N.J. towns, property owners slow to fight southern pine beetles

    New Jersey State Forester Lynn Fleming said not a single municipality has taken the state up on $10,000 grants to suppress the tree-killing southern pine beetle.

    Fewer than 10 individual property owners have received one of the $7,500 grants made available near the beginning of this year. Fleming said she doesn’t think many people know just how serious a pine beetle infestation can be.

    “Some people, I think, feel that, well, the tree just dies. They don’t realize that the tree becomes a carrier for other trees,” Fleming said, meaning that infestations can jump from one tree to a neighboring tree.

    The beetles chew their way through bark and deprive trees of the nutrients and water they need to survive. They have affected about 35,000 acres in New Jersey since they were discovered there about a decade ago.

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    Damage slowed down a bit this year though. That was partly, Fleming said, due to state suppression efforts, and partly due to the wet weather.

    “The trees were less stressed in terms of drought,” Fleming said. “When  trees are stressed, it makes them more vulnerable to having an infestation, to getting attacked, so with the (wet) weather conditions, Mother Nature actually helping us this past year, it also contributed to less infestation.”

    About 6,200 acres of forest were affected by the pine beetles this year. That is about 600 fewer than in 2011.

    Fleming said the forestry service will ramp up efforts to cut down trees infected with the southern pine beetle this winter, when the beetles become sluggish and slow-moving in cold weather.

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