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55,000 Trees planted at Fort Indiantown Gap

By Bradley Rhen | May 20, 2020

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. —

Visitors here may have noticed a bunch of white poles sticking out of the ground at several locations around the installation.

The white poles are tree tubes that protect seedlings from being eaten by animals, and there are more than 55,000 of them protecting new trees that have been planted on the installation this year, said JD Lambrinos, forest program manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“Each of the 55,000 seedlings will eventually become full grown trees, and the areas in which they’re planted will resemble a wooded area,” Lambrinos said.

The DMVA contracted Napieralski Forestry Enterprises of Maryland to plant the seedlings over 87 acres in various locations in Fort Indiantown Gap’s cantonment area and area A-34, which is on the mountain north of Muir Army Airfield.

The seedlings were planted for a number of a number of reasons, including forest regeneration, erosion control, wildlife habitat, urban improvement and stream buffers, Lambrinos said.

The seedlings planted in the cantonment area cover 18 acres and were planted for riparian improvement. In other words, they will serve as stream buffers to improve areas directly adjacent to streams or areas that drain into streams.

Among other benefits, these buffers provide wildlife habitat, minimize erosion and act as a filter for water before entering streams.

Trees in the riparian buffer are swamp white oak, pin oak, silver maple and yellow poplar.

The seedlings planted in area A-34 cover about 70 acres. They will help regenerate forest areas that were damaged by Gypsy Moth several years ago and maintain a wooded mountain side to facilitate training.

Trees planted in A-34 include pitch pine, a pitch-loblolly hybrid and shortleaf pine.

The white tree tubes have perforations so that when the tree gets large enough the tube will separate and break apart. Depending on conditions and tree size, the tubes could be removed prior to them breaking at the perforations, Lambrinos said.

“Either way the tubes will eventually be removed from the landscape,” he said.

Lambrinos said the DMVA and the installation take conservation and environmental issues very seriously, and planting these trees is an example of that.

“While supporting the training mission, we look to ensure that we have a diverse, resilient and sustainable ecosystem,” he said. “We apply various strategies from risk mitigation methods to simple reuse and recycling to ensure we have limited impacts on the land. When applying our strategies we look at various aspects of the environment including water quality, erosion, flora and fauna populations, noise pollution and non native species.

“All land users are part of a bigger picture to do what we can to conserve and protect the land for future generations and we are no different,” Lambrinos added.

Col. Lane Marshall, Fort Indiantown Gap’s garrison commander, said protecting the environment is a top priority for the installation, and he takes conservation very seriously.

"Planting trees is just one tool we use to ensure we're being good stewards of the environment,” he said. "These trees will serve a number of purposes -- they will serve as stream buffers, help control erosion and create habitat for wildlife."

The white tubes will likely be a common sight in the near future as more trees are planted, Lambrinos said. In fact, he said, additional plantings this year will be done in-house to replace urban trees that have died and continued riparian improvements.

Metal wire cages might also be used that serve the same function as the tree tubes but are generally used for urban tree replacements, Lambrinos said.

“We are continually mapping and assessing riparian areas, woodlots and urban areas for improvement plantings,” he said.