Government Environmental Agency Accuses Itself of Bulldozing Habitat of “Threatened” Barred Owl and “Endangered” Redshouldered Hawk

(p. A18) A New Jersey state agency is accusing itself of violating its own regulations, saying it destroyed land that is home to rare owls and hawks while creating habitat for another type of bird.

At issue in the unusual bureaucratic conflict is the clearing of about 20 acres of swampy forest in a state-owned wildlife preserve in the southern part of the state as part of a project to improve conditions for the American woodcock, a common, plump shorebird prized by hunters.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection paid private contractors $200,000 for the job, which involved the removal of trees and the bulldozing of stumps, according to public documents obtained by the nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

But clearing the forest, in the Glassboro Wildlife Management Area in Clayton, destroyed habitat for the barred owl, which is threatened in New Jersey, and the red-shouldered hawk, which is endangered, according to a notice of violation issued to one arm of the environmental agency by another on April 6 [2023].

“It’s just depressing, really,” Joe Arsenault, a plant ecologist and environmental consultant who lives nearby and has studied the area for 25 years, said of the project’s outcome. “The site had exquisite, mature growth. It had ancient trees. Today it’s like driving through a parking lot.”

. . .

The forest will slowly regrow, Mr. Arsenault said, adding that his surveys of the land had also uncovered evidence of early settlement by Native American tribes that could date to the earliest humans to settle in New Jersey. With the land upturned, the site’s archaeological record is lost forever.

“It’s a gut punch,” he said. “It is the epitome of poor decisions and poorly spent money.”

For the full story, see:

Christopher Maag. “Plan to Create Habitat Destroys Tract of Forest.” The New York Times (Saturday, April 15, 2023): A18.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “New Jersey Environmental Agency Accuses Itself of Harming Bird Habitats.”)

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