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WHEREAS, New Jersey’s forests provide many important public benefits; and in addition to the important value of timber and other fibers produced, these forests also provide a host of benefits essential to our existence and quality of life; and

WHEREAS, trees and forests clean and refresh the air by filtering dust and particulates and by absorbing carbon dioxide, sequestering carbon and releasing oxygen; likewise, forests clean and impede surface water run-off, increase groundwater recharge, stabilize soils, and provide shade, food and habitat for birds and a wide variety of other wildlife; and

WHEREAS, forests are critical and irreplaceable components of the environmental, economic, recreational and social welfare of the state and must be nurtured to guarantee sustained and improved yields of forest benefits; and

WHEREAS, today’s New Jersey forests are under-managed due to a lack of incentives for forest stewardship; and in addition, small woodlots cannot meet Farmland Assessment requirements in a sustainable manner and are increasingly susceptible to sub-division, development or neglect; and

WHEREAS, it is timely that the issues of forest stewardship and sustainable woodland conservation be addressed in manners that recognize and rectify existing disincentives to forest landowners; and

WHEREAS, critical to the conservation of forests is the recognition and quantification of non-commodity societal benefits produced therefrom, a concept that pertains especially to forests as the major source of drinking water for much of the state of New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, with proper incentives, forest landowners will have the tools to assure that these aquifer recharge areas with associated biodiversity continue to produce all the essential benefits for generations to come.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, we the delegates to the 91st Agriculture Convention assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 8, 2006, support the creation of a Forestry Stewardship Advisory Council to be chaired by the State Forester and to consist of individuals having direct involvement and or expertise in forest management, forest ownership, forest advisory and regulatory capacities, and the environment.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that said Forestry Stewardship Advisory Council should have the responsibility to establish and monitor enhanced stewardship programs for the purpose of qualification for Farmland Assessment.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that forest landowners who invest in the improvement of their forests, whether or not reimbursed by any agency, shall be credited for said efforts for the purpose of Farmland Assessment in accordance with values and methods established by the Forestry Stewardship Advisory Council in consultation with the Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in order to assure regeneration of the forests, there must be wildlife management. In order to encourage access to private lands for deer control in particular, the receipt of rental income for hunting, fishing and other recreational pursuits should be construed as farmland income for the purpose of Farmland Assessment and should not increase liability of the lessor nor decrease liability of the lessee from that level of liability which would otherwise exist without said payments.