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Bugs killing Okinawa’s pines at alarming rate

Date Posted: 2002-09-06

According to Okinawa Prefecture officials, pine trees in local forests are falling prey to bugs at alarming rate. They estimate that about half of the prefectures pine trees are dead by now. Insects killing the trees reportedly started spreading five years ago, and are now found in every pine forest on the island. Officials estimate that of the 42,000 pine trees on the island 23,000 are already dead.

In an unprecedented move, prefecture officials have contacted U.S. Military officials in order to coordinate efforts to save the trees. The problem is said to be especially bad in the Ammunition Storage Area on Kadena Air Base.

The two sides are scheduled to have a meeting on the issue on Aug. 9. In 2001, the Japanese Self Defense Forces cut 21,000 affected trees. The U.S. bases cut 2,300. In comparison, only 336 affected trees were cut in the prefecture in 1996. That’s a 60-fold increase within five years.

A spokesman for the JSDF said that they cut the affected trees and burn them in order to rid the forests of the bugs, but so far to little avail. “We go to the forest and cut and burn trees that are infected, but new cases keep popping up all the time. Now that we can concentrate on the joint effort with the U.S. side, I think we have a better chance to overcome the situation,” he said.

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