SPARTA - A fight between the state and environmental advocates is causing a stir in Sussex County.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Audubon say that they want to protect the forests on the Sparta Mountain. To do so, they have come up with a plan where over the next 10 years they'd like to turn 10 percent or 340 acres at Sparta Mountain into a young forest. This means cutting down some trees.
"That's important because if the forest is all the same age, it's more susceptible to diseases and pests,” says NJ Audubon Stewardship Vice President John Cecil. "Because we have very even-aged forest, the diversity of wildlife isn't as plentiful as it used to be. Wildlife and healthy forest requires different ages of trees, different diversity of trees."
The cutting down of trees has angered the New Jersey Sierra Club, an environmental group. They say that the forest is not sick and want to keep the mountain’s ecosystem as is.
Susan Williams fears that the loss of trees will compromise the drinking water in the area.
"We've got gold up here. This is our goldmine,” she says. “To take this so cavalier and so inconsequential when we provide water to 6 million people down below and to think that doesn’t matter, I have an issue with that."
Cecil says that the new trees will be just as good of a buffer for the water supply.
The Sierra Club will hold a town hall meeting about the issue. The state plans on hosting a public meeting with residents next month.