Friday, July 13, 2018

NJDEP says: We can't spot the fire from the forest




Observation deck on the fire tower in Bass River State Forest (NJDEP)




















David Levinsky reports for the Burlington County Times:


The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is seeking Pinelands Commission approval to clear just over 16 acres of trees from around an 86-foot tall fire tower, which is being obstructed by trees planted in Bass River in the 1930s.
BASS RIVER — The next big decision by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission surrounds firefighters’ inability to see the forest for the trees.
White pines and some other non-native trees planted in Bass River in the 1930s have grown over 90 feet high and are now impeding the view from the Bass River State Forest fire tower. The obstruction prompted the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to seek Pinelands Commission approval to clear just over 16 acres of trees from around the 86-foot tall fire tower, which is used by the state Forest Fire Service to spot smoke from the start of forest fires and to report on conditions to firefighters on the ground.
But while the state has proposed replacing the trees with native species that won’t grow as high, the proposal has generated opposition from area residents upset about the potential loss of trees near a popular trail through the forest. They argue a better solution is for the state to replace the almost 80-year-old structure with a newer, taller tower or that more advanced technology such as drones and cameras be deployed to monitor the forest and detect fires.
There are also historical concerns since some of the trees were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-era New Deal recovery program. The CCC employed thousands of out-of-work men and is credited with building many trails, bridges, and roads in New Jersey, as well as numerous park projects such as the fire tower.
The full 15-member commission, which is charged with overseeing development and land use within the million-acre Pinelands, is expected to vote on the application during Friday’s meeting.
It could become a lively one, although public comment on the project has officially closed. Nearly a dozen people spoke about the project during last month’s June 8 commission meeting, and the commission also received 31 written comments, with the vast majority opposing the proposed tree harvesting. 

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