Thursday, January 23, 2014

NJ Gov. Christie vetoes bill to limit forest fire impacts

Forests-Prescribed Burns

Legislation designed to lessen the size of forest fires through controlled burns of underbrush on forest floors has been pocket vetoed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

was one of some 100 bills signed or pocket vetoed by the governor on Jan. 21.
The Governor's Office provide no explanation for the veto.

Lawmakers passed a bill last week that promotes more prescribed burning in the state. That technique, largely carried out by the state, intentionally sets small areas of forest floor ablaze to burn the dead leaves, branches, grass, and pine cones that could fuel a major forest fire if one broke out.
"The risk we face in terms of catastrophic wildfires in New Jersey is in large part due to the fact that we have long suppressed fire," said Kelly Mooij, an official with the New Jersey Audubon Society. "Fire is a normal and necessary process in our forests, particularly in the Pinelands."
She said that being too restrictive of fire prevents important ecological functions on which some plants and wildlife, such as those that dominate the Pinelands, depend. Fire stimulates new growth, coaxing some pine cones to release their seeds. It opens up gaps in forest canopies to help species on the ground and clears sandy areas that provide a home to the pine snake.

Jaclyn Rhoads, assistant executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, said the state does not carry out enough prescribed burns, due to staffing, funding, and other concerns.

"The restrictive approach to prescribed fires in New Jersey means very little forest gets burned, which does not provide sufficient protection for nearby residents, and the way it gets burned does not serve the ecological functions needed to reproduce the effects of wildfires," she said. "Furthermore, private landowners are hesitant to contract prescribed burns on their properties due to insurance requirements. This piece of legislation helps to address these issues and gets us closer to where we need to be."

Related environmental news stories:
Prescribed burning bill clears NJ Assembly committee (Story and video)
Fort Benning conducting controlled burning Jan. 22
Santa Fe NF Prescribed Burn Update for 1/21/2014


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