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Protective Zones will help prevent spread of deadly oak wilt tree disease
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that Oak Wilt Protective Zones have been established in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenwood Heights, Kings County; the Town of Canandaigua, Ontario County; and all of Suffolk County. These zones are the first line of defense in preventing the spread of oak wilt, a deadly tree disease. Previously, DEC established Oak Wilt Protective Zones in the towns of Glenville, Schenectady County, and Central Islip, Suffolk County. The county-wide Protective Zone for Suffolk County replaces the zone for Central Islip.
"Across the country, oak wilt has killed tens of thousands of trees, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and economic loss," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "New York is working strategically to prevent such devastating losses of oak trees in our state where oak is a widespread and valuable hardwood."
The oak wilt fungus can spread from one oak to another even after the infected tree has died and moving potentially infected oak firewood, logs, and branch debris contributes to the spread of the disease. To prevent this, the Oak Wilt Protective Zones prohibit the removal of any living, dead, standing, cut, or fallen oak trees or any portion thereof, including branches, logs, stumps, or roots, green oak lumber, and firewood (of any species) out of the Protective Zone unless it has been chipped to less than one inch in two dimensions.
Firewood, no matter the species, is a regulated material because it is difficult to distinguish oak from other species when cut into small pieces. Non-oak wood leaving the Protective Zone must be 29 inches in length or greater. In special circumstances, DEC will allow the movement of unchipped oak wood from a Protective Zone through a special permit issued by DEC's Division of Lands and Forests.
DEC continues to monitor infection sites for signs that oak wilt has spread. Testing for oak wilt must be conducted during the growing season when the fungus is active. Intensive sampling will begin this summer in June. Aerial surveys will begin in July when signs of oak wilt will be most apparent.
DEC is currently removing trees that have tested positive for the disease, but the full scope of management activities will be adjusted based on the extent of the infection sites. Isolated, small infection centers will be treated with the goal of eliminating the disease from the area while activities in larger infection centers will focus more on control and limiting its spread.
In addition to establishing the Protective Zones, management activities may include removing and destroying infected trees, removing surrounding un-infected oaks to create a buffer, trenching to sever root connections between oaks, and treating infected stumps to kill the roots.
Oak wilt is a serious tree disease in the eastern United States, killing thousands of oaks each year in forests, woodlots and home landscapes. It is caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum. The fungus grows in the water-conducting vessels of host trees plugging up these vessels and preventing water transport. As water movement within the tree is slowed, the leaves wilt and drop off, often killing the tree rapidly.
DEC requests that the public be on the lookout this summer for oak trees that suddenly lose their leaves during the months of July or August. These occurrences should be reported to DEC's Forest Health Information Line toll-free at 1-866-640-0652 or via email email@example.com. Submitting pictures of oaks showing symptoms of oak wilt is encouraged.For more information about oak wilt or the emergency orders, please visit DEC's website.
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