The Department of Environmental Protection is ready to take aggressive steps in fighting the spread of the southern pine beetle through southern portions of New Jersey.
On Thursday, the DEP announced it was using $315,000 from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service grant program to fund three local grant programs to help combat the spread of the southern beetle.
“The DEP is preparing for another year of aggressive actions to protect our Pinelands forests,” Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement.
“We’ve already launched our aerial surveillance flights well ahead of schedule and have begun cutting infested trees on state lands due to early pine beetle activity.”
According to the DEP, 26 municipalities in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties have been notified of the appearance of infestations.
“We applaud the Department’s efforts to provide grants that will help the public battle southern pine beetles,” Nancy Wittenberg, Executive Director of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission said in a statement.
The DEP says it is also utilizing its Science Advisory Team to help curb the spread of the pine beetle. The team will help to better understand the beetle’s behavior patterns in New Jersey.
In addition to its own efforts, the DEP is also working to educate private landowners of the beetle’s threat.
“Some of the most extensive damage caused by the southern pine beetle is on privately held land,” DEP suppression efforts project manager Ronald Corcory said.
The DEP says the impact of the southern pine beetle last year was less than anticipated, still an estimated 7,000 acres were lost to infestations. In 2010, the DEP says 14,000 acres were affected by the beetle.