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Drought taking toll on county's tree population
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Yet another unfortunate result of the Southeast's historic drought has been its harmful effect on the county's tree population.

While it's still too early to know just how many trees will die as a result of the drought, Harold Quigley, chief ranger for the Newton-Rockdale-Dekalb Forestry Unit said some changes are already observable.

"A lot of the trees in the county tossed or shed their leaves really early this year, just to get rid of everything that was needing water just to protect themselves," Quigley said. "As far as losses go, we won't know until it's time for them to green up again come springtime."

There are an estimated 98,200 forested acres in Newton County today according to a previous interview with Quigley.

 "We know they're stressed by the way they're shedding their leaves early and loosing a lot of their limbs," Quigley said.

Coupled with the late lake freeze this spring which stunted the growth of foliage, the many 100 degree days this summer have further contributed to the poor health of the trees said Quigley.

"It won't be a major loss to the canopy but it will be a loss to the beauty of the county temporarily," said Quigley of the potentially large loss in tree life. "If they do loose some of these trees, the best thing is to go ahead and plant them again."

An abundance of mistletoe, a parasitic plant which grows on the branches of trees robbing them of moisture, is another factor harming the county's hardwood trees said Quigley.

"It is a cycle and some trees are going to die," Quigley said. "You really can't tell which ones they will be. A lot of the older trees will die. If the drought ended (tomorrow) we're still going to have a long-term recovery period."

Quigley advised residents of Newton County to be aware of falling tree limbs this winter.

"Even if a tree looks healthy, be careful this year because the limbs are weak and you're gong to have a lot of breakage."