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Invasive Pest Prompts New Hampshire to Clear Trees

An invasive forest pest commonly found in New York and Southern New England was recently discovered in New Hampshire, and now it’s prompting state officials there to clear hundreds of acres of forest land to prevent the spread of the insect. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the red pine scale – a small insect native to Europe and Asia that feeds on red pine species – was first discovered in 1946 in Connecticut. The animal then spread to neighboring New York and New Jersey, and since then has taken up residence in red pine stands throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts, among other areas.

Ken Gooch, Forest Health Program Director for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, says that he first noticed the insect in Massachusetts in the 1970s while working as a forest health specialist in Berkshire County. He said the insect that is responsible for killing thousands of trees is found in red pine stands throughout the Commonwealth, and is likely spread by birds.

Gooch also said that the DCR will cut trees discovered to be host to the insect.

Gooch said that the red pines found in Massachusetts and areas further south are typically non-native species. He said the Civilian Conservation Corps planted many in state parks and plantation areas in the 1930s.

But in New Hampshire, there are native species of red pines, and since the animal’s discovery in August, is posing a threat to native forests there.

Ken Desmairis, Administrator at New Hampshire’s Division of Forest and Lands’ Forest Health Bureau said that the state will begin harvesting and chipping trees from five infected red pine stands on 181 acres starting  at Bear Brook State Park. Damaris said that he hopes that will prevent the spread of the animal.

Desmairis also said that New Hampshire may not have seen the exotic pest in the past because of colder temperatures. He said recent warmer winters may have provided more habitable conditions for the insect.

Jason Stock of the New Hampshire Timber Owners Association said that the red pine scale poses a threat to landowners who have made an investment in red pines, which are popular in recreation areas and also can be harvested and used for making products such as flooring. Stock said that he’s worried that the introduction of the red pine scale is just another in a group of forest pests creating uncertainty for timber growers.

Stock did applaud New Hampshire’s plan to eliminate the infected trees early to prevent the spread of the insect.

Also earlier this year in Dalton, Massachusetts, the Emerald Ash Borer was discovered. That invasive species feeds and also poses a significant threat to the region’s wood products industry. 

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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