While any child knows how important trees are to our environment, to the NJ Division of Fish and Game and other hunting organizations, trees are a seen as a detriment. Large forested areas provide little food for deer and other popular game species. When you remove trees you allow sunlight to touch the ground, which results in the creation of low level vegetation; the favorite food of deer. More food means more deer, which means more deer for hunters to kill. This last point is the motivation of the Division of Fish and Game. The state agency that is supposed to protect wildlife profits from the sale of hunting licenses. Their mission is and always has been to create as many deer as possible, and they care little for what destruction is left in their wake.
"Habitat development and maintenance to benefit deer are conducted on 73 state owned Fish and Wildlife management areas (WMA) totaling over 192,000 acres. Habitat management is encouraged on other public and private lands. Limited burning, wood harvest and planting of various agricultural crops favored by deer can increase the carrying capacity by increasing the quality and quantity of food available." An Assessment of Deer Hunting in New Jersey (pg.10)
The Division of Fish and Game defined their reasons for promoting clear cutting in an article titled "Clear-Cutting Forests: Good or Bad For Deer in New Jersey", published in the August 1991 edition of their Fish and Wildlife Digest:
"Most people think of deer as forest creatures, whereas deer actually prefer forest openings with good light penetration and herbaceous growth."
"Clear cut areas initially
produce an abundance of foods for deer including forbs, grasses,
fungi, wildflowers and tree seedlings."
"As part of its continuing effort to manage the habitat on WMA's, the division in conjunction with the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry conducted a 60 acre clear cut on the Berkshire Valley WMA. The clear cut was designed by personnel from the bureau (of land management) and the Division of Parks and Forestry. The actual cutting was accomplished by a commercial logger. The cut was designed to diversify the habitat on the Berkshire Valley WMA. Among the species of wildlife to benefit from this habitat management operation are the white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock and wild turkey." NJ Division of Fish and Game Annual Report 1990-91
Although deer are the primary species that the Division of Fish and Game clear cuts trees for, they aren't the only one. Ruffed grouse and woodcock are also targeted victims of habitat manipulation.
In 1992, the NJ Division of Fish and Game drafted a plan to destroy 285 wooded acres at the Flatbrook/Roy WMA in Sussex County. All of the following quotes come from that plan.
The sole reason for this environmental devastation:
"Management Objectives: To manipulate the woodland of the Flatbrook/Roy WMA to create habitat favored by ruffed grouse and woodcock, thereby increasing populations of, and hunting opportunities for, these birds."
The methods used for this manipulation of habitat:
"The primary component of the ruffed grouse/woodcock management plan is the manipulation of vegetation through the use of clearcuts..."
"The manipulation of woodland areas to enhance habitat for ruffed grouse and woodcock will involved the clearcutting of selected sites..."
"Burnings specifically directed at enhancing habitat for ruffed grouse and woodcock on the Flatbrook/Roy tract have been prescribed for a total of 135 acres in three separate blocks."
"...this combination of harvesting and burning will ultimately manipulate habitat on a total of 285 acres..."
Another profit motive:
"Management areas should be located in woodland containing commercially viable volumes of sawtimber and fuelwood."
In March 2002, the Division of Fish and Game, in cooperation with Southern NJ Quail Unlimited (a pro-hunting organization), and the South Jersey RC&D Council (a sub-division of the USDA), began tearing down trees at the Buckshutem WMA in South Jersey.
From the flyer promoting the opening day of clear cutting:
"The Buckshutem WMA habitat Project will demonstrate a unique means of converting wooded areas to a classic Savannah style habitat suitable for quail, turkey, deer and many more wildlife species."
An article about this event in the Courier-Post newspaper showed pictures of large machines tearing down trees, leaving a wide flattened area from what was once a fully wooded forest.
Also in the article, Laurie Pettigrew, a biologist with the Division, stated that this habitat manipulation "has the potential to encompass thousands of acres (across the state)."
This position was concurred by Steve Quesenberry of the South Jersey RC&D Council. In a phone conversation he stated the following:
-There is to be at least 400 acres, all of it wooded, to be cleared in this WMA.
-Although this project is supposed to provide food for quail and turkey, deer would benefit most.
-This program is also being promoted for private property, for those who want to increase deer on their own land.
-This is a "unique" pilot project that will be expanded across South Jersey, in at least three or four other Wildlife Management Areas, and then used across the state.
These projects offer but a small glimpse of the environmental destruction undertaken by the Division of Fish and Game. All of our wooded lands already lost to them, and all that will be lost, has and will be done in the name of promoting hunting and selling hunting licenses.
New Jersey's preserved forests are few and precious. In a case of bitter irony, we must protect our wooded land from those who have stewardship over them.