While there are some native red pine stands in central and northern New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, the tree is not considered native to the region; it is native to the upper Great Lakes through southern Canada west to Manitoba, and on mountainous ridges as far east as West Virginia. Many of the trees in New England and elsewhere were planted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the workforce program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to restore forests.
The trees grew fast and withstood cold weather.
No one’s quite sure where the insect originated. Forestry officials say it was first reported in Connecticut in 1946. They think it was most likely introduced to the United States on exotic pines planted at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
Red pine scale is easily spread by wind, birds and squirrels. The first visible signs of infestation include bright “flagging,” or discoloration of the lower branches, followed by the swift decline of the entire crown. A tree can be destroyed within a few years.
Visitors to Bear Brook State Park will eventually notice the missing trees, many of which are at the park’s entrance, said Will Guinn, regional forester for New Hampshire’s Forest Management Bureau. But the landscape won’t be completely barren; there are nearby stands of white pines at the park that are waist-high to 10 feet tall. “That will be the next generation of forest coming along,” he said.
The goal is to get the affected trees removed while they are still alive in time for a commercial timber harvest, Guinn said. “If we wait until the trees are dead, we’re going to have to pay to have thousands of trees removed,” he said.
Guinn said red pine scale has not been detected in any other New Hampshire parks.