat Sziber

The environmental community celebrates the signing of three important documents in mid-January.

First, the Forest Stewardship Act was signed into law by outgoing Governor Jon Corzine on the 19th. Conservationists have pressed for the legislation for years. The law allows owners of five acres or more to be eligible for reduced property tax assessments if they have an approved plan for managing their woodlands for forest health and sustainability. Formerly, in order to qualify for farmland assessment, landowners had to generate income from their woodlands by cutting trees and selling the product for timber and firewood. So-called "forest management plan" often resulted in removal of "junk" trees such as red maples to encourage growth of more desirable timber trees. It often resulted in the cutting of all but a few preferred high-value "seed" trees such as red oak. The result was sometimes a denuded landscape with little or no ecological value. This new law will encourage foresters and landowners to work together to preserve real forest health by removing invasive plants, restoring endangered species habitat and erecting deer fencing to allow regeneration of the forest structure.

On that same day, Governor Corzine signed into law a bill that will regulate the operation of snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes by requiring that a registration number be displayed, increasing registration fees, establishing fines up to $1,000 for violations and providing for impoundment for offenses. A fee for dirt bikes is new. The law includes a compromise amendment that requires, within three years of enactment, that three sites for use of these vehicles be designated on state-owned land, one each in the southern, central and northern parts of the state. Registration fee increases would expire if substantial progress has not been made in making the three sites available in three years. The amendment provides for a preference for locations of the sites on lands that are not state parks, state forests, wildlife management areas or reservoir lands. Many in the environmental community are not at all pleased with this amendment.

And, finally, on January 19, the 340-acre St. Michaelís property near Hopewell Borough, previously owned by the Diocese of Trenton, was permanently preserved as open space and farmland. This is the most significant preservation event in our area since Baldpate Mountain was purchased in 1998. The complex deal, which was six years in the works, was accomplished thanks to the hard work of Delaware & Raritan Greenway Land Trust and to the many public and private contributors who made the $11 million acquisition possible. In early February, WCAS volunteers began collecting bird census data which can be incorporated into a management plan for the property.




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Last revision: Sunday, February 21, 2010