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N.J. issues firewood alert to combat insect infestations

beetle073010_optState asks campers to obtain wood near campsite to help protect forests

State presently combating two insect infestations

People planning to camp in New Jersey forests are being asked by the state to obtain their firewood near their campsite to help prevent the spread of insects that could pose a potential threat to the threes.

"New Jersey has some of the most beautiful camping areas, and a campfire is part of the whole camping experience," state Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher said. "But the firewood that is used might be host to unwelcome tree-killing bugs. So, we ask campers, both from out of state and here in New Jersey to buy firewood near where they camp to stop the spread of these insects."

Fisher said new infestations of invasive pests are known to occur due to movement of wood and wood products. He said campers can accidentally spread the pests by bringing firewood along with them. He urged all of New Jersey's citizens to be on the look-out for these forest insects and prevent their spread with a few easy tips:

  • Buy firewood where you plan to burn it, which means that the wood was cut within 50 miles of where you will have your fire.
  • Wood that looks clean and healthy can still have tiny insect eggs that can start a new and deadly infestation. Even if the firewood looks fine, always leave it at home.
  • Aged or seasoned wood is still not safe. Bugs can crawl into dry wood, as well.

The Department of Agriculture has been battling an infestation by the Asian longhorned beetle since 2002 when the wood-boring pest was discovered in Jersey City. Surveys found 113 invested trees --- those trees and 348 at-risk host trees were removed. The beetle was declared eradicated in 2008 after a five-year federal/state operation.

The Asian longhorned beetle was again found in Middlesex and Union counties in 2004 involving 116 infested trees, which were removed along with 20,903 at-risk host trees. An eradication effort continues in that region.

The state Division of Parks and Forestry worked closely with the Agriculture Department to replant about 5,400 trees in the two areas. No new infested trees have been discovered in New Jersey since April of 2006.

The department is watching three other pests that have the potential to threaten New Jersey trees --- Emerald Ash Borer, Sirex Woodwasp and Southern Pine Beetle.

Emerald Ash Borer, a small emerald green insect native to Asia, was discovered in July 2002 feeding on ash trees in southeastern Michigan. Since then, it has afflicted more than 100,000 square miles of damage to ash trees in 12 states, as well as Canada, including New Jersey's bordering states.

Sirex Woodwasp also is a threat but instead to pine trees. This large, dark insect is native to Eurasia and North Africa and can be up to 1.5 inches in length. Identified in New York State in 2006, it has since affected many other states including Michigan, Ohio and Vermont. If the pest continues to spread, it could eventually cause billions of dollars of damage to United States forest life.

Lastly, Southern Pine Beetle, a native insect that has been found in New Jersey and is expanding its range to the southern part of the state, poses a similar threat to our pine trees. This 1/8-inch long, dark, reddish-brown insect has been one of the most destructive pests in the southern U.S. for more than 30 years and killed around 4.5 million board feet of pine timber in four years alone from 1973-1977.

The Division of Parks and Forestry, oversees more than 430,000 acres of land that receive over 18 million visitors annually. About 42 percent, or 2.1 million acres, of New Jersey is forested, which includes state and private lands that serve as environmental resources.

Trees exist for many important environmental reasons including filtering air pollution chemicals and dangerous small dust particles from the air, reducing water runoff, flooding, erosion and storm water management costs, and helping to recharge groundwater and keep sediment and pollutants from streams. They also provide summer shade and protection from winter winds and snow, which increases comfort as well as reduces winter heating and summer cooling costs by at least 20 percent.

The Asian longhorned beetle as well as Emerald Ash Borer, Sirex Woodwasp and Southern Pine Beetle, all pose a great health risk to the landscape of New Jersey's urban, suburban, and rural forested areas, Douglas said.

The department's Division of Plant Industry has an educational display about forest pests at the DEP's Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson and will be setting up displays in August at the New Jersey State, Middlesex County, Bergen County and Hunterdon county fairs and the Friends of ClearWater Festival in Asbury Park.

— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

 

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