Governor’s Veto Would Damage New Jersey’s Forests
By Michele S. Byers
Colonists arriving in the New World found vast primeval forests filled with centuries-old trees. But by the end of the Civil War, nearly all virgin forests in New Jersey had been cleared for timber, charcoal, mining, glassmaking, or agriculture. Photos and surveys of New Jersey landscapes from the late 1800s reveal young hillside thickets, pastures, and fields, with hardly any old forests in sight.
In the last 100 years after iron, glass, and charcoal production ceased and New Jersey became less agricultural, forests recovered. Hundreds of thousands of regenerated forest acres have been permanently preserved and are now public land – our extensive state park, forest, and wildlife management area system.
As these forests mature, forestry projects are becoming more profitable. At the same time, the state Department of Environmental Protection has never had fewer resources to devote to sound land management planning. Our public land managers are looking for ways to fund management and stewardship of the forests. In 2010, the Legislature introduced the “Forest Harvest Bill,” which directed the state to create a forest harvest demonstration project for state-owned lands to generate funds from our forests which could be used to pay for land management. This approach could work if the forestry projects are done only for essential and critical habitat goals, and if the plans are based on restoration science and address current threats that limit success.
But since the bill lacked strong standards for natural resource protection and did not require early public involvement or notice, many conservation groups opposed it. Today’s forests recover very poorly from forestry due to overgrazing by deer, and invasive species proliferation. Without advance planning to address a broad range of ecological concerns, including rare plant conservation and deer and invasive species control, along with public input on trails and natural areas, standard forestry projects would do more harm than good to our public lands.
In fact, the state’s proposals to conduct forestry in our maturing forests are creating conflicts with rare plants, animals, and other natural resources – precisely because there are no standards or adequate opportunities for public comment. These problems are certain to increase in coming years. As large trees become more valuable for wood products and the pressure to log them increases, rigorous standards are needed to ensure the protection of rare species, unique habitats, and road-free mature forests that house forest interior species.
During the last year, with much negotiation, a compromise was achieved. A requirement for independent certification of New Jersey DEP forestry projects by the independent Forest Stewardship Council was inserted in the bill. This third party certification would require public input into forestry plans, baseline inventories of plants and animals, and methods to address deer and invasive species controls. This compromise was the key to securing the support of many conservation organizations that originally opposed the bill.
The Forest Stewardship Council – better known as FSC – is a global nonprofit organization that sets rigorous standards for responsible forest management to ensure that logging doesn’t harm biological diversity, water resources, soils or fragile ecosystems. The FSC logo on wood and paper products shows that they come from responsible sources. This is not a new program, but is well established and used by many states, including Maryland and Pennsylvania on their publicly owned forest lands.
But despite all of the effort that went into the compromise bill, now called the “Healthy Forests Act,” Gov. Christie removed the FSC certification and requirements through a conditional veto. This was the one key element that enabled the bill’s support by a broad coalition and approval by the state legislature.
Unfortunately, the governor’s action eliminated the essential elements needed to protect our public forests. The so-called “Healthy Forests Act” is now a threat to the health of our public lands. The Legislature should reject it.
Please urge the bill sponsors, Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, and Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex and Morris, to reject the governor’s version of this bill. To contact them, go to www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/abcroster.asp.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Turning the Tide on Childhood Obesity
By Janey Thornton
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, I am on a mission to make sure all of our nation’s children have the best possible chance at a healthy life and a bright future.
So, I’m very encouraged by some recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The rate of obesity among low-income preschool children appears to be declining for the first time in decades.
The declining rates show that our collective efforts – at the federal, state and community level – are helping to gain ground on childhood obesity, particularly among some of the more vulnerable populations in our country. Low-income children are often at a big disadvantage when it comes to getting the food they need to grow up healthy and strong, which is why the nutrition programs and resources available through USDA are so vital.
Programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children program) – with its new, healthier food package offerings for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children, including more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains – and the Child and Adult Care Food Program – with its increasing emphasis on nutrition and physical activity for young children – are making a difference in the lives of millions of children.
Our efforts don’t stop there. School-age children are now getting healthier and more nutritious school meals and snacks, thanks to the support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and historic changes implemented under the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. We’re supporting healthy, local foods in schools through our Farm to School grant program, and we’re improving access to fresh produce and healthy foods for children and families that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
So what can you do to make a change in your home and community? Parents and caregivers can use educational materials like “Healthy Eating for Preschoolers” and “Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children” to help teach young children healthy habits from the start. Teachers, principals and school food-service professionals can use nutrition education materials like the Great Garden Detective curriculum provided through Team Nutrition to motivate older children to eat healthy and try new foods. Kids can explore MyPlate Kids Place and take the MyPlate Pledge to commit to making healthy food choices at school and at home. And parents, teachers, and kids alike can get active and learn about healthy foods with Let’s Move! in school, at home and in their communities.
Don’t get me wrong – we still have a long way to go before America’s childhood obesity epidemic is a thing of the past. Far too many – 1 out of every 8 – preschoolers are still obese. Unfortunately, obesity in these early childhood years sets the perfect stage for serious health problems throughout the entire lifespan.
We at USDA are proud of our ongoing efforts to ensure the health of America’s next generation, and we know that, combined with your efforts at home, we are beginning to see real results in the fight against early childhood obesity.
Dr. Janey Thornton serves as USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services deputy under secretary. Before coming to USDA, Thornton served as school nutrition director for Hardin County Schools in Elizabethtown, Ky., and served as president of the 55,000-member School Nutrition Association during the 2006-2007 school year.
Two River Moment
It was an all-male affair during a gathering at the Independent Fire Company in Red Bank in 1953.