Reducing Future Outbreaks of Southern Pine Beetle in Florida
Prepared by the Gainesville/Alachua County Southern Pine Beetle
Technical Advisory Committee, October 2001. James R Meeker, principal
Widespread, rapid, abundant and costly episodes of tree mortality due
to outbreaks of the southern pine beetle will likely continue across
northern Florida into the foreseeable future. Whether urban or
rural, public or private, forests need to be altered and thereafter
maintained in a less susceptible condition over large areas to prevent,
delay and limit such undesirable events. The following is a list of
measures that reduce the probability of SPB activity. The more measures
that become reality and practice across all landscapes and ownerships,
the more effective the prevention effort will be.
I. Local Ordinances, Codes, and Regulations:
City and County Land Management Codes should prohibit the use of tree
climbing spikes on all live trees not being removed. Spiking live trees
is a violation of American National Standard ANSI A300 which
Climbing spurs should not be used when climbing trees, except as
specified elsewhere in this standard. Climbing spur use is permissible
on tree removals and in emergencies, such as aerial rescue.
Equipment and work practices that damage bark, cambium, live plant
tissue, or any combination of these, should be avoided.
City and County Land Management Codes should prohibit retention of
southern pine beetle infested trees in residential and commercial zoning
categories. Such Codes already prohibit retention of dead trees that
pose a safety threat. Since SPB always kills trees that it successfully
infests and the beetles and their brood are a potential threat to
others, instituting a fine for failure to remove infested trees within
14 days of notification of active infestation would reduce the overall
impact of SPB outbreaks by quicker removal of the contagion from urban
areas. The Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has passed
ordinances that similarly regulate SPB activity on private
Eliminate all protection measures that currently encourage or require
retention of loblolly pine in landscapes. Loblolly pines are routinely
afforded protection given to all other tree species, but, given their
role in promoting and sustaining SPB outbreaks, efforts should be made
to reduce their presence in urban forests.
- Rapidly and consistently grant permits for all requests to remove
loblolly pine, or eliminate permit requirements for loblolly pine unless
they are already spaced at least 20' apart from neighboring trees and
- Prohibit grade changes (e.g., excavation or fill), soil compaction
or other tree damage within the drip line of established pines to be
retained on construction sites (e.g., mandate tree protection zones and
- Encourage removal and discourage retention of loblolly pine in site
plan reviews of new development projects. Given the cost of SPB
suppression programs to local government, retention of loblolly pines at
spacing less than 20' apart from neighboring trees and structures should
- Development proposals submitted to the City/County should state
that in required buffers or in areas where native vegetation is to be
retained, loblolly pines shall be retained on spacing at least 20' apart
from neighboring trees and structures. Prior to issuing the certificate
of occupancy on new construction, on-site inspection should assure this
condition has been met.
II. Government Practices, Procedures, Policies and Programs:
- Prohibit off-site planting of loblolly pine in city/county/state
projects and properties.
- On city/county/state property or easements, reduce and maintain the
number of loblolly pines so that pine basal area is < 100 sq.
ft. per acre. Conservation or natural areas should be managed to
minimize off-site regeneration of loblolly stands.
- On city/county/state properties, remove individual trees and groups
or stands of loblolly pine that are mature to overmature and
characterized by reduced radial growth, flat-topped crowns and sparse
foliage. Follow up such removals with managed reforestation that
prevents off-site regeneration of loblolly pine or other conditions
highly susceptible to southern pine beetle.
- Where revenues have been generated through salvage harvest
operations to control/eliminate southern pine beetle infestations on
government-managed public lands, a portion of these funds should be
returned to the site and its property manager to pay for reforestation
and management efforts that will eliminate off-site loblolly pine and
otherwise prevent highly susceptible stand conditions from occurring in
the future. Similar administrative procedures have been
enacted in the state of Louisiana.
- Provide a one-year property tax credit (e.g., 10%) for small
landowners (i.e., < 40 acres) who implement SPB risk reduction
measures that result in an average residual tree basal area between
40-80 sq. ft. per acre or a minimum of 20 ft. distance between trees >
6" dbh, or eliminate more than 30% of the large (> 10" dbh) loblolly
pine on site.
- Develop and implement local programs to inform and educate
landowners about the need to manage trees and forests to reduce
the individual and community risks and costs of future tree mortality
while simultaneously increasing the resistance, resilience and other
benefits derived from healthy trees. The "Florida Firewise
Communities" program provides a recent model of such
- Provide nursery-grown, suitable and desirable replacement trees of
species indigenous to the region, free of charge to those individuals
who have removed live uninfested loblolly pine greater than 10" dbh, in
areas zoned residential or commercial. Offer a replacement tree for
every loblolly removed up to a limit of five per
III. Other Additional Measures:
- Investigate the technology, necessary infrastructure and other
issues of developing a cogeneration energy production facility that
could utilize pine and other biomass, thereby providing an alternative
and economical outlet for otherwise unmerchantable and unwanted
- Request the State's Insurance Commissioner to explore the
possibilities and feasibility of offering future homeowner/property
insurance polices that cover some of the costs associated with SPB
losses and control efforts.
- Contact Florida's Representatives and Senators in the U.S.
Congress and ask that they strongly and fully support funding of the
USDA Forest Service's proposed SPB Initiative. This initiative is a
comprehensive, integrated pest management strategy for reducing both the
immediate and long-term threats to forest resources and associated
impacts to communities.
- Encourage local governments, communities, homeowner's
associations, individuals, etc., to develop and support their own
contingency fund to more effectively manage threats to their individual
and collective tree/forest canopy. The southern pine beetle is just one
of a variety of organisms that has the potential to dramatically alter
landscapes on an areawide basis irrespective of individual property
lines, type of land use and management activities. Other pests include
an array of exotic insects, pathogens and weeds.
- Consider generating a relatively consistent and dedicated source of
local "forest health" program funds to support the
constant and integrated management strategies necessary to effectively
prevent and suppress areawide SPB activity or similar threats to the
communities' trees and forests. This could be achieved through a
special property tax assessment such as has occurred or occurs for
libraries, garbage collection, fire and police protection, mosquito
control and, elsewhere, tree care (e.g., Cincinnati, Ohio).
Prepared 10 April 2002. Last modified 17 April 2002.
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