January 26, 2021
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–With the goal of encouraging greater coordination and cooperation between government entities and private landowners, the Assembly Agriculture Committee released Assemblyman Ron Dancer’s bill creating a Pinelands Forest Stewardship Working Group.
“Responsible forest stewardship protects natural resources and contributes to healthy and resilient landscapes while considering the economic benefits for future generations,” explained Dancer (R-Ocean). “New Jersey’s vast pinelands include both public and private lands. Better coordination between all parties will greatly enhance our ability to effectively manage and preserve this valuable natural asset.”
New Jersey’s pinelands cover 1.1 million acres and encompass portions of seven counties. There are parks, dense forests, wildlife refuges and military bases on the public portion, and 56 communities and nearly a half million residents on private pinelands land.
“The pinelands are much more than trees – we have miles of blueberry fields and cranberry bogs that help support jobs in rural communities, and picturesque parks and waterways that serve as prime recreational destinations for families,” said Dancer. “Sound stewardship practices sustain local economies, help people recover from fires, and maintain the beauty of the pinelands.”
Dancer’s bill (A4846) would establish a working group in the Department of Environmental Protection that consists of 14 members representing government entities, nonprofits, private landowners and foresters. A year after organizing, the group would submit a report to the governor and Legislature with its findings and recommendations on how to improve and enhance coordination to promote greater forest stewardship in the pinelands.
Dancer has been a leading voice on forest stewardship, having ushered through the Legislature the 2018 “Prescribed Burn Act” (P.L.2018, c.107) to authorize and promote the use of prescribed burning to protect people and wildlife from out-of-control forest fires.