Editor's Note: The following is a news release issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
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, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said earlier this week.
“We must remain vigilant about this serious threat to our pine forests,” Commissioner Martin said. “The DEP has been undertaking a multipronged approach to deal with this problem, including removing stands of impacted trees on state lands to control outbreaks before they spread and working with private property owners and municipal governments whenever possible to control outbreaks on private lands.”
In 2012, pine beetle infestations claimed 6,200 acres, compared to 7,000 acres in 2011, bringing the total number of acres affected in New Jersey to 27,000 acres 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 largest outbreak occurred in 2010, when some 14,000 acres statewide were affected, largely because trees were stressed by extremely dry weather.
National forestry experts had expected a much larger outbreak in 2012 because last winter was so mild.
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.
“Now is the time to get a leg up on this and take advantage of the beetles’ reduced activity during the winter to further contain this pest,” said State Forester Lynn Fleming. “We were very fortunate last year. 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.’’
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 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.
As part of its efforts to ratchet up the war on pine beetles, the DEP has enlisted the assistance of the DEP Science Advisory Team to better understand its behavior patterns in New Jersey. The department is also working with researchers from Rutgers University, Stockton State College and Dartmouth University to better understand the best strategies for reducing the pine beetle threat in New Jersey.
“Simply put, we still have a great deal to learn about this invasive insect,” Fleming said. “We are doing everything we can to contain the spread of this insect, but the truth of the matter is that the scope of its impact will likely hinge on environmental factors, weather patterns in particular, that are outside of our control.”
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.
South of the Mullica River, where much larger areas have been impacted, the DEP has utilized contractors using mechanized equipment 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.
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 to combat the pine beetle.
The DEP strongly encourages local government agencies and private property owners to apply to the New Jersey State Forestry Service for grants made possible by the earlier federal grant to combat the southern pine beetle on non-state lands. They are:
* The Forest Health Southern Pine Beetle Cost-Share Grant Program, which provides matching grants up to $7,500 each to private landowners who own five or more acres of land. To be eligible, landowners must have a state-approved Forest Stewardship Plan or Woodland Management Plan that includes a southern pine beetle suppression plan. The landowner must provide 25 percent of the cost of the control activity.
* The Community Forestry Grant program, which provides a matching grant up to $10,000 each to assist municipalities and counties in delineating and carrying out southern pine beetle suppression activities. The recipient must have or be working on a Community Forestry Management Plan to qualify and must agree to provide an equal match in money and/or in-kind services.
* The New Jersey Forest Fire Service Community Wildfire Assistance Grant, which provides 100 percent matching grants up to $10,000 each to any civic organization, homeowners association, nonprofit group or municipality for work to suppress southern pine beetle infestations on lands that may be at increased wildfire risk because of beetle damage. The fire risk must be documented in a Community Wildfire Protection Plan or a Firewise Community Plan. The recipient must provide an equal match in money and/or in-kind services.
The DEP has also prepared an informational tool kit to assist municipalities and private landowners in taking action to prevent the spread of pine beetles using grants that are now available. For financial assistance applications, maps, photos and other resources about the southern pine beetle, visit: www.southernpinebeetle.nj.gov
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.