A snapshot of the state of forestry in North Carolina.

By on February 2, 2021

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

Our N.C. Forest Service creates a report each year outlining the status of forestry resources in the state. Around 61 percent or 18.7 million acres of the state’s land area is forested. Of that 2.9 million is owned by private corporation, 1.3 million acres are owned by the forest industry, and 4.3 million acres are federal, state or local public lands. That leaves over 10 million acres – the majority – in the hands of private landowners.

Today’s Topic

Summary of Talking Points:

  • Our N.C. Forest Service creates a report each year outlining the status of forestry resources in the state. It includes such information as total acreage and the overall state of forest health.
  • We are fortunate to have 18.7 million acres of forestland in the state. That represents over 61 percent of our total land, which is why we have such as lush and attractive landscape.
  • The forest industry is estimated to have a $32.7 billion economic impact and employs 151,000 people. Lumber and wood exports are significant to our state and the economy.
  • It’s interesting to note that over 10 million acres of forestlands are in the hands of private landowners. One of the services the Forest Service provides is working with individual landowners to develop forest management plans.
  • Forests are renewable resources, and these plans help landowners with decisions on harvesting, replanting and regrowth.
  • Some other numbers of note on forestland ownership … 2.9 million acres of forestland are owned by private corporations, 1.3 million acres are owned by the forest industry, and 4.3 million acres are federal, state or local public lands.
  • Forest health is another major responsibility for the department.
  • The N.C. Forest Service and our Plant Industry Division continually monitor for non-native invasive pests and plants, plus plant diseases that have the potential to harm our natural forest resources.
  • Some of the pests have been around a while, but others are newer. Listeners have probably heard of some of them before.
  • Laurel wilt, thousand cankers disease, emerald ash borer, hemlock wooly adelgid and gypsy moths have all been found in our state to some degree.
  • The spotted lanternfly and Asian longhorned beetle are two that we are actively watching for as they have been found in neighboring states. And we know that bugs don’t know borders.
  • In looking at the overall status of forest health in the state, laurel wilt has been found in12 counties, thousand cankers disease has only been found in Haywood County, and the Emerald ash borer has been found in 61 counties, with 6 new detections coming in 2020.
  • Another pest, the hemlock wooly adelgid, continues to cause significant and alarming damage to hemlocks. This pest was first detected in 1995 and it has now spread to all areas of the state where hemlock trees naturally occur.
  • I can tell you that many groups and much effort is going into saving as many hemlocks as we can through the Hemlock Restoration Initiative.
  • From the fall of 2019 to the spring of 2020, nearly 6,100 hemlocks were treated across the region, with ongoing winter treatments.
  • We are also trying some biological control methods by releasing predatory beetles that prey on the adelgids.
  • From 2018 to 2019, Forest Service staff and BRIDGE workers set out on a goal to treat 15,000 hemlocks on state lands. Through considerable efforts on 1,636 acres of rough and steep terrain, they ended up treating over 41,600 trees, shattering that goal by a long shot.
  • This team of 41 folks earned an Excellence in Team Accomplishment award for their efforts. I was very proud to recognize their efforts.
  • We are going to continue to work to protect hemlock trees. We are not going down without a fight.
  • Finally, I want to also mention gypsy moths. We have managed to keep this pest mostly at bay through the Slow the Spread Program, a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. Two counties, Currituck and parts of Dare, remain under a gypsy moth quarantine. I’d like to keep it that way.
  • During the 2020 trapping season, 1,037 male gypsy moths were captured in 371 traps. A total of 16,577 traps were set statewide. That was up slightly from 2019 by just 18 gypsy moths.
  • Based on the finds, we are proposing five aerial treatment applications in 2021. We will be talking with stakeholders about these proposed treatment areas in the near future.
  • As I mentioned earlier, our forest resources are a great asset to the state, but we must continue to watch over them and be ever vigilant in protecting them from pests and diseases.
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