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NCFS

Newsdesk - 2020

Safety Alert:

August 5, 2020

Safety Alert for Storm Debris Cleanup

RALEIGH– Hurricane Isaias has resulted in damaged and downed trees and branches. The N.C. Forest Service is urging homeowners, property owners and anyone looking to clean up after the storm to use caution and think safety first.

Unless a damaged tree is a safety risk, tree removal decisions can come after storm cleanup. After a storm, hasty or emotional decisions about damaged trees can result in unnecessary removals or drastic pruning decisions. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Debris cleanup
    • Cleaning up downed debris presents many safety risks. First, assess safety conditions of your family, home and neighborhood. There may be a debris field, making for poor footing. There may be potentially downed electric lines. If electrical wires are an issue, do not attempt tree work. Contact your utility company and let them remove the electrical wires.
    • Only attempt to clean up minor tree debris.
    • Operating a chainsaw on storm-damaged trees is dangerous. Historically, more people are injured by chainsaws than the storm that caused the tree damage. Never operate a chainsaw alone and always operate a chainsaw in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Work only on the ground, and always wear personal protective equipment such as a hard hat, a full-face shield or safety goggles, and hearing protection. Be aware of cutting any branches under tension or pressure.
  • Perform a general safety inspection of your trees
    • Is the soil around the base of the tree lifting or cracking? This may be an indication the tree may be falling over. Saturated soils and high winds can lead to uprooted trees. Long periods of standing water can cause additional stress and mortality.
    • Look up into the canopy of the tree. Are there any cracked, split or broken hanging branches?
    • These problems will need to be inspected and addressed by a qualified arborist.
  • Tree Pruning versus Tree Removal
    • Trees that have lost branches and are not an immediate hazard may be preserved with corrective pruning. This decision does not need to be made immediately and should wait until after the cleanup. Again, a qualified arborist should inspect the tree to assist you in making your decision.

Choose a qualified and insured tree service or consulting arborist. To find qualified arborists in your area, visit The International Society of Arboriculture, the American Society of Consulting Arborists, or the Tree Care Industry Association.

For more information and advice on proper tree care and tree assessment following a storm, visit NCFS Damage recovery. Additional advice on proper tree care can be found on the N.C. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage or by calling 919-857-4842.

July 10, 2020

Pitch canker disease impacting white pine in Western N.C.

RALEIGH- Pitch canker is a widespread fungal disease that can lead to death in many pine species in North Carolina. Longleaf, loblolly and slash pine are most commonly affected, but the disease can impact any southern pine.

While it is typically not common, pitch canker is prevalent on white pine in western North Carolina this year. It is primarily observed on trees along forest edges, but as the season progresses, it is likely to impact others.

"Heavy amounts of rainfall and cooler temperatures are ideal conditions for pitch canker, which are likely the reasons for the increased prevalence of pitch canker this year," said Brian Heath, a forest health specialist with the N.C. Forest Service.

Pitch canker causes infections that encircle branches, exposed roots and main stems. This infection creates cankers from which resin or pitch accumulates. The tips of branches wilt due to less water flow, and needles turn yellow and then brown. Eventually, needle clusters may fall off, leaving bare branch ends. Other symptoms include:

  • Dieback of the tree, which can eventually lead to death.
  • Slow tree growth.
  • Diseased bark, which is tan to chocolate brown colored. Removal of the bark exposes yellowish sapwood that is resin-soaked.
  • Infected trees are often attacked by engraver beetles, which cause additional death in the branches of the trees.
  • The fungus can also kill cones and seeds.

Wind or insects carry spores produced by pitch canker to new trees. "Damage caused by severe weather or insect feeding make pine trees more susceptible because they create wounds on the tree through which spores may enter," Heath said.

Little can be done to prevent or treat pitch canker. Avoid wounding trees since the fungus may enter through lesions. "In certain situations, proper tree care can also help trees overcome the infection," he added. There is no effective fungicide treatment for pitch canker. While pitch canker can cause death, not all infected trees become severely diseased, and some may recover. Because recovery is possible, use a conservative approach to removing diseased trees. Removing symptomatic branches may help improve the aesthetic of the trees.

If you believe that your trees have signs or symptoms of pitch canker, contact your N.C. Forest Service County Ranger for correct identification and advice. You can find your County Ranger by visiting our contact us page.

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July 2, 2020

Be safe with your fireworks this Fourth of July

RALEIGH- N.C. Forest Service officials urge the public to use extreme caution with fireworks to reduce the risk of igniting wildfires during Independence Day celebrations."

"With the current COVID-19 pandemic and cancelations of local fireworks shows, more North Carolinians may resort to setting off backyard fireworks," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "During a typical year, we would encourage people to attend a local, professional fireworks display, but with that being difficult this year, we want to stress how important it is for people to be safe and take every precaution to protect lives and property."

Even small, legal fireworks such as sparklers, fountains, glow worms, smoke devices, trick noisemakers and other Class C fireworks can be hazardous. For example, sparklers burn at temperatures above 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Glow worms burn directly on the ground near ignition sources. Wildfires caused by fireworks can be prosecuted under the forest protection laws of North Carolina, and individuals may be subject to reimbursing the costs for fire suppression.

If you take the risk of using your own fireworks, here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Do not use fireworks such as ground spinners, firecrackers, round spinners, Roman candles, bottle rockets and mortars, which are illegal in North Carolina.
  • Do not use fireworks near woods, dry vegetation or any combustible material.
  • Do not aim fireworks at trees, bushes or hedges where dry leaves may ignite.
  • Make sure fireworks are always used with adult supervision.
  • Follow the instructions provided with the fireworks.
  • Do not use fireworks while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Always use in a large, open, preferably paved, area or near a body of water.
  • Have a rake or shovel and a water source nearby.
  • Ensure all burning material is completely extinguished afterward and monitor the area for several hours

"With 13.4 million acres of wildland urban interface in North Carolina, we need to take extra precautions to prevent wildfires in our residential and developed areas," added State Forester David Lane. "In addition to using fireworks safely, we need the public to remember safety first and to be responsible when using campfires, fire pits and grills. Never use a flammable liquid to ignite them and never leave them unattended."

It’s also important to remember to douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. Drown all embers, not just the red ones. When soaked, stir the coals and soak them again. Make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch. If you do not have water, mix enough dirt or sand with the embers to extinguish the fire, being careful not to bury the fire. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.

For more information, contact your local N.C. Forest Service office or visit www.ncforestservice.gov.

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July 1, 2020

N.C. Forest Service to begin tree seedling sales July 1

RALEIGH- Beginning July 1, the North Carolina Forest Service is accepting tree seedling orders as part of its annual sale. Each year, the NCFS Nursery Program produces millions of quality seedlings for nearly 50 species of conifers, hardwoods and native understory plants, including eastern and Carolina hemlock seedlings, as well as an expanded selection of genetically improved third cycle loblolly pine seedlings.

Genetically improved stock is also available in longleaf pine, shortleaf pine, white pine and other species. These seedlings offer better volume growth, form, disease resistance, straightness, and other characteristics needed to produce quality forest products.

"Trees are one of our greatest renewable resources, and these tree seedlings help keep North Carolina beautiful and economically viable," said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Tree seedlings and understory plants are available to public and private entities and landowners. Demand for tree seedlings is up, so anyone interested in buying trees is encouraged to order early."

Hardwoods are sold in quantities as low as 10 and conifers in quantities as low as 50. For those wishing to submit larger orders, the nursery sells tree seedlings by the hundreds and thousands.

    How can you order tree seedlings from the NCFS Nursery Program?
  • Tree seedlings can be ordered from the online seedling store at www.buynctrees.com.
  • Tree seedlings can also be ordered by phone at 1-888-NCTREES (1-888-628-7337).
  • Tree seedlings can be ordered using the order form found in our current catalog. Complete the form and mail to Seedling Coordinator, 762 Claridge Nursery Road, Goldsboro, NC 27530.
  • A user-friendly catalog is available at the "Tree Seedlings & Nursery Program" link located at www.ncforestservice.gov. Catalogs are also available at local NCFS offices located in all 100 North Carolina counties. Inside the catalog, landowners can find information about the types of tree species, quantities and costs to order. Each tree description includes information about ideal planting locations and whether a species is typically used to benefit wildlife, restore habitats or as marketable timber.
  • Accepted methods of payment are check, money order, Mastercard and Visa.

Distribution of tree seedlings will occur December through mid-April, depending on weather conditions. Seedling orders can be shipped to one of 12 distribution centers statewide for a small fee or via UPS for a charge. Seedling orders are also available for pickup from the NCFS Claridge Nursery in Goldsboro or the Linville River Nursery, near Crossnore. For information on planting trees, people are encouraged to contact an NCFS county ranger. Contact information for your local NCFS county office and nursery locations is available at www.ncforestservice.gov/contacts.

The forest sector contributes around $33.6 billion annually to the economy and supports more than 150,000 jobs for North Carolinians.

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June 17, 2020

Emerald ash borer found in Union County for the first time

RALEIGH- Signs of the emerald ash borer (EAB) were found in Union County for the first time this summer, bringing the number of counties where the tree-killing insect has been detected to 58 counties within the state. Signs and symptoms consistent with EAB were found north of Fairview.

EAB is a metallic green beetle that bores into ash trees and feeds on tissues beneath the bark, ultimately killing the tree. The signs and symptoms of EAB aren't always immediately noticeable because EAB damages the inside of the tree. Adult borers lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. When the eggs hatch, the larvae bore into the bark and feed on the transportation tissues of the tree. This disrupts the movement of nutrients and water within the tree, causing the tree's slow death typically in three to five years.

The signs and symptoms of EAB infestation include thinning and dying crowns; increased woodpecker activity that causes the tree to look like it is losing patches of bark; small, 1/8-inch D-shaped exit holes where adult beetles emerged from the trees; galleries on the inside of the bark; cream-colored larvae; and, epicormic sprouting or sprouting from the main stem of the tree. Host plants include all native ash trees and native white fringetree. The Chinese white fringetree, often planted for ornamental purposes, is believed to be resistant.

EAB has been found in the following North Carolina counties: Alamance, Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Cherokee, Clay, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Graham, Granville, Guilford, Halifax, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Johnston, Lenoir, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Nash, Orange, Person, Polk, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Union, Vance, Wake, Warren, Watauga, Wayne, Wilkes, Wilson, Yadkin and Yancey.

The entire state of North Carolina is under a quarantine for EAB. This prohibits the movement of ash plant parts, the insect itself, ash nursery stock and all hardwood firewood into nonquarantined areas such as central Tennessee, most of Alabama and all of Florida.

Adult EAB beetles are about a half-inch long and 1/8-inch wide. If their wing covers are pried up, their bodies are a metallic purple-red color. In North Carolina, the adult EAB is typically active from late spring and early summer, likely April through June. EAB larvae may be found under the bark of the tree most of the year.

For more information about EAB, visit ncforestservice.gov and follow the links under the "Forest Health" section. To view current federal EAB quarantines, visit www.emeraldashborer.info.

The spread of invasive insects in the state is often due to human activity through the transportation of infested wood products such as firewood. It is strongly recommended that people burn local or treated firewood to reduce the spread of invasive pests.

The North Carolina Forest Health Branch monitors the spread of invasive pests. People who suspect there is an infested tree in an area near them should contact their county ranger. The contact information can be found online at ncforestservice.gov, under the links in the "contacts" heading.

A map showing emerald ash borer detections throughout North Carolina is available at this link.

# # #

June 12, 2020

Emerald ash borer found in Clay and Alexander counties for the first time

RALEIGH- Signs of the emerald ash borer (EAB) were found in Clay and Alexander counties for the first time this summer. The tree-killing insect has now been detected in 57 counties within the state. Signs and symptoms consistent with EAB were found northeast of Hayesville in Clay County and southwest of Taylorsville in Alexander County.

EAB is a metallic green beetle that bores into ash trees and feeds on tissues beneath the bark, ultimately killing the tree. The signs and symptoms of EAB aren't always immediately noticeable because EAB damages the inside of the tree. Adult borers lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. When the eggs hatch, the larvae bore into the bark and feed on the transportation tissues of the tree. This disrupts the movement of nutrients and water within the tree, causing the tree's slow death typically in three to five years.

The signs and symptoms of EAB infestation include thinning and dying crowns; increased woodpecker activity that causes the tree to look like it is losing patches of bark; small, 1/8-inch D-shaped exit holes where adult beetles emerged from the trees; galleries on the inside of the bark; cream-colored larvae; and, epicormic sprouting or sprouting from the main stem of the tree. Host plants include all native ash trees and native white fringetree. The Chinese white fringetree, often planted for ornamental purposes, is believed to be resistant.

EAB has been found in the following North Carolina counties: Alamance, Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Cherokee, Clay, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Graham, Granville, Guilford, Halifax, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Johnston, Lenoir, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Nash, Orange, Person, Polk, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Vance, Wake, Warren, Watauga, Wayne, Wilkes, Wilson, Yadkin and Yancey.

The entire state of North Carolina is under a quarantine for EAB. This prohibits the movement of ash plant parts, the insect itself, ash nursery stock and all hardwood firewood into nonquarantined areas such as central Tennessee, most of Alabama and all of Florida.

Adult EAB beetles are about a half-inch long and 1/8-inch wide. If their wing covers are pried up, their bodies are a metallic purple-red color. In North Carolina, the adult EAB is typically active from late spring and early summer, likely April through June. EAB larvae may be found under the bark of the tree most of the year.

For more information about EAB, visit ncforestservice.gov and follow the links under the "Forest Health" section. To view current federal EAB quarantines, visit www.emeraldashborer.info.

The spread of invasive insects in the state is often due to human activity through the transportation of infested wood products such as firewood. It is strongly recommended that people burn local or treated firewood to reduce the spread of invasive pests.

The North Carolina Forest Health Branch monitors the spread of invasive pests. People who suspect there is an infested tree in an area near them should contact their county ranger. The contact information can be found online at ncforestservice.gov, under the links in the "contacts" heading.

A map showing emerald ash borer detections throughout North Carolina is available at this link.

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May 18, 2020

Phased reopening underway at DuPont State Recreational Forest

Holmes ESF also reopens to the public

RALEIGH – DuPont State Recreational Forest and neighboring Holmes Educational State Forest have begun a phased reopening in Western North Carolina.

To encourage responsible use and to maintain required social distancing, phased reopening will begin by allowing public access only to areas of the forest that promote movement-focused activities. Some areas and facilities of the forest will not be available to the public during phase one of the reopening but will become available in accordance with Governor Cooper’s phased plan for reopening the state.

"N.C. Forest Service staff are working hard, taking every precaution, to make sure our state forests are available for families and visitors to safely enjoy some of North Carolina’s most beautiful views," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Now, we need the public to join our efforts. We must take care of public lands and each other by following social distancing guidelines and recommendations from our public health experts."

Minimal services, facilities and assistance will be available for visitors. Responsible recreation is critical during this time. Visitors are asked to be good stewards and good neighbors. Visitors may find limited parking at busy times. Please only park in designated parking areas.

What can visitors expect during a visit to DuPont State Recreational Forest during phase one of the reopening?

  • DuPont State Recreational Forest is open daily, 5 a.m. until 10 p.m.
  • Most of the trail system is open, and visitors should come prepared to access trails and to keep moving. Come prepared to share trails with all types of users. Trail courtesy is critical during this time to ensure safe access for everyone.
  • Parking is limited to Fawn Lake Access Area, Guion Farm Access Area and Corn Mill Shoals Access Area. Expect crowding and limited parking.
  • Portable toilets are available. Permanent restrooms are not available.
  • Gathering areas of the forest remain closed to encourage movement and separation. These areas include the following:
    • High Falls Access Area Hooker Falls Access Area, and Lake Imaging Access Area
    • Visitor Center and Office
    • Triple Falls Trail and Staircase, Base of High Falls Trail, Wintergreen Falls, and the area at the base of Bridal Veil (Waterfall viewing areas remain available. Remember social distancing. Remain patient. Wait your turn.)
    • Three Lakes Trail
    • All picnic areas
    • Swimming areas and waterfronts
    • Hooker Falls, Fawn Lake, Lake Dense and Lake Alford

What can visitors expect during a visit to Holmes Educational State Forest during phase one of the reopening?

  • Holmes Educational State Forest is open Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
  • Most of the trail system is open, and visitors should come prepared to access trails and to keep moving.
  • Portable toilets are available. Permanent restrooms are not available.
  • Gathering areas of the forest remain closed to encourage movement and separation. These areas include the office, forestry center, group campground, picnic shelter and picnic areas.

Visitors are asked to adjust expectations, to be prepared, to stay local and to continue complying with CDC recommendations and guidelines. Additionally, please follow individual best practices and social distancing recommendations. Visitor behavior will be a key factor for providing continued public access and preventing additional closures during this period of phased reopening.

For updated information about public access to North Carolina State Forests during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our COVID information page and follow us on Facebook.

May 12, 2020

Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest to begin phased reopening May 13

Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest will reopen to the public effective 9a.m. May 13. To encourage responsible use and to maintain required social distancing, phased reopening will begin with allowing public access only to areas of the forest that promote movement-focused activities such as hiking. All areas and facilities of the forest will not be available during phase one of the reopening but will become available in accordance with Governor Cooper’s phased plan for reopening the state.

What can visitors expect during a visit to Rendezvous Mountain ESF during phase one of the reopening?

  • Rendezvous Mountain ESF will be open Monday through Friday, 9a.m. until 5p.m.
  • Most of the trail system will be open, and visitors should come prepared to access trails and to keep moving.
  • Parking has been adjusted to allow for more spacing and to make it more feasible for visitors to maintain recommended social distance.
  • While portable toilets will be available for visitors, restrooms will remain closed.
  • Gathering areas of the forest will remain closed to encourage movement and separation. These areas include the following:
  • all picnic areas;
  • the McGee Forestry Center;
  • the Bathhouse;
  • the Ranger Station;
  • the Logger’s Shack;
  • the Office; and,
  • the amphitheater.

As we move forward with this phased approach, we urge the public to adjust expectations, to be prepared, to stay local and to continue complying with CDC recommendations and guidelines. Visitors are asked to be responsible for individual best practices and to follow social distancing recommendations. Visitor behavior will be a key factor for providing continued public access and to avoid additional closures to the forest during this period of phased reopening. For phased reopening to be successful for public lands across our state, visitors must be good stewards and good neighbors. If you arrive during a busy time and find limited parking, the right decision is to return home and plan to visit another day at another time. If we are busy, expect other public lands, such as state parks and national forests, to also be busy. For up-to-date information about access to state forests in North Carolina, please stay tuned into https://ncforestservice.gov/COVID19.htm and NCFS social media accounts.

April 13, 2020

Burn ban lifted for 32 Western North Carolina counties as conditions improve

RALEIGH – Effective at noon Monday, April 13, the N.C. Forest Service has lifted a ban on all open burning for the following counties in western North Carolina: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Union, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey. The burn ban went into effect April 3 due to hazardous forest fire conditions in the area.

While burn permits are now available in those counties, N.C. Forest Service officials continue to urge residents to reconsider burning yard debris through the end of May as careless debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina.

"Recent rainfall across the state, especially in our western counties, has helped with dry conditions, but it is important to remember that we are still in the midst of spring wildfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Preventing escaped debris burns is something each of us can do to protect our communities and our first responders."

At this time, burn permits are being issued online only while NCFS office locations remain temporarily closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The online burn permit system is available statewide. All burn permits previously granted for the 32 counties affected by this burn ban were canceled when the ban became effective. New burn permit applications must be submitted online.

Residents with questions regarding their specific county can contact their county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service or their county fire marshal’s office.

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April 9, 2020

Watauga County residents encouraged to keep an eye out for emerald ash borer

RALEIGH – Last summer, emerald ash borer (EAB) was found in Watauga County for the first time. Residents should be aware of its impacts, how to diagnose it and what can be done.

EAB is a nonnative beetle that bores into ash trees and feeds on tissues beneath the bark, ultimately killing the tree. Feeding of EAB larvae beneath the bark disrupts the movement of nutrients and water within the tree, causing the tree's death, typically in three to five years.

The signs and symptoms of EAB aren’t always immediately noticeable because EAB damages the inside of the tree. The signs and symptoms of EAB infestation include thinning and dying crowns; small, 1/8-inch D-shaped exit holes where adult beetles emerged from the trees; galleries beneath the bark; increased woodpecker activity that causes the tree to look like it is losing patches of bark; and epicormic sprouting, or sprouting from the main stem of the tree. Adult EAB beetles are metallic green and about a half-inch long and 1/8-inch wide. If their wing covers are pried up, their bodies are a metallic purple-red color. In North Carolina, the adult EAB is typically active from late spring and early summer, likely April through June. EAB larvae may be found under the bark of the tree from midsummer to winter.

Host plants include all native ash trees and native white fringetree. The Chinese fringetree, often planted for ornamental purposes, is believed to be resistant. Unless treated, ash native trees are expected to be killed by this pest. In our forest settings alone, 258 million ash trees are at risk. This does not include the countless ash planted in urban areas.

To protect high-value ash trees, landowners can treat trees with insecticides. If over half the canopy is dead, removal is recommended. For additional resources on managing EAB, visit this link.

EAB has been found in 55 counties in the state and will continue to spread. EAB has been found in the following North Carolina counties: Alamance, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Cherokee, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Graham, Granville, Guilford, Halifax, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Johnston, Lenoir, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Nash, Orange, Person, Polk, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Vance, Wake, Warren, Watauga, Wayne, Wilkes, Wilson, Yadkin and Yancey. A map showing emerald ash borer detections throughout North Carolina is available here.

The spread of invasive insects in the state is often due to human activity through the transportation of infested wood products such as firewood. It is strongly recommended that people burn local firewood, within 50 miles of where it was cut, or treated firewood when possible. The entire state of North Carolina is under a quarantine for EAB which prohibits the movement of ash plant parts, the insect itself, ash nursery stock and all hardwood firewood into nonquarantined areas. To view current federal EAB quarantines, visit this link.

People who suspect there is an infested tree in an area near them should contact their county ranger. The contact information can be found online here, under the links in the "contacts" heading. For more information about EAB, visit ncforestservice.gov and follow the links under the "Forest Health" section.

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April 6, 2020

JOINT NEWS RELEASE
North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
North Carolina Forest Service
USDA Forest Service

Record visitation seen at public lands during COVID-19 pandemic; public reminded to maintain social distance

RALEIGH – Visitation at many state forests in North Carolina is two and three times greater than what is typical for this time of year, which is stretching the resources of the sites and making it harder for people to practice proper social distancing. Visitors are asked to strictly follow social distancing guidelines to help keep public lands safe, available and open to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Public lands, including state forests and parks, and national forests are experiencing record-high attendance, making social distancing difficult to achieve," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "While public lands are a great natural resource, we are urging visitors to observe the CDC and public health’s recommendations of 6 feet of spacing between each other, frequent and thorough handwashing and staying home if you do not feel well."

Many public lands have temporarily closed, restricting public access until further notice due to heavy visitation. N.C. Forest Service officials note that some visitors are following social distancing guidelines while others are not. Many state parks, state forests and national forests are experiencing large congregations of visitors in parking areas.

For anyone planning to visit public lands during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are some helpful social distancing guidelines to help you recreate responsibly:

  • Stay close to home. Enjoy outdoor recreation in your neighborhood. Faraway places are wonderful but traveling long distances can increase your potential to spread illness.
  • Pay close attention to guidance in your community before heading outside. Acknowledge any guidelines, restrictions or closures mandated by your local or state government.
  • Expect closures. Use the restroom before leaving home.
  • Avoid times and places of high use. Visit early in the day or in the middle of the week.
  • Keep hiking groups to three people or less.
  • Wash your hands and follow CDC guidelines carefully.
  • Be a good steward for nature and the people around you.

To download Social Distancing Guidelines for North Carolina State Forests and for updated information about public access to state forests during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit this link. For status of North Carolina State Parks, visit the state parks website. For a complete list of closures across the National Forests in North Carolina, please visit this link

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April 3, 2020

Burn ban issued for 32 Western North Carolina counties due to hazardous forest fire conditions

RALEIGH – Due to increased fire risk, the N.C. Forest Service has issued a ban on all open burning and has canceled all burning permits for the following counties in western North Carolina: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Union, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.

The burning ban goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020, and will remain in effect until further notice.

"With spring wildfire season on us, coupled with the COVID-19 crisis, we don’t need to take any unnecessary chances with the dry weather and fuel conditions that will exist in the western part of our state during the next several days," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Until we see more greening in western North Carolina, these hazardous forest fire conditions will continue. This open burning ban is a necessary step to protect lives and property."

Under North Carolina law, the ban prohibits all open burning in the affected counties, regardless of whether a permit was previously issued. The issuance of any new permits has also been suspended until the ban is lifted. Anyone violating the burn ban faces a $100 fine plus $180 court costs. Any person responsible for setting a fire may be liable for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire.

Local fire departments and law enforcement officers are assisting the N.C. Forest Service in enforcing the burn ban.

Answers to frequently asked questions

What is open burning?

Open burning includes burning leaves, branches or other plant material. In all cases, burning trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other nonvegetative material is illegal.

May I still use my grill or barbecue?

Yes, if no other local ordinances prohibit their use.

How should I report a wildfire?

Call 911 to report a wildfire.

How should I report a person who intentionally starts a wildfire?

Call 911 to report a wildfire.

My local fire marshal has also issued a burn ban for my county. What does this mean?

The burn ban issued by the N.C. Forest service does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. Local government agencies have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service has advised county fire marshals of the burning ban and has asked for their consideration of also implementing a burning ban. If a fire within a 100-foot area of a dwelling escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be liable for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire.

Are there other instances which impact open burning?

Local ordinances and air quality regulations may impact open burning. For instance, outdoor burning is prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts. Learn more about air quality forecasts at this link

Can I have a campfire when I go camping?

Campfires would be considered open burning and are not exempt from the burn ban. Portable gas stoves or grills are alternate methods for cooking food while camping during a burn ban.

What can I do to protect my house against the risk of wildfire?

Learn about wildfire risk assessments and preparedness and prevention plans on the N.C. Forest Service website at this link

Can I use my fire pit?

If the fire pit is within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling (occupied dwelling=primary residence/your house), call your local fire marshal. If the fire pit is further away from your house than 100 feet, no open burning is allowed during a burn ban.

Can I use a burn barrel during a burn ban?

A burn barrel is considered open burning the same as a fire pit or campfire. No burning is allowed during a burn ban.

My local area received rain. When will the burn ban be lifted?

While local areas may have enjoyed recent rain, the larger area as a whole is experiencing high risk of wildfire. The decision to implement a burn ban is never undertaken lightly and is always done with care and great consideration of many risk factors in light of overall public safety. The N.C. Forest Service continues to monitor conditions. The burn ban will be lifted as soon as conditions allow.

My fire pit is small and has a cover. Can I still use it?

Outside 100 feet of an occupied dwelling, the ban = no burning regardless of fire pit or burn barrel. Inside 100 feet from an occupied dwelling is up to local jurisdiction. Campers, tents, etc. are not considered dwellings.

Regarding fire pits, burn barrels, campfires or any other open fire during a burn ban:

  • Outside 100 feet of an occupied dwelling, the ban = no burning regardless of fire pit or burn barrel.
  • Inside 100 feet from an occupied dwelling is up to local jurisdiction.
  • Campers, tents, etc. are not considered dwellings.
  • Remember: Any burn ban issued by the N.C. Forest Service does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. Local government agencies have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service advises county fire marshals of any state-enacted burning bans and asks for their consideration in also implementing local burning bans. If a fire within a 100-foot area of a dwelling escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be liable for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire. Contact your local fire marshal before burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling.

The N.C. Forest Service will continue to monitor conditions. Residents with questions regarding their specific county can contact their county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service or their county fire marshal’s office.

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April 3, 2020

Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest temporarily closed to the public due to overcrowding during COVID-19 pandemic

Raleigh– Effective at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, N.C. Forest Service officials have temporarily closed Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest, restricting all public access until further notice. All trails, trailheads, forest facilities, parking areas and Rendezvous Mountain State Forest Game Land are unavailable to the public during this period of closure. This closure includes both Wyatt Rd and Benny Parsons Rd access points for the Game Land.

"Our N.C. Forest Service staff noted that crowds were gathering and remaining in parking areas of Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest, which goes against the recommendations of social distancing", said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "We hope we will be able to reopen the forest soon when the threat of spreading the coronavirus has ended. To get there though, everyone needs to do their part in social distancing."

NCFS officials will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the forest and game lands reopen when conditions allow.

For updated information about public access to North Carolina State Forests during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit this link and follow us on Facebook.

Read the closure announcement for DuPont State Recreational Forest and Holmes Educational State Forest

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March 27, 2020

Residents asked to reconsider burning yard debris due to spring wildfire season and COVID-19 pandemic

Raleigh–N.C. Forest Service officials urge citizens to reconsider burning yard debris through the end of May, which historically marks the end of spring wildfire season in North Carolina. Consider alternatives to burning. Some types of debris, such as leaves, grass and stubble, may be of more value if they are not burned but used for mulch instead.

"In North Carolina, most wildfires are caused by human action and careless debris burning. When left unattended, debris burns can escape, igniting tragic wildfires," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Minimizing the number of escaped debris burns will reduce the risk of wildfires while also reducing the risk of community exposure to COVID-19 by allowing first responders to limit close-contact interactions and maintain social distance."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the N.C. Forest Service continues mission critical work such as wildfire suppression and other emergency response functions.

For tips to protect property, prevent wildfires or to access the Online Burning Permit System, visit ncforestservice.gov.

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March 24, 2020

DuPont State Recreational Forest temporarily closed to the public; public access restricted due to COVID-19 safety concerns

Temporary closure also applies for Holmes ESF

Raleigh– N.C. Forest Service officials have temporarily closed DuPont State Recreational Forest and neighboring Holmes Educational State Forest effective at 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, restricting public access until further notice.

All trails, trailheads and forest facilities are closed until further notice. Parking areas, both designated and roadside, are barricaded in the interest of public safety.

"Closing state forests to the public is a decision I do not take lightly, and much consideration has been given to this decision," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "The bottom line is that these sites are beautiful and treasured places in our state where families and visitors can make positive, lasting memories. These state forests have experienced what many state parks and beaches have, too -- unsafe and overcrowded conditions that tax these resources. This temporary closure to the public is necessary, but rest assured, it is temporary."

NCFS officials note that crowds are gathering in parking areas and trailheads which compromises the degree of social distancing needed to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. Forest Service regret that temporary closure of DSRF and HESF is necessary. NCFS officials will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring both forests are reopened when conditions allow.

For updated information about public access to North Carolina State Forests during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit ncforestservice.gov/COVID19.htm and follow us on Facebook.

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March 6, 2020

The N.C. Forest Service is accepting applications for Forest Development Program (FDP) Funding

The N.C. Forest Service (NCFS) is accepting applications for cost-share reimbursement funding through the Forest Development Program (FDP). Landowners interested in applying for funding should contact their NCFS county ranger’s office or work with a consulting forester. The FDP helps eligible landowners implement a variety of forest stand improvement, site preparation and tree planting practices. Applications must be submitted to the local NCFS county ranger’s office for initial review. NCFS staff must then send eligible applications to the NCFS State Headquarters during two enrollment periods. Enrollment periods are as follows:

  • "Base Fund" and "Mountain Fund" enrollment periods began March 1, 2020, and will close Friday, May 29, 2020.
  • "Plant-Only Fund" enrollment period will begin on Sept. 1, 2020, and will close Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

To be considered for funding, all FDP applications must be received at the NCFS State Headquarters by the close of business on each of the closing dates. Landowners should apply as soon as possible. Allocation of funding will begin promptly after each enrollment period closes.

FDP cost-share funding requests continue to be significantly greater than available funding. To award funding, the NCFS State Headquarters will continue to utilize a lottery system, using a random drawing process.

Available funding amounts include $250,000 from the "Mountain Fund"; $1.46 million from the "Base Fund"; and, $500,000 in statewide funding from the "Plant-Only" Fund. Landowners may receive no more than $10,000 in FDP cost-share reimbursement funding per fiscal year, and they are not guaranteed to receive a full $10,000 reimbursement payment, especially for projects that are completed underbudget.

To find contact information for your local NCFS county ranger, visit the N.C. Forest Service website.

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March 4, 2020

Urban and Community Forestry grant applications available March 1

The N.C. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program will be accepting applications for its annual grant program beginning March 2, 2020. The deadline for submitting applications is 5 p.m. EST, April 30, 2020. These grants provide funding for projects that will enhance the benefits and sustainable management of urban forests in North Carolina communities.

Projects that will be considered include:

  • Tree Inventories & Canopy Cover Assessments
  • Management Plan Development
  • Ordinance Development
  • Professional Staff & Development
  • Education & Training
  • Advocacy Group Development

The grants are open to local and state government entities, public educational institutions and nonprofit 501(c)(3) and other tax-exempt organizations. Applicants can request from $2,500 to $15,000 in grant funding. The grants provide 50% of project costs and require matching funds or in-kind efforts. Projects should encourage citizen involvement in creating and sustaining urban and community forestry programs. Projects must be completed within an 11-month project schedule beginning September 2020 and ending July 31, 2021.

To learn more about the NCFS Urban & Community Grant Program and to access grant application instructions and a copy of the Request for Proposals, visit the North Carolina Forest Service website.

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March 2, 2020

Restoration of Linville River continues; seedling planting and trout stocking to be in next phase

CROSSNORE - The N.C. Forest Service and partnering agencies have restored 2,450 feet of the Linville River channel as it flows through Gill State Forest and beyond Crossnore Mountain Training Facility and Linville River Nursery.

Additionally, the NCFS has enhanced 500 feet of an unnamed stream that discharges to the river by planting understory growth that will eventually shade the stream.

In the next phase of the project, tree seedling planting and trout stocking will begin in March. Forest Service staff have already placed signs on river and stream banks advising fishermen and visitors of the new understory vegetation already planted and of the future tree plantings.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will stock the restored river reach for opening day of trout fishing season, the first Saturday in April. Due to restoration construction, the Commission suspended stocking of hatchery trout in the summer of 2018. According to Commission officials, this portion of the river will be stocked with trout in March; restocked twice during April and May, and once in June and July.

The improved aquatic habitat means more places for trout to call home and a sustained fishery throughout the spring and summer," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "We restored the river in the fall and winter months to minimize impacts on fishing and other recreation that occurs at Gill State Forest."

For fishing and hiking enthusiasts, visitor parking is available just off Linville Falls Highway, adjacent to the high-water bridge. This summer, a river trail and self-interpretation kiosks will be established to inform forest visitors about the many benefits of river restoration. You can learn more about the restoration by visiting the N.C. Forest Service website.

Read the closure announcement for DuPont State Recreational Forest and Holmes Educational State Forest.

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Feburary 7, 2020

Remember safety first when cleaning up storm debris

RALEIGH – Recent severe storms resulted in damaged and downed trees and a lingering threat of wind and flooding. The N.C. Forest Service is encouraging homeowners and anyone looking to clean up after a storm to exercise caution and think safety first. "Everyone should be extra cautious when assessing storm damage," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler."If you’re a landowner concerned about your woodlands, talk to your county ranger or a consulting forester who can help you determine if you need a plan for managing damaged timber."

Unless a damaged tree is a safety risk, tree removal decisions can come later after the storm cleanup. After a storm, hasty or emotional decisions about damaged trees can result in unnecessary removals or drastic pruning decisions. The following are some basic guidelines:

Debris cleanup
  • Cleaning up downed debris presents many safety risks, including a debris field making for poor footing and potentially downed electric lines. If electrical wires are an issue, do not attempt tree work. Contact your utility company and let them remove the electrical wires. If you use a chainsaw, do so in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Work only on the ground and always wear personal protective equipment such as a hard hat and hearing and eye protection. Be aware of cutting any branches under tension or pressure.
Perform a general safety inspection of your trees
  • Is the soil around the base of the tree lifting or cracking? This may be an indication the tree may be falling over. Saturated soils and high winds can lead to uprooted trees. Long periods of standing water can cause additional stress and mortality.
  • Look up into the canopy of the tree. Are there any cracked, split or broken hanging branches?
  • These problems will need to be inspected and addressed by a qualified arborist.
Tree Pruning vs. Tree Removal
  • Trees that have lost branches and are not an immediate hazard may be preserved with corrective pruning. This decision does not need to be made immediately and should wait until after the cleanup. Again, a qualified arborist should inspect the tree to assist you in making your decision.

Choose a qualified and insured tree service or consulting arborist. To find qualified arborists in your area, visit The International Society of Arboriculture at www.treesaregood.com, the American Society of Consulting Arborists at www.asca-consultants.org, or the Tree Care Industry Association at www.treecareindustry.org.

You can get more information and advice on proper tree care and tree assessment following a storm on our site and following the links to storm recovery under forest health. Additional advice on proper tree care can be found on the N.C. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage or by calling 919-857-4842.

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