Bensalem tree cutting under scrutiny from state, federal agencies

After an investigation from state and federal institutions, there is no determination whether there will be penalties for the unauthorized tree cutting over approximately 26 acres of forested property in Bensalem.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection received an anonymous complaint on Oct. 13 of the cutting on the property along State Road, just south of Street Road.

“Right now, the Department is overseeing that the property be brought into compliance,” said PA DEP spokeswoman Virginia Cain in an email to the Times.  

The state DEP visited the site with officials from the Bucks County Conservation District to confirm the allegations a day after the anonymous tip was received.

The issue was brought up during public comment during the Nov. 14 Bensalem Township Council meeting. Council members confirmed that they were aware of the tree cutting, but they would allow the various agencies involved to investigate.

“We’re obviously not happy that there were a bunch of trees cut down in our township,” said Councilman Tony Belfield, noting that if the result of the investigations “is not satisfactory to us, we certainly will step into the fray.”

Belfield also confirmed that there was no attempt to secure permits from the township for the tree cutting.

The owner of the property as of Oct. 17 is JJGD Holdings, LP, LLC, listed at 501 Cambria Ave. in Bensalem. It was sold by the estate of Joseph B. Atkinson Jr.

On Nov. 9, officials from the DEP met with the previous and current property owners, their wetland consultant, NOVA Consulting and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“It was determined that the entire area that was cleared of trees was previously determined to be federally and state regulated wetlands,” Cain said. “No fill had been placed in the wetlands with the exception of the piles of trees that were cut.”

According to the PA DEP, wetlands are defined as “areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions, including swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.”

They have been regulated in the state since 1980 under the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act.

The DEP and ACOE recommended removing the trees cut down from the property, then stabilizing the entire site with seed and hay mulch to bring it into compliance.

The owners agreed with this course of action, but stated that there were no additional plans for the lot at this time. The agencies involved will oversee this process and make sure that the outlined plan is carried through.

“Any future violations or penalties have yet to be determined,” Cain said.

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