DCNR Unveils Conservation Plan for Pennsylvania’s Threatened State Tree

HARRISBURG, Pa. – In an effort to protect the eastern hemlock across Pennsylvania, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has developed a conservation plan for the species that addresses insect and other threats, and calls upon private landowners for focus-area suggestions where the plan might best be applied.

“Pennsylvania’s state tree is under deadly attack by the Hemlock woolly adelgid,” said DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti, “and our Bureau of Forestry has mounted a comprehensive and science-based battle plan that addresses both the non-native, invasive insect and the invaluable forest species it is killing.”

The document provides information and guidance for both public and private land managers. In addition to substantial background material, it also presents an eight-pronged conservation strategy; implementation procedures; and critical research needs to aid in the preservation of eastern hemlock.

“Several potential focus areas with significant eastern hemlock stands in Pennsylvania are identified for further study,” noted Ferretti. “The bureau still is evaluating the status of these focus areas while it solicits and collects nominations from the public for additional sites throughout the state.”

Private landowners will find most of the conservation strategy applicable, with only a few objectives specific to public land, the secretary said.

“Landowners can follow the hemlock conservation strategy by assessing the extent and health of hemlock on site, and prioritizing trees for treatment,” Ferretti said. “They are advised to survey and monitor hemlock health and pests; conduct insecticide treatments when appropriate; and document and report any hemlock that appears resistant to hemlock woolly adelgid.”

The plan seeks to provide a sustainable conservation strategy for eastern hemlock that integrates all available information regarding the species and its associated threats. Although written for a broad audience, notations are provided throughout for anyone wishing to further explore topics covered. The document is organized into five main sections:

-Eastern hemlock biology, life history, and ecological, economic and cultural significance;
-Eastern hemlock stressors, threats and control tools;
-Conservation strategy in Pennsylvania;
-Implementation of conservation strategy; and
-Critical research needs.

To be updated and modified as needed, the conservation plan can be found at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/index.aspx.

Suggested focus area suggestions must be submitted by Dec. 15 to the Bureau of Forestry at ra-nreasternhemlock@pa.gov. Comments and questions may be directed to the same email address.

Designated the official state tree in 1931, the eastern hemlock is invaluable to the riparian health and quality of waterways. Prevalent in Pennsylvania forests, the hemlock is a slow-growing, long-lived tree which can take 250 to 300 years to reach maturity and may live for more than 800 years.

The Hemlock woolly adelgid has killed thousands of hemlocks across Pennsylvania as infestations advanced from the southeast to Clarion and Jefferson counties where very large signature hemlocks enrich two state park forests. For this reason, and in the face of the insect’s steady, northwestward spread, DCNR entomologists, foresters and park officials had ramped up early-detection efforts at Cook Forest and Clear Creek state parks.

DCNR has embarked on a two-pronged treatment effort that relies on selective application of insecticides and the release of predatory beetles. The department also is partnering with the USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and other interested agencies and partners to develop an Eastern hemlock management plan for Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Hemlock woolly adelgid is a fluid-feeding insect, easily detected by telltale egg sacs resembling cotton swabs that cling to undersides of hemlock branches. Introduced into the United States from Asia, it first was discovered in southeastern Pennsylvania in 1969 and steadily has been spreading westward. It now is found in 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

Homeowners and other private property owners can learn more about the Hemlock woolly adelgid, damage it causes, and efforts to combat it at www.dcnr.state.pa.us (click on “Forestry,” then “Insects and Disease” at upper left).

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