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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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news releases
RELEASE: 9/7/01

CONTACT: Sharon A. Southard or Amy Collings
(609) 984-1795 or 609-292-2994


Dozens of volunteers, foresters, and tree care experts will spend time this September walking the streets of over 100 municipalities from High Point to Cape May. With clipboards in hand, their mission will be to survey more than 10,000 of New Jersey's red oaks, scarlet oaks, and pin oaks for the signs and symptoms of Bacterial Leaf Scorch (BLS) disease.

These ground crews will work with helicopter survey teams to determine the extent of BLS in New Jersey. The disease has been observed from southern New York to Florida.

The New Jersey Forest Service's Community Forestry Program is coordinating this extensive survey effort with the USDA Forest Service, Rutgers University, the New Jersey Community Forestry Council, and the New Jersey Board of Certified Tree Experts, with funding provided by the Oak Tree Disease bill, (S1368.) This $95,000 appropriation will cover the volunteers' training in early September at Rutgers University, the disease aerial and ground surveying, as well as expenses associated with testing of samples and preparation of the final report that will be submitted to the state legislature.

“Thanks to this state appropriation, we will be able to determine the extent of this problem and hopefully protect our State Tree, the red oak, and other oaks such as the pin oak, the fifth most common street tree in New Jersey,” said state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Shinn.

Bacterial Leaf Scorch in oak trees is caused by a bacteria that clogs the xylem (water transport vessels) of the tree. This blocks the water from reaching the leaves and causes them to turn brown, explained Pamela Tappen, the New Jersey Forest Service forester coordinating the survey at DEP. This causes the oak leaves to look scorched but remain on the tree through late summer until autumn. Diseased oak trees lose vigor, and branches or entire trees with severe leaf scorch eventually die.

Dr. James Lashomb, an entomology expert at Rutgers, said the disease is moved from a sick oak tree to a healthy oak tree by leafhoppers and spittlebugs that are commonly found from Georgia through southern New York.

According to Michael D'Errico, supervising forester of the DEP’s Community Forestry Program, "This survey is so important because we need to know exactly how bad the problem is so that we can devise a strategic response to protect the resource."

Roni Olizi, member of the New Jersey Community Forestry Council, adds that, “the loss of this resource to our cities and towns will not only change their character but will be a financial burden, as thousands of trees will have to be removed.”

Protecting these trees provides an extended range of benefits to environmental quality including wildlife habitat, watershed protection, soil conservation, greenhouse gas mitigation, as well as recreational opportunities.

The USDA Forest Service, with the help of the DEP, has published a fact sheet entitled Bacterial Leaf Scorch Affects New Jersey State Tree. It is available from the NJ Forest Service in Trenton or you can visit the Department of Environmental Protection’s Community Forestry Program website at for more information and photos.



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