NJ Pine Barrens bringing back Atlantic white cedars


Thousands of acres of Atlantic white cedar – once an integral part of the early Jersey Shore settlers – have been decimated by climate change, storm surges and sea level rise, but a new state initiative aims to rebuild these coastal forests. Watch the video above to see the remains of these forests in the Meadowlands.

Once common in the Pinelands of New Jersey, the “ghost forests” of dead Atlantic white cedar trees now mark the landscape. Rising salt water levels along the coast, climate change and more severe storms are to blame, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The ministry on Thursday pledged to restore some 10,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar in the Pine Barrens.

“This is the largest forest restoration project ever undertaken in New Jersey and the largest ever undertaken in the country to restore western cedar,” DEP Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette said in a statement.

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Atlantic white cedar stumps can be seen at low tide along the Mill Creek Marsh Trail in Secaucus.

The trees will be planted at higher elevations than where they originally grew, places “less vulnerable to rising seas and saltwater intrusion,” he said.

About two-thirds of the Atlantic white cedar forests that originally covered New Jersey have disappeared, leaving just 40,000 acres of cedar forest, according to the New Jersey environmental organization Audubon. DEP estimates that 115,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar forest covered New Jersey during European settlement, which valued the wood for its pest and rot resistance qualities. Wood has become a popular material for shingled roofs, clapboard siding, fencing, and shipbuilding.

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“Today we must again depend on the majestic cedars, not to build things from their wood, but to grow wood to help remove and store the carbon dioxide generated by the success of our ancestors. New Jersey Pinelands Commission Chairman Richard Prickett said. in a press release.

Atlantic white cedars grow small blue-gray cones on their dense green branches.

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Trees serve as a “carbon sink” by absorbing greenhouse gas and storing it, according to DEP.

White cedar forests are also “critical” for maintaining the purity of water in the Pinelands and provide important habitat for native plants and animals, agency officials said.

“The Atlantic white cedar forests are very special places, and you know it from the moment you walk in,” Pinelands Preservation Alliance executive director Carleton Montgomery said in a statement. “They are calm, sublime and beautiful. Restoring these forests from the landscape to the pine groves will certainly bring many benefits to the ecological diversity of the region. But restoring these forests will also bring many intangible benefits, as places of the sheer grandeur of nature for many generations to come. “

Amanda Oglesby is originally from Ocean County and covers the townships of Brick, Barnegat and Lacey as well as the environment. She has worked for the press for over a decade. Contact her at @OglesbyAPP, [email protected] or 732-557-5701.

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