New Jersey’s forest ecosystems will be healthier and safer from wildfire under a bipartisan plan approved today by the General Assembly that was sponsored by Assembly Republican Ronald S. Dancer. The legislation, A-329, would allow private land owners to be certified as prescribed burn control managers by the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and allow the service to conduct burns on private lands that present a wildfire hazard. “Smokey the Bear’s slogan, ‘Only you can prevent forest fires,’ can be proactive for willing landowners who realize the benefits of burning off dead brush and leaves before Mother Nature beats them to the punch,” Dancer, R-Ocean, Monmouth, Burlington and Middlesex, said. “We can avoid catastrophes, and promote a healthier forest environment, by expanding the use of safe and controlled burns.” Because of New Jersey’s restrictive approach, it lags behind many other states in the use of prescribed burns, averaging 10,000 to 15,000 acres on public lands and 5,000 acres of private lands, according to the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. In recent years, wildfires in the Pinelands have burned thousands of acres and forced thousands of people to be evacuated. “Conducting controlled burns in safe, strategic and coordinated effort will protect more homes and lives against wildfire,” Dancer said. “Prescribed burns have a number of secondary ecological benefits including wildlife habitat management, forest disease and pest control and nutrient management.” The bill had bipartisan support from Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway and Marlene Caride. ####
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