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Silas Little Experimental Forest

New Lisbon, New Jersey

In 1933, the Northeastern Forest Experiment Station and the State of New Jersey signed a cooperative agreement for an experimental forest, the Lebanon Experimental Forest, “for the purpose of conducting studies, experiments, and demonstrations in silvics and solve forest problems of the region typified by conditions in southern New Jersey. These may include experiments in obtaining natural reproduction of the forest after cutting, in thinning to stimulate growth, and in artificial reforestation; also, more fundamental studies of the factors which affect tree growth.” The Northeastern Research Station has maintained the lease agreement from New Jersey for the use of this 239-ha site for regional forest research.

In 1937, Dr. Silas Little was assigned to the Lebanon and worked there until 1979, most of that time as the research project leader. This experimental forest was renamed in his honor after his retirement. In 1985, following the departure of the last Forest Service employee, the Northeastern Research Station entered into a cooperative agreement with Rutgers University to use the buildings for the Pinelands Research Center (PRC). In the late 1980s, the site received recognition as a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere site. The PRC has a full-time director, a site manager, and a number of graduate students in residence. In 2002, the Northeastern Research Station reestablished active fire research at the Silas Little with a 5-year National Fire Plan grant for regional climate and fire danger modeling specific to the Pine Barrens. The existing fire danger rating system does not meet the needs of the wildfire managers in this part of the United States and this research will address this deficiency.


The climate on the Silas Little and surrounding Lebanon State Forest is strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Elevations are so uniform in this area that they do not influence temperature and there is only slight variation from one site to another. The coldest month is February (-2 to 1°C) and the warmest is July (23 to 25 °C). The first killing frost occurs about October 18 and the last about April 22. The high summer maximum is 42 oC and the lowest winter minimum is -32 °C. Rainfall is relatively constant and equally distributed both as to season and location, but there is a marked dry season in the fall. Average rainfall in this area is 1,145 mm. Snowfall is slight and remains on the ground only a short time.


Soils in the region of the Silas Little are described as Englishtown formation, consisting of micaceous white and yellow quartz sand and glauconitic, and locally lignitic lens of clay and silt. Southern New Jersey is essentially an immense coastal plain, generally less than 30.5 m above sea level; average elevation is 18 m. Rivers in this area drain southeast to the Atlantic Ocean. The region’s soils are predominately sandy but vary considerably in texture, ranging from course sand to sandy loam, and also vary in drainage. The dry character of much of the soil adversely affects plant growth during even to moderate drought.


The Silas Little represents the Pine Barrens forest types that include poorly drained soils supporting pitch pine (14 percent), infertile sands supporting pitch pine and low-grade oaks (22 percent), swamp forests (12 percent), and slightly better quality soils supporting oaks and shortleaf and pitch pines (52 percent).

Research, Past and Present

In 2002, a 5- year National Fire Plan grant was awarded for a study entitled, “Regional climate and fire danger modeling specific to the Pine Barrens,” to carry out research to enhance the National Fire Danger Rating System in the Pine Barrens. This research will develop a more responsive fire danger rating system that is specific to the New Jersey Pine Barrens by focusing on the interaction between climate, fire, and vegetation. The research will employ prescribed burns and the use of portable and fixed flux towers to monitor vegetation, soil, and atmospheric conditions before and after prescribed burns over a range of conditions and vegetation types. The network of fire weather stations and portable towers should produce detailed fire weather and carbon, water, and energy flux measurements at local and landscape levels to determine the processes that are distinctive for the Pine Barrens.

Earlier research (started 1985 to 2002) has been carried out by the staff and graduate students at the Pinelands Research Station. Researchers are looking at the effects of fragmentation and human-induced changes in hydrology of the Pineland wetland ecosystem on the Atlantic whitecedar swamps. Studies on the effects of acid deposition on the New Jersey Pine Barrens include a monitoring station for the New Jersey Atmospheric Deposition Program. Other studies deal with stream chemistry, the effects and recovery from past fires in the Pine Barrens, inventory and population dynamics of wildlife species, and several other problems unique to these sandy sites along the Atlantic Coast.

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

In 1964, the Northeastern Research Station initiated a cooperative study with New Jersey and the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company (now MeadWestvaco) to start a tree improvement program involving pitch and loblolly pine. The goals were to produce a superior loblolly pine for southern Delaware and eastern Maryland, produce superior pitch pine for sections of the Northeast, and develop pitch × loblolly pine hybrids that would be winter-hardy north of the loblolly pine range and that would outgrow pitch pine. The first F1 hybrids were outplanted in 1971 and over the next 15 years, 65 plantings of F1 and F2 hybrids were established throughout Eastern United States and southeastern Canada. South Korea became interested in the hybrid in the late 1960s and through the early 1980s millions of hybrids were used to reforest denuded hills in that country. In the 1980s, France obtained hybrid seed and achieved spectacular growth rates. In this country, MeadWestvaco now produces and plants millions of hybrid pitch × loblolly every year and in 1993 International Paper Company began a program for its northern lands. This is one of the most successful research programs initiated by the Northeastern Research Station. Plots from genetics trials are maintained at the site.


Researchers have come to work at the Silas Little from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, Pinelands Field Station, Rutgers University, New Jersey State Climatology and Eastern Modeling Consortium, University of Florida, University of Maryland, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Research Opportunities

Opportunities are nearly unrestricted in all aspects of fire weather, wildfire ecology, and carbon sequestration research. New research within the New Jersey Pine Barrens region is encouraged and facilitated by Forest Service and Pinelands Research Station scientists. Research at the Silas Little and the Rutgers Pineland Research Stations requires approval of the field station director and Forest Service program manager.


Office space, laboratory, quarters, storage, shop, weather stations, deposition monitoring, instrumented flux towers are located on the Silas Little administrative site in New Lisbon, New Jersey. The Rutgers Pinelands Research Station maintains offices and quarters in the main building, and lab trailers on the site. National Science Foundation grants have allowed Rutgers University to purchase several laboratory buildings. Several office trailers at the administrative site, as well as some greenhouse space, are used by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Biological Pest Control.

Lat. 39°54′58″ N, long. 74°35′55″ W

Contact Information

Silas Little Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station
P.O. Box 251
New Lisbon, NJ 08064
Tel: 609-894-0325
Tel: 609-894-8614

Related Publications

Applegate, J.E., S. Little, P.E. Marucci. 1979. Plant and animal products of the Pine Barrens. Proc . Pine Barrens Ecosystem and Landscapes. New Jersey Academy Sci., Academic Press. New York.

Fenton, R.H. 1964. Production and distribution of sweetgum seed in 1962 by four New Jersey stands. Res. Note NE-18. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 6p.

Garrett, P.W. 1981. The Northeast pitch x loblolly hybrid program. In: Reserch Needs in Tree Breeding. Proc. 15th North American Quant. Forestry Genetics Group Workshop. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. 71-79.

Garrett, P.W., I.F. Trew. 1986. Resistance of pitch x loblolly pine hybrids to fusiform rust (Cronartium quercum f. sp. fusiforme). Plant Disease 70(6): 564-565.

Kuser, J.E., D.R. Knezick, P.W. Garrett. 1979. Pitch x loblolly pine hybrids after 10 years in southern New Jersey. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry. Vol 4(4): 207-209.

Little, S. 1945. Influence of fuel types on fire danger. Journal of Forestry 43: 744-749.

Little, S., E.B. Moore. 1945. Controlled burning in south Jersey's oak-pine stands. Journal of Forestry 43: 499-506.

Little, S., J.P. Allen, E.B. Moore. 1948. Controlled burning as a dual-purpose tool of forest management in New Jersey's pine region. Journal of Forestry 46: 810-819.

Little, S. 1950. Ecology and silviculture of white cedar and associated hardwoods in southern New Jersey. Yale University, School of Forestry Bulletin 56. 103 pp.

Little, S. 1959. Silvical characteristics of Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides). Sta. Pap. 118. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 16 p.

Little, S. 1978. Ecology and silviculture of Pine Barrens forests. Proc. 1st. Research Conf. New Jersey Pine Barrens. Atlantic City, NJ. May 22-23. 105-118.

Summary information presented here was originally published in:

Adams, Mary Beth; Loughry, Linda; Plaugher, Linda, comps. 2004. Experimental Forests and Ranges of the USDA Forest Service. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-321. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 178 p.

Information may have been updated since original publication.

Last Modified: 10/16/2014