Sparta Mountain Plan is Going Forward
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife are going to resume cutting activities on Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Stand 33. NJDFW will begin cutting on or about November 27, 2018 for about two weeks and again before April 1, 2019. The “treatment” will be to selectively take out either single trees or small groups to “mimic gap-phase replacement,” according to the final forestry plan for the wildlife management area. No heavy machinery or chemicals will be used, and none of the cut trees will be removed or sold.
“The DEP is still moving forward with the logging plan for Sparta Mountain. They will start in a month but the plan has not changed. Their plan is to cut up to 700 acres. This is the first phase that is limited but the DEP can expand it under the guise of protecting one bird. The Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area is an environmentally sensitive green-way in the Highlands region whose canopy protects the clean drinking water for 6 million people. This mountain belongs to all of us and not to private loggers,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Last spring when the DEP put the plan on hold, it was a step in the right direction. Now it’s back! The DEP delayed the plan to diffuse public opposition and went forward with it anyway.”
Stand 33 represents approximately 17 acres will be managed to accelerate the development of old growth forest characteristics through a process known as “gap-phase replacement”. Through the creation of small canopy gaps and growth of younger cohorts of shade-tolerant trees, this stand will contain three or more age classes at any given time. Specifically, about 25% of the existing tree density will be cut or girdled (left as a standing dead tree) with chainsaws or hatchets.
“This phase sounds better than what the department has been doing in terms of not using pesticides and removing older trees however it doesn’t mean they can do that in another phase. This means parts of Sparta Mountain Wildlife Area is at risk for logging If they DEP really wanted to do a proper management plan, they should do smaller cuts rather than 17 acres in one cut. By cutting, they will change the soil and disrupt the habitats in the area,” said Tittel. IThe department is releasing publicity on a better phase while they can still move forward on their destructive plan later on to clear cut in Sparta Mountain WM.”
The “treatment” will be to selectively take out either single trees or small groups to “mimic gap-phase replacement,” according to the final forestry plan for the wildlife management area. DEP believes it would provide breeding and/or foraging habitat for more than 60 different bird species, including the endangered Golden-winged Warbler.
“This plan is a clear cut violation of the reason we passed the Highlands Act which protects canopy forest. The DEP is violating that by using the Golden Warbler habitat as a rationalization to clear-cut an environmentally sensitive forest in the Highlands. There are 75 different species of neo-tropical song birds that would be impacted by logging on Sparta Mountain plan, in addition to harming threatened and endangered Bat species,” said Tittel. “This plan does not have any rules or enforcement in place for commercial loggers. That means there is no penalty if they clear cut important forest canopy, clear cut, run skidders through streams and do a lot of damage because there is no mechanism for enforcement.”
The plan was originally halted in March pending a review of that plan within the Department of Environmental Protection. The two Sparta Mountain WMA areas slated for forestry work are Stand 18, where about 18.5 acres of work will be done, and Stand 33, with about 17 acres of work.
“It is critical that that the NJDFW makes sure these cuts in Sparta Mountain are done with proper enforcement to protect the wildlife there. These forests in Sparta Mountain were bought for all of us to protect the environment, preserve habitat for important wildlife species, and safeguard clean water,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “NJDFW’s new plan is better but we need to see Sparta Mountain Protected instead positive press releases on it.”