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(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblyman John F. McKeon sponsored to establish a forest stewardship program to promote sustainable conservation is now law.

“This forest stewardship program will develop and promote long-term management of the New Jersey’s valuable forests by preserving and enhancing those reDests,” said McKeon (D-Essex). “We may live in the nation’s most densely populated state, but forests are critical to the welfare of New Jersey. They help clean and refresh the air, reduce global warming, clean and protect the waters, promote replenishment of aquifers, stabilize soils and provide shade and habitat essential to sustaining New Jersey’s native biodiversity.”

The measure (A-3239) directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish a forest stewardship program for forest owners who prepare forest stewardship plans for five acres of land or more.

Under the law, plans will be required to meet the rules and regulations of sustainability, list the owner’s long term stewardship goals for the forest land and the annual activities that will be implemented in the forest.

The law also directs the DEP to:

· Establish a cost share incentive program, the “New Jersey Forest Stewardship Incentive Program.” If funds are appropriated or otherwise made available for the support and funding of such a program, the DEP will award grants to local government units, nonprofit organizations and private owners of forest land to help subsidize their costs in implementing stewardship activities.

· Create a forest stewardship advisory council.

· Prepare a report every seven years based on these forest sustainability criteria and indicators, with the first report required by Feb. 1of the third year following the date of enactment.

“New Jersey forest land supports outdoor recreational opportunities, provide residents with irreplaceable aesthetic benefit and contribute to the state’s economic well being through increased property values, ecotourism, business opportunities and forest products,” said McKeon. “These woodlands are an irreplaceable component of the environment worthy of conservation and stewardship. They must be nurtured.”

The bill was signed Monday.

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