PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey is investing $20 million to plant 10,000 acres of a special wetlands tree species to combat climate change.
Atlantic white cedar trees thrive in wet environments, yet they are especially vulnerable to salt water. Years of rising sea level and logging has depleted this once abundant species.
"We are taking steps to migrate those forests and re-establish them in safer areas," said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette.
LaTourette said this is critically important because these trees help sustain life.
"Because a wetland sequesters carbon, it provides flood storage, it cleans our water on its way down to the water table which people then draw for drinking," he explained.
"And because of the density that the Atlantic white cedar can achieve, we will see a greater degree of carbon sequestration and the unique benefits that this wetland forest provides."
It'll take years to finish. Work has already begun in parts of the pinelands. Fines from ground water polluters will help cover the cost of the project.
"What we saw there has been known as a ghost forest, trees turned white, and it is a stark, very dramatic picture," said LaTourette.
"Our environment is sending us a message about the state’s resilience, about our ability to position ourselves to confront the ravages of climate change."
Officials said New Jersey is down to about 25,000 total acres of Atlantic white cedars, less than a quarter of what it once was.
LaTourette says order for these trees to thrive, they have to be in places where they aren't crowded out by bigger hardwood trees.