Home & Garden

Community Comes Out to Council Meeting to Discuss Sparta Mountain Forest Plan

bd8516760c517e478064_IMG_1509.JPG
Susan Williams addressed the township council on behalf of NJ Sierra Club Credits: Jennifer Dericks
4d4663ff210a5649377e_IMG_1511.JPG
Christine Quinn Sparta Township Mayor Credits: Jennifer Dericks
415978f1d12f0b9eb81f_IMG_1512.JPG
William Close Sparta Township Manager Credits: Jennifer Dericks
43b72aadb18b5ebe7d21_IMG_1514.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
2b96d658eaea4d4795c4_IMG_1516.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
b6440f8cc0e80b31ff92_IMG_1519.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
9508ea8306de6605aad7_IMG_1522.JPG
John Cecil Vice President for Stewardship at NJ Audubon Credits: Jennifer Dericks
0cbfcc57d237afb268c9_IMG_1526.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
10c00a6505d33e93453c_IMG_1529.JPG
Silvia Opresnick Glen Forest resident Credits: Jennifer Dericks
0d7d43335ca0ef776320_IMG_1531.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
d6d2b670c6720e06237f_IMG_1535.JPG
Blain Rothouser Ecologist  Credits: Jennifer Dericks
a9647cab9a2008cd19fa_IMG_1537.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
4c47a1e70926687a9b85_IMG_1541.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
023a2a17c82317c47290_IMG_1544.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
4270a40ab038cc951ff6_IMG_1547.JPG
Steven Opresnick volunteer wildlife search and rescuer and Sparta Mountain resident Credits: Jennifer Dericks
0448896a01c6682c5763_IMG_1551.JPG
Robert Demuth  Credits: Jennifer Dericks
e90550d30f67b34e9f00_IMG_1553.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
8ac52537a3212d144e0b_IMG_1557.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
b2ef6271e920934242c4_IMG_1562.JPG
Richard Walker Upper Lake resident, formerly of Beaver Lake Credits: Jennifer Dericks
96ac4a2543ea870ea41c_IMG_1507.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
27131dc33cbbb119abaf_land_cleared.jpg
Land cleared in late winter.  No nesting birds present to be disturbed. Ground is not disturbed, no erosion Credits: Russell Brown
592a5f5f34278f74f4e4_Spring_multiple_new_stems_shoot_up_from_each_stump.jpg
In spring multiple new stems shoot up out of each stump. Credits: Russell Brown
92616531eff80571b73c_coppicing.jpg
Coppicing, mutliple new stems shooting up out of cut stumps Credits: Russell Brown
7b0b1086442679b688f4_native_trees.jpg
Native trees quickly reclaim the area, creating a dense layer of food and cover at ground level.  Regeneration is so quick invasive species are not a problem Credits: Russell Brown
bd8516760c517e478064_IMG_1509.JPG

SPARTA, NJ – Nearly 50 people packed the council chambers on Tuesday night for the Sparta Township Council meeting, many of them  to discuss an item not even on the agenda. Most were there to discuss the proposed Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area Forestry Stewardship Plan. 

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Fish and Wildlife, “in conjunction with the New Jersey Audubon Society," developed the 10-year plan that calls for removing trees in the contiguous forest of more than 3,400 acres. The forest crosses boundaries into Sparta Township, Ogdensburg Township, Hardyston Township and Jefferson Township. Sparta has the most acreage with 1,842 and Hardyston a close second with 1,543.

Prior to opening the meeting to the public, Township Manager Bill Close explained that the comments spoken at the meeting also needed to be conveyed to the DEP, NJ Fish and Wildlife to get on the record. The council would hear the statements and take them into consideration but “the township, like you, is a stakeholder and will be submitting comments to the DEP.”

Sign Up for E-News

He also stated the town council has asked the DEP for a public hearing.  Close said, “They are planning to have it.  It is being considered for March.”

Mayor Christine Quinn explained they would not limit anyone’s comments

Many differing points of view were offered by experts, members of organization and communities within and outside of Sparta as well as individual residents.

The stated goals of the plan is to provide a variation in the age of the trees, in turn providing for a wider variety of species, improving the health of the forest and the water systems. 

Skeptics are critical of the plan to disrupt existing wildlife and the impact of the clearing on the waterways and residents.  Some also point to the impression that the plan intends to raise money from the sale of harvested timber.

Susan Williams went first presenting comments as “Chair of the Skylands Group of the NJ Sierra Club” in the Northwest geographical group in NJ. “I also live near the WMA.”  Presenting “in a layperson’s perspective” she said the Sparta Mountain is a high conservation value forest.  It is “greenway corridor and home to a variety of flora and fauna.” She defined greenway corridor as a contiguous forest that “can hold rainwater, prevent flooding and runoff and keep nutrients in the soil” emphasizing the interrelationship between the greenway corridor and the quality of water. 

She went on to express concern about the methods described in the plan including the “heavy equipment, road construction compaction, forest segmentation and herbicide application.”

In discussing the goal of the project “as necessary to save the Golden Wing Warbler,” she said it was a “Trojan horse to let commercial loggers in.”  She was the first of many to be skeptical of the project because of the language in the plan that discusses the value of the lumber to be harvested.  “It’s anything but stewardship, it’s really a logging plan.” 

Another concern is that the plan states it is the first 10 years of a 60 year plan and that this is being presented “one phase at a time so as not to alarm the public.”

The project is exempt from adhering to Highland Act, specifically as it relates to buffer zones prohibiting disturbing land contiguous to bodies of water.  “We’re a watershed area providing water to millions of people,” and “residents have wells and depend on clean aquifers from which we draw our water,” said Williams.

Williams added that for her a red flag that added to the skepticism of the report is that the plan states the “public and a large list of stakeholders must be involved from the beginning” but the plan was released during the holidays when people “were distracted” and was not sent to any of the local residents, organizations or lake communities.  “The fact that some of the information in the 87 page document is misleading calls into question the veracity of the whole plan.”

The report and DEP website show only a response from the “Ruffed Grouse Society of Pennsylvania.”

Williams said, “We won’t accept this as a done deal.”

Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith said, “We have a lot of questions for the DEP.”

Sparta Lake resident described all of the wildlife he sees in his yard, “turkeys, deer and bear” to name a few.  “The DEP is concentrating on the wrong end.  They should look at people with old septics and phosphorous fertilizers running off into streams and lakes.”

Bill Monter served on Sparta’s Environmental Commissions for three years.  “It shouldn’t be for the benefit of one or two species.  We don’t need more roads.”

Sue Dorward of the Beaver Lake community commended the council for hearing what everyone had to say.  She shared the concerns of the small lake community that has dealt with this type timber cut in the past.

John Cecil of the NJ Audubon Society explained that they own 300 acres on which this plan has been in effect for several years.  He emphasized that the plan is “implementing an existing forestry stewardship program,” that is in compliance with forest stewardship standards. 

The trees in the forest are essentially all the same age.  There is a “lack of new forest habitat.” The plan seeks to “Improve the health and structure of the forest.  We really have an opportunity to create future forest," said Cecil.

He went on to say they “have been doing it for 10 years and have only been able to do 10 to 20 acres per year.” The plan will be subject to “annual audits and oversight of the DEP.”

The DEP restricts the timeframe in which trees can be cut down, bringing disturbance of the forest to a halt in the spring for nesting and mating periods. 

Cecil acknowledged the “timing of the release was unfortunate” and further the Audubon Society “asked [the DEP] to have the time for public comment be extended.”  He explained, “I hope we can find a place where government and community can support the plan…We want to be good neighbors and transparent in our plan.”

He explained the DEP will identify which patches of habitat will be worked on by “how easy it is to access, how steep the slopes are, waterways, will wildlife be supported by the cut, how close adjacent homes are.”

To the accusation that the plan is a moneymaking scheme, Cecil said they are “not focused on profitability of the project but the support of wildlife.  Of course it must be financially feasible.”  He did confirm “the trees are sold the money goes to the state.”

Councilman Jerry Murphy asked who controlled the bidding process.  It was confirmed to be the state.

Fred Turner of Sparta Lake reminded the council that the adjacent Newark Watershed “sustained tremendous tree damage from the recent hurricanes so there are gaps” that are like those proposed in the plan.

Representative from Trout Unlimited explained that he has done this sort of cut on his property three time at the headwater to Sparta Glen and it “won State Forestry Stewardship Project of 2012.”  He said, “It is not a money grab.  It creates more diversity in the forest which leads to better water quality.”  

He explained “deer browse pressure is not what we thought it was” and there is concern for the health of the forest because there is “no diversity of trees and native schrubs.”

Cecil added that 150 years ago the American chestnut dominated the area and a blight wiped them out.  “A chain saw is seen as an evil machine.  It’s not, in the right hands.”

Silvia Opresnick, a resident of Glen View Forest a neighborhood adjacent to the WMA forest said, “I’m a proponent of [forest] diversity but the benefits do not outweigh the risks.”  She was concerned about the plan’s “prescription” of using “fire to kill young trees” near so many homes.  “It seems there may be hidden agendas” questioning the money, water conservation issues and use of herbicide.  She asked where else this type of plan was being implemented.

Mayor Quinn answered it was being done “in the Pine Barrens right now.”

Opresnick implored the council follow up on getting a meeting with the DEP and reminded them to “please make sure the meeting is not during spring break” at the end of March.

Manager Close said, “We suggested they need to be more proactive with the tools they use to share information.”

Glen Road resident Conrad Frank pointed to the Sparta Glen “It doesn’t resemble the forest it used to, even with all of the efforts of private citizens and Trout Unlimited.  The damage is insurmountable.”  He went on to discuss the impact of clear cutting the trees, “One of the main foods the deer rely on is the Princess Pine which needs shade,” suggesting that with those trees eliminated the deer are pushed in to residential neighborhoods. 

Ecologist Blain Rothouser came from Florham Park to speak on the issue.  He too congratulated the council “for allowing the community to have their say.”  His area of expertise is to “work on conservation management plans." 

“I’m frazzled by the amount of information you have to deal with.”  He referred to the Audubon Society as a “consulting group.”  “I would love to have the lucrative contract [they have].  I would ask you to investigate – not saying its ill intended.”  He went on to talk about the impact to the water systems.

“It may be well intended but I totally disagree that the net benefit will be an uptick in diversity when there is a guide suite of species that will be affected.”  Rothouser said there have been “many threatened and endangered birds have been heard calling.  They are weighing heavily to the interior of the forest.  They are going to lose.”  Adding “Nobody is out there surveying the turtles.”

Author of the plan Audubon Society’s John Donnelly said this plan is in part to “address issues that led to the tragedy of the [Sparta] Glen.”  He said many of the questions and concerns raised have been looked at but were not part of the 87 page plan “because it was would be too long.” 

Donnelly said the “seemingly unanswered” issues and “many of the other wildlife have been studied within the DEP. They are responsible for these other wildlife and they have signed on to this plan.”  They are “just not included in this plan.”

He discussed the questions about Highlands exemptions regarding erosion plans and buffer zones.  “The Highlands and DEP Storm Water Plan developers recognize forestry is not the same as development. Not the same as building houses or a Walmart. They have rules of compliance that are different for forest stewardship.” 

Donnelly went on to say forestry stewardship is “encouraged under the Highlands Master Plan” and that trees will be left if they are beneficial to the wildlife.  “It is easy to cite studies but they are not all comparable.”

Dudley Anderson came next to the microphone.  The Beaver Lake resident asked rhetorically, “What about the value of our property?”  He said the plan calls for access roads to the stands 28 through 31 that are nearest to his home that “will be visible in my front yard, my back yard and my side yard.”  He added, “There will be trucks, dirt, debris and dust.” He recounted having had the ridge above his property cut in the way prescribed in the plan. 

A resident near Hawthorne Lake said they too have had a cut near their home “but I though it was the end not the beginning,” so she did not complain.  She was concerned about the rare plants, “The budget did not allow for a survey of rare plants,” indicating there were “70-80 rare species with 41 that are endangered or threatened” that the thinning and burning will disrupt.

She said the clear cutting methods would allow for invasive species to take hold and the answer provided by the plan to use herbicides is “contrary for connectivity for species.” She thought the land and forest would be part of a green belt and said, “Ravaging Sparta Mountain in the name of the Golden Wing Warbler is a hoax on the township.”

Steven Opresnick volunteer Wildlife Search and Rescuer and resident question the plans explanation of the survey done of rare plants from “October 2013 and May and June of 2014 in the middle of the winter.  Why would you look for plants in the middle of the winter?”

Robert Demuth Jr,’s property abuts the WMA “that’s why I moved here.”  His home is near to stand 9 by the Edison monument and mines.  He is concerned and questions the prescription for that area to be culled by fire.  “Fire, why fire?  It is the second most frequented recreational area. And there is no knowledge that it will work. ‘It will afford the opportunity to determine if it is an effective way to deal with the red oak.’”  The prescription calls for it to be cut then burned every two years for the next six years.  He questioned this method “when there are other tools at their disposal.” 

In conclusion he said, “It seems extreme and biased.  Please consider a less extreme method and please do not use fire,” so close to the homes.

Sparta Lake resident Adrian Meerman said, “The concern is not necessarily which science is the best science or which cut is the best cut.  It is the emotional impact of seeing logging trucks in a 60 year plan- for as long as we live.  Twenty acres a year sounds like an innocent number in 3000. Twenty acres a year, 20 acres here, 20 acres there; that’s a lot of roads.” 

He spoke of the well water on which he and his neighbors rely, “eventually it will be effected and we will have to pay the price.”

Meerman said, “They are not concerned with the methods.  We are concerned with the methods.  It seems an appropriate matter.  It’s not just the forest it is our outdoor living room.”  He share that some national forests do not allow any power tools to be used in their forest management projects.

Rob Gormley lives on Sparta Mountain.  He said, “The incremental potential benefit” is not enough to support this project.  “It seems like they think they know better than nature,” Gormley said.

New Upper Lake resident Richard Walker said, “I am 0 for three summers for getting into the lake due to the sediment” from the dam project.  The former Beaver Lake resident said, “Audubon should kill their 300 acres and leave us alone.”

The plan divides the acreage into 32 segments or “stands” and prescribes several different methods for clearing trees from each stand.  They propose to use

  • Seed Tree with Reserves where “almost all trees regardless of size are harvested”
  • Shelterwood where “existing trees are harvested in a series of two or three cuts”
  • Single Tree Selection where “trees are removed from all size classes”
  • Group Selection with Reserves that “creates small openings that can mimic natural gap disturbances caused by events like windthrow and snow storms”

They also plan to use “appropriate herbicides” and “prescribed fire.”

Individuals and organizations can submit comments to the DEP on the 87 page plan.  The township has asked for a public hearing with the DEP.  No date has been confirmed. 

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Sparta

Sparta Police: Two Injured in Car Versus Motorcycle Accident

July 16, 2018

SPARTA, NJ — An accident on Route 15 with a motorcycle and a car sent two people to the hospital. On July 12 Sparta police responded to the crash at the intersection of Route 15 and Wilson Drive around 6:37 p.m. police report.

According to police, while turning left on to Wilson Drive from Route 15 north, Carmen Emery of Highland Lakes cut in front of Richard Keim on a Harley-Davidson ...

Sparta Fire Trucks Have Adequate Access through New LMCC Gates

SPARTA, NJ — Emergency equipment can access the newly refurbished Sparta gate on West Shore Trail in the Lake Mohawk reservation, according to the Lake Mohawk Country Club Manager John Stanley. At the June 11 Sparta Township meeting, councilman Jerry Murphy raised a concern about the new gate not being sufficiently wide to allow a fire truck to pass through. 

In response to an ...

Sparta Police: Wanted Elizabeth Man Gets DWI

SPARTA, NJ – A man from Elizabeth was stopped for crossing the line on Tomahawk Trail.  Sparta Police Officer Jonathan Poon stopped Eduardo Idiaquez, 45, on July 8, around 7:30 p.m. police said.

He was taken to Sparta Police Department headquarters for processing and breath testing.  Idiaquez was charged with driving while intoxicated, failure to maintain a lane, driving while ...

No Dog Beach on Lake Hopatcong?

July 9, 2018

Hello Editor, 
 I have spent considerable time trying to find somewhere on Lake Hopatcong to bring my dog for a swim.
What I have found is ridiculous - this lake has approximately 28 miles of shoreline and I found NO PLACE am allowed to bring him.  Am hoping you can make the public aware and maybe someone will know more than me and inform where dogs are allowed?
Many thanks for ...

Chemist Congratulates Sparta High School Chem Olympians

Congratulation to the ladies from Sparta High School who finished first and second in the Chemistry Olympics.

I am very pleased to see women succeeding in chemistry.

Martin Feil,

Newton, NJ
Retired Chemist and Chemistry Teacher

Upcoming Events

Tue, July 17, 6:00 PM

CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties, Morristown

CASA Information Session

Education Giving Back Law & Justice

Carousel_image_7611ce284a8c86d65b64_37d34f9a-c5cd-4fb1-8bf8-b5b7319cb94e

Wed, July 18, 10:00 AM

Paterson Board of Education , Paterson

Teacher Job Fair

Education

Carousel_image_50e2ca549a0aca1616bd_nj_blood_services

Sat, July 21, 7:45 AM

Saint Kateri Parish, Sparta

Sussex County Blood Drive

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_499d1dd211c2bd6b0cb1_img_6497

Sat, July 21, 8:00 AM

Newton Moose Lodge, Fredon

Newton Moose Lodge Sunday Breakfasts

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, July 21, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Carousel_image_bdb5745746764dec42d1_sparta_historical_society

Sun, July 22, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Sussex County Views: The Art of Toni Chaplin

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_42776b9cbb4ed47ca5de_paintbrush-pallet-

Mon, July 23, 10:00 AM

Sparta Public Library, Sparta

Watercolor Workshop

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_43e01e4e18a7a89ca0c9_paintbrush-pallet-

Fri, July 27, 10:00 AM

Sparta Public Library, Sparta

Watercolor Workshop

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_499d1dd211c2bd6b0cb1_img_6497

Sat, July 28, 8:00 AM

Newton Moose Lodge, Fredon

Newton Moose Lodge Sunday Breakfasts

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, July 28, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Newton High School FFA Students Dominate at State Convention

July 11, 2018

LONG BRANCH, NJ - The Newton FFA Chapter won several of their events at the 89th New Jersey State FFA Convention in May at Monmouth University. The students brought home several awards competing against the best in the state.

Freshman Kirk Avondoglio took first place in the state FFA Creed Public Speaking competition.  The event requires participants to recite the creed in front of a ...

Geoffrey the Giraffe Moves In To New Brunswick Children's Hospital

July 13, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Over a stretch of nearly 70 years, Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us stores was the symbol of happy times for generations of children, and now he may provide those same feelings for children coming to a hospital.

"From this day forward, Geoffrey stands tall in our lobby to encourage our smallest patients to smile when they enter our facilities," said John ...

4 Top Tips for Kitchen Remodels

Getting ready to remodel your New Jersey home's kitchen? Team Nest Builder shares these top 4 tips for maintaining your sanity (and budget)!

Expect the Unexpected

Even the best-laid plans go awry during a kitchen remodel--be prepared!  Add a 10% cushion to your finanical plan for problems that may arise. In case something happens, this could save your time and budget.

Make A ...

Get Out and Garden During FREE Open Gates Weekend

Team Nest Builder wants you to discover the beauty and diversity of Morris County’s Community Gardens through the people, plants, and planting techniques that make gardens thrive. It's Morris County Community Garden FREE Open Gates Weekend!

Tour the many gardens, discover how to start one in your town, and learn more about growing your own food. Enjoy food tastings and demonstrations ...

Homes More Affordable Today than 1985-2000

Concerned that your family will no longer be able to afford the most precious piece of the American Dream – your own home? Let Team Nest Builder assuage your fears...

It’s not just a home’s price that determines its affordability--it’s also the monthly cost determined by the price and the interest rate on the mortgage used to purchase it.

Today, mortgage interest ...

Don't Miss Out on this DOUBLE Sparta 4BR OPEN HOUSE Weekend

Team Nest Builder offers not one, but TWO enchanting homes this weekend---185 Milton Road on Saturday, and 28 Waters Edge on Sunday (1-3pm both days.)  Seeking the perfect Sparta home? Make plans today! Want to learn more? Read on!

185 Milton Road: A Stately Sparta 4BR 2.5 Bath on 6+ Beautiful Acres

You’ll fall in love with this gorgeous 4BR, 2.5 Bathroom ...

Be a Triathlon Volunteer!

Summertime is here and upon us Sparta residents, bringing a variety of exciting events to our area. Well, Pass It Along is BACK with the 9th Annual Triathlon at Lake Mohawk Country Club, located in Sparta, on Saturday, July 28, 2018!

This athletic event draws in several hundred people, both participants and spectators, to Lake Mohawk. Volunteers are needed to assist with the event in ...

It's Time to Swim, Bike and Run with Pass It Along!

 

 

 

“If you set a goal for yourself and are able to achieve it, you have won your race. Your goal can be to come in first, to improve your performance, or just finish the race it’s up to you.”  – Dave Scott (Triathlete)

Join us on Saturday, July 28 at 7:00 am at the Lake Mohawk Country Club for the 9th annual Pass It Along Triathlon! ...

The Sussex County Freeholders July 11 meeting video

NEWTON, NJ - The Sussex County Freeholders July 11 meeting video

 

Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey Encourages Family Fun with Online Fishing Tournament

July 16, 2018

MILLBURN, NJ — The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) is asking families to cast their lines and reel in some quality time this summer as part of the fourth annual Don’t Get Hooked on Drugs Online NJ Family Fishing Tournament.

The competition will be held from July 27 to August 5 as a way to encourage families to enjoy a day of fishing, while giving ...