Mailbag: Stop the chop

| 26 Oct 2016 | 10:21

Dear Editor,

There is a battle going on here on Sparta Mountain. At the beginning of 2016 residents in the communities surrounding Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area learned of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s plan to log this protected area. The Sparta Mountain Forest Stewardship Plan had been quietly released on the DEP’s website on the eve of Christmas.

The plan’s premise is that a forest cannot be healthy without human intervention; specifically humans who are foresters by profession. “Stewardship” sounds good, right? The 87-page plan uses words like “protect” and “improve,” and talks about creating habitat for endangered warblers. In practice it involves cutting Sparta Mountain up into numbered logging stands and selling off the trees. The home we’ve lived in for 41 years on Lake Tamarack borders what they have labeled Stand #27 and Stand #33.

The truth is that even before the ink had dried on this plan, foresters had been cutting trees. Between 2011 and 2016, 58 acres had been cut down. They are effectively punching holes in the 3,461-acre canopy of upland hardwood forest, a contiguous “green belt” of mature woodland running from Morris County, NJ through Sussex County, NJ into NY State. A rare and precious habitat of interconnected plants, animals and humans — in the most densely populated state in the country — is being cut to pieces.

What started as resistance by the locals is becoming broader as citizens realize that the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area contains the headwaters of streams that flow into the drinking water of millions of people. So the plan’s stated use of herbicides and controlled burns is worrisome to more people than those living right here. This, in a protected area!

This is not the first time that our woodland has been under attack. Decades ago the Glendon Plan intended to build a golf resort with four access roads, businesses, and housing units on the mountain; that was fought back. A few years later came a plan to build a road and housing units on top of the ridge line. That too, was fought back.

2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. How appropriate if we celebrate with one more victory in protecting the woodland in our own backyard.

– Alana Steib, Lake Tamarack, Stockholm, NJ