Troxler announces funding for hemlock restoration
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler recently announced the allocation of seed funding for a new effort to restore North Carolina’s hemlock trees to long-term health.
Hemlocks across Western North Carolina are being decimated by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that sucks the sap of young twigs, which leads to tree death. Dead hemlocks can negatively affect nesting songbirds, trout populations, plant nurseries and landscapers, homeowners and tourism.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will use $100,000 from the state’s legal settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to start the Hemlock Restoration Initiative. Troxler made the announcement at a March 28 meeting of the N.C. General Assembly’s Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission held at DuPont State Recreational Forest.
“We can and must do more to restore hemlocks on public and private lands as soon as possible,” Troxler said. “Our goal is to ensure that, by 2025, Eastern and Carolina hemlocks in North Carolina can resist the adelgid and survive to maturity.”
Troxler said many people, groups and agencies already are working on promising approaches to return hemlocks to long-term health. These include the search for naturally resistant trees, testing of predator beetles that eat adelgids and efforts to bring in resistance from similar tree species. “We are focused on speeding up the most promising ideas, not reinventing the wheel,” he said.
The department has selected WNC Communities as its primary partner to implement the project. The Asheville-based nonprofit organization has experience in grant management, project development and using partnerships to achieve goals that benefit the region. “WNC Communities can bring together the right mix of researchers, funding organizations and others to make sure we use the best efforts to return hemlocks to long-term health,” Troxler said.
The program will include efforts to convene researchers to share solutions, provide funding to advance the most promising approaches, and attract additional resources to expand these efforts in the future.
As past president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Troxler also will be working with colleagues in other states to bring more resources to the table. “Hemlocks can be found in 25 states, and state boundaries are meaningless to the adelgid,” he said. “We need to work across state lines to bring together the best people and resources to solve this problem.”