State to Establish Protective Zones to Limit Spread of Fungal Disease that Kills Oak Trees
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) today announced that oak wilt, a deadly fungal disease that kills oak trees, has been detected in two new locations in the town of Glenville in Schenectady County.
"People can unknowingly transport tree pests and diseases long distances if they do not practice sound firewood management and follow orders that prohibit the movement of oak and firewood out of the infected areas," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Keeping wood local is a simple action that can help protect the trees and forests we love. New York is working strategically to prevent devastating losses of oak trees in our state where oak is a widespread and valuable hardwood."
"Oak wilt can harm trees very quickly, so it is important that we all do our part to help protect our vital tree population," said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball. "If you see a tree that may be infected with this disease, report it immediately to DEC and as a best practice, never transport firewood outside of an infected area."
The disease was identified by the Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic after samples were collected from symptomatic oak trees by DEC Lands and Forests staff.
The new infections are in Sanders Town Preserve and on private property on St. Jude Lane. The first was found by DEC staff conducting aerial surveys, while the other was reported by a homeowner. DEC is in the process of issuing orders to establish protective zones encompassing the two new locations in the town of Glenville. The emergency orders will prohibit the removal of any oak wood or firewood of any species from the protective zone.
Oak wilt had previously been found in a different area of Glenville in 2008 and 2013. DEC has been and will continue to monitor the areas around the known infection sites annually. Out of the 130 samples taken this year, the two Schenectady County finds were the only new detections of oak wilt in the state.
There is no known treatment to kill the oak wilt fungus other than to remove the infected trees. DEC will be managing these new infections on a site-specific basis. Management options may include removing and destroying infected trees, cutting down a buffer of adjacent trees, and/or digging trenches to cut root connections. DEC will assess the situation and adopt methods that are feasible at each location.
Property owners in affected neighborhoods will be contacted with information about the disease and the protective zones. DEC will schedule a public meeting to address questions and concerns once the extent of the disease is determined and management activities have been identified. DEC is collaborating with the town of Glenville, Schenectady County, and the local parks department in this response.
Glenville will assist with outreach efforts by including oak wilt information in their newsletters and will work with local developers to reduce the potential spread of oak wilt.
"We're taking this threat very seriously and are working with the DEC to support them in their efforts to mitigate any impact to our trees,"said Glenville Supervisor, Chris Koetzle.
DEC will provide outreach to tree care professionals on the identification of oak wilt and how to prevent its spread. DEC urges tree care professionals and homeowners to conduct any planned oak pruning and cutting during the winter months. Oak trees that are pruned or damaged from March through September can attract beetles that spread the disease.
Since trees can only be tested for the disease during the growing season, surveying will resume next spring. The importance of the public in finding these infection sites is paramount, and DEC asks the public to be on the lookout next summer for oak trees that suddenly lose most or all of their leaves during the months of July and August. To report these occurrences, email photos of symptomatic trees to foresthealth or call the Forest Health Information Line at 1-866-640-0652.
For more information about oak wilt, its symptoms, or the emergency order, please visit DEC's website.