Senator BOB SMITH
District 17 (Middlesex and Somerset)
Provides that municipal approval is not required for forest stewardship plans.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning the approval of forest stewardship plans and amending P.L.2009, c.256.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 3 of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-31) is amended to read as follows:
3. a. The department shall establish a forest stewardship program under which an owner, in conjunction with a forester or other professional selected by the owner from a list of foresters approved by the department, or from a list of other professionals authorized by the department in consultation with the forest stewardship advisory committee established pursuant to section 8 of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-36), may prepare a forest stewardship plan for land, five acres or greater in area, submit the plan to the department for approval, and implement the plan as approved, or as subsequently amended with the approval of the department.
A forest stewardship plan, at a minimum, shall:
(1) conform with the rules and regulations adopted pursuant to section 8 of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-36) designed to ensure the sustainability of forest lands;
(2) list the owner's long term stewardship goals for the forest land; and, for each year that the plan applies, list the activities to be implemented that year, including the activities designed to ensure the sustainability of the forest land as well as activities designed to eliminate excessive and unnecessary cutting, and provide the rationale for each activity listed; and
(3) establish the monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting necessary to document implementation of the forest stewardship plan, including documentation of activities and inspections performed.
Notwithstanding the provisions of section 6 of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-34), a forest stewardship plan submitted for land in the pinelands area shall comply with the standards of the comprehensive management plan for the pinelands area adopted pursuant to P.L.1979, c.111 (C.13:18A-1 et seq.) , except that local government approval of a forest stewardship plan shall not be required.
b. The department may elect to inspect the forest land, prior to determining whether to approve a forest stewardship plan, in order to assess the appropriateness and sufficiency of the proposed plan.
After the department approves a forest stewardship plan, the forest land shall be subject to inspection by the department during one of the first three years following approval and at least once every three years following the first inspection.
c. A forest stewardship plan shall be valid for a period of 10 years, unless sooner terminated by the owner or revoked by the department. To continue, without interruption, participation in the forest stewardship program, an owner shall prepare a new or revised forest stewardship plan pursuant to subsection a. of this section and, in accordance with procedures established by the department, obtain the department's approval of the new or revised forest stewardship plan prior to the expiration date of the current forest stewardship plan.
d. A forest stewardship plan approved pursuant to this section shall be considered to be a woodland management plan pursuant to section 3 of the "Farmland Assessment Act of 1964," P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.3) when the approved forest stewardship plan is submitted as part of an application for valuation, assessment and taxation pursuant to the "Farmland Assessment Act of 1964," P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.).
(cf: P.L.2009, c.256, s.3)
2. Section 6 of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-34) is amended to read as follows:
6. No local government unit may enact, on or after the date of enactment of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-29 et al.), any ordinance, rule, or resolution, as appropriate, that requires local government approval of a forest stewardship plan or that conflicts with, prevents, or impedes the implementation of a forest stewardship plan approved pursuant to section 3 of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-31) , or impose a fee in excess of $100 in any calendar year for the cutting of trees on any land that is the subject of an approved forest stewardship plan. The provisions of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-29 et al.) supersede any such ordinance, rule, or resolution, as appropriate, enacted or adopted on or prior to the date of enactment of [P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-29 et al.)] P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).
(cf: P.L.2009, c.256, s.6)
3. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would provide that local government approval is not required for a forest stewardship plan.
Under current law, a person who prepares a forest stewardship plan pursuant to P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-29 et seq.) is required to work with an approved forester or other professional, and obtain the approval of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Additionally, under the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), a landowner who prepares a forest stewardship plan for land in the pinelands area must also obtain the approval of the Pinelands Commission and the municipality in which the forested land is located.
This multi-tiered review process is unduly burdensome for landowners, and adds cost and time delays to forest stewardship projects without adding any clear environmental benefits. Additionally, most municipal governments do not have the time, resources, or expertise to review and approve a forest stewardship plan, and so these plans can be held up in the municipal permitting process. Forest stewardship plans are already required to be approved by the DEP and, if applicable, the Pinelands Commission, to ensure compliance with appropriate forestry standards.
The bill would prohibit a local government unit from enacting any ordinance, rule, or resolution that requires local government approval of a forest stewardship plan. The bill would also provide that the provisions of P.L.2009, c.256 (C.13:1L-29 et seq.) would supersede any municipal ordinance adopted prior to the effective date of this bill. Finally, the bill would provide that, notwithstanding the requirement in the law that a forest stewardship plan in the Pinelands comply with the CMP, local government approval of a forest stewardship plan is not required. This bill would streamline the review process for forest stewardship plans, while maintaining appropriate environmental protections.