DEP grant to expedite removal of township’s diseased, dead trees

Moorestown was granted $17,500 to replace township ash trees. The plan is to plant EAB replacement trees next summer or fall.

Each year, Moorestown Township removes trees adversely affected by the Emerald Ash Borer insect. As the Tree Preservation Committee identifies these diseased trees, they are treated or replaced when budgetary constraints allow. A grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection has come along to expedite the process.

The DEP has awarded approximately $400,000 in grants to 20 municipalities, and Moorestown was granted $17,500 to replace township ash trees. The plan is to plant EAB replacement trees next summer or fall.

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“We believe the removal and replanting of multiple species that are pest and disease resistant will provide the township with a long-term investment of a healthy tree canopy,” said John Gibson, chair of the Tree Planting & Preservation Committee.

Moorestown applied for the NJ Urban and Community Forestry Stewardship Grant in April. Gibson said it took about six weeks to prepare the application. Gibson said one of the purposes of the NJUCF program is to provide grants, under the Community Stewardship Incentive Program, to local governments to assist in the implementation of their approved Community Forestry Management Plan. Grants are awarded competitively to encourage best management practices.

In August, the township learned it was receiving $17,500. As part of the grant, the township must submit a reforestation/tree planting and maintenance plan. As such, the committee is working to prepare the plan and submit it to DEP.

Gibson said the plan is to plant the EAB replacement trees next summer or fall. The township will award a contract to supply and plant trees that will include at least four different species, including two smaller varieties to go under wires and two larger varieties where there are no overhead wires. The selected contractor will plant the trees in sites the committee selects.

The Emerald Ash Borer is an exotic, invasive pest from Asia that is killing ash trees in 25 states, including New Jersey. Gibson said since its discovery in Detroit, Mich., in 2002, the borer has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. The EAB was discovered in Moorestown in 2015 and has been killing ash trees since. Gibson said it is estimated that, in the next five years, all untreated ash trees in town will be gone.

The township originally had about 300 public ash trees based on an inventory completed in 2013. Since the discovery of the EAB, the Tree Committee has conducted an annual assessment of the ash trees by going to each site and assessing the condition of the trees.

This assessment only includes public trees and not those on private property. Gibson said this year’s assessment showed that about 50 percent of the public trees are still in good condition, 30 percent are fair, and 20 percent are dead or dying.

According to Gibson, the EAB infestation impacts all areas of the town. He said some of the newer developments built in the last 10 to 15 years are probably more impacted because builders were planting ash trees, which were very popular at the time.

The Tree Committee has six months to submit its reforestation/tree planting and maintenance plan. For more information on the Tree Planting & Preservation Committee, visit http://www.moorestown.nj.us/185/Tree-Planting-Preservation-Committee.

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