Beach & Smith Bill to Authorize the DEP to Create a Program for Prescribed Burning

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator James Beach and Senate Environment and Energy Chair Bob Smith that would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to create a program for prescribed burning in certain circumstances was passes by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today.

The bill, S-2140, authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to create a program for prescribed burning for public safety, wildfire control, and ecological, agricultural, and natural resource management purposes.

“Controlled burns are a critical tool in preventing the types of massive wildfires that devastate forests and communities,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington/Camden).  “In areas like the Pinelands, fire management plans are necessary to ensure healthy forest regeneration, improve wildlife habitat, and control insects and disease.”

“New Jersey’s natural resources are its greatest treasures, and they are of the utmost importance to the states appearance,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset).  “In order to protect them we need to control the parts that are deemed a threat to its existence.  In the end, prescribed burning helps to preserve and restore our ecological resources.”

The bill authorizes the DEP to charge a reasonable fee to cover the costs associated with the program. All such fees collected would be deposited into a special dedicated account in the General Fund and appropriated to the Forest Fire Service to help pay for the administration and operation of its forest fire programs. The bill, as amended, also provides that a person who desires to conduct a prescribed burn only on land for which the person is the landowner or lessee would not be required to complete and receive certification from a program of education approved by the DEP.

The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0, and next heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.