Pinelands landowners are being asked to plant the native shortleaf pine to restore the species in the region.
It’s part of a 22-state effort, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, called the Shortleaf Pine Initiative designed to combat a 50 percent decline in the species in the past 30 years.
The species (Pinus echinata) is native to the eastern and southern U.S., and west to Texas and Oklahoma. New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania are in the far north of its range, so it is expected to be more adaptable to a warming climate here.
“While the pitch pine is the predominant tree species in the Pinelands, re-establishing shortleaf pine helps restore a species that once had a bigger presence in the region and create opportunities for greater wildlife diversity,” DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said.
The tree prefers drier upland habitats of the Pinelands, and is one of many species the Forest Service is working to restore across the state.
Insect damage, disease, competition from other species, inadequate forest management practices in the past and changes in land use patterns have all combined to reduce tree’s numbers, according to the DEP. Shortleaf pine now represents only about 2 percent of the total trees in the 400,000 acres of forests in the Pinelands.
Staff of the New Jersey Forest Service are available to help landowners with technical assistance on incorporating the native tree into their forest management plans.
“In New Jersey, private landowners own 47 percent of forested land,” State Forester John Sacco said. “They can make a big difference in restoring this species.”
The state’s Forest Stewardship Program offers several benefits to participants, which must manage at least 5 acres of forest. They include recognition for environmentally responsible management and financial management assistance.
The DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry is working to increase shortleaf pine in Wharton and Brendan T. Byrne state forests in the Pinelands. The division hopes to expand the total acreage of shortleaf pines on state and private lands by 30,000 acres during the next 10 years, DEP said.
Landowners interested in managing shortleaf pine on their properties and funding assistance may contact Forest Service Supervising Forester Jon Klischies at 609-984-0827. They may also contact a state-approved forester. For a list, visit nj.gov/dep/parksandfor ests/forest/ACF.pdf.
The New Jersey Forest Service Nursery in Jackson Township, Ocean County, sells shortleaf pine seedlings and 25 other evergreen and deciduous tree species and shrub seedlings. The nursery will accept orders starting in December for delivery and planting the following spring. Visit forest nursery.nj.gov.