DEP continues pine beetle battle

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In 2012, pine beetle infestations claimed 6,200 acres in New Jersey.

Southern pine beetle infestation remains a significant threat in New Jersey, especially within the million-acre Pinelands National Reserve, but was not as severe last year as initially feared, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection who say efforts are under way right now to hold the pests at bay.

In 2012, pine beetle infestations claimed 6,200 acres, compared to 7,000 acres in 2011 and 14,000 in 2010, bringing the total number of acres affected in New Jersey to 27,000 since 2010. Most of the damage has occurred in southern portions of the Pinelands National Reserve, particularly in areas south of the Mullica River, the DEP said.

The DEP is continuing to work on the problem throughout the winter, removing infested stands of trees as the spread of beetles slows down with the onset of colder weather.

"We were very fortunate last year,” said State Forester Lynn Fleming. “Our containment was effective while adequate precipitation helped pine trees produce sufficient sap to help push out beetles that try to burrow into the trees. But the beetles are still out there so we cannot become complacent on this issue.''

The beetles, about the size of a grain of rice, burrow into the cambium layer just beneath the bark of pine trees to lay their eggs. The tunnels they create cut off the flow of water and nutrients to the tree, resulting in death within a few weeks of infestation.

The southern pine beetle attacks all species of pines, but prefers pitch, shortleaf, pond, and loblolly, all of which occur in southern New Jersey. Infestations, marked by the sudden onset of yellowish needles that quickly turn brown, are usually not recognizable until stands of trees are affected. The bark of infested trees may show numerous excretions of yellowish-white sap oozing from tubes that the beetles bored into the bark.

The DEP has enlisted help from a science advisory team, Rutgers University, Stockton State College and Dartmouth University to better understand the best strategies for fighting the pine beetle threat in New Jersey.

South of the Mullica River, where much larger areas have been impacted, the DEP has utilized contractors to remove trees from state lands. Areas targeted included the Millville Wildlife Management Area and Union Lake Wildlife Management Area in Cumberland County and Belleplain State Forest in Cape May County.

North of the Mullica River, infestations have been very spotty. On state-owned lands in these areas, New Jersey State Forestry Service crews have effectively managed infestations by hand-cutting small stands of affected trees. Areas targeted included parts of Bass River State Forest in Burlington County and Wharton State Forest in Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties.

Fleming said public assistance is needed to help battle this damaging insect. She noted there is still plenty of grant money available for towns and individuals to help finance their beetle control efforts.

The DEP last fall received a $340,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service grant for continued work focused on state lands. The DEP previously received $600,000 in Forest Service grant funding.

Governments and land owners can also apply for the Forest Health Southern Pine Beetle Cost-Share Grant Program, the Community Forestry Grant Program, and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service Community Wildfire Assistance Grant.

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For more information or to report possibly infested trees, contact the State Forestry Service Trenton Office at (609) 292-2531, Southern Regional Office at (609) 625-1124, Central Regional Office at (609) 726-1621, Northern Regional Office at (973) 786-5035, or your local consulting forester or a certified tree expert.


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