Panel passes forest ecoystem bill

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TRENTON — Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Ron Dancer and Parker Space making the state’s forest ecosystems healthier and safer received Assembly Agriculture Committee approval today by 5-0 vote.

The bill allows controlled burns of forests and open lands to protect against wildfires.

“Reducing the forest floor fuel of dead brush and leaves with prescribed and controlled burning will protect people, property and wildlife against raging wildfires,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “Pinelands wildfires have burned thousands of acres and forced thousands of people to be evacuated. Hopefully landowners will realize the benefits of burning off dead brush and leaves before wildfires take the pines out of our pinelands and people out of their homes.”

“We can promote a healthier forest environment by expanding the use of safe and controlled burns,” said Space (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris). “They have secondary ecological benefits, allowing for wildlife habitat management, forest disease and pest control, and nutrient management.”

The Dancer-Space bill establishes procedures and a process for certifying individuals to conduct prescribed burns, and authorizes the Bureau of Forest Fire Management to conduct burns in any area of the state it determines is in reasonable danger of wildfire. Before doing so, it must give landowners 30 days’ notice. Landowners burning on their own property do not need to be certified.

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