Oak wilt significantly infecting Oscoda County

Grant money available for tree removal


Board of commissioners member Pat Kelly said he believes the Oscoda County Park is host to trees with oak wilt disease.

At the May 22 board meeting Oscoda County Conservation District Forester Kelly Sinnaeve did a presentation about what her employer can do for the county and its residents. When describing the multitude of tasks she can tackle, Sinnaeve mentioned she was qualified to identify oak wilt. After the disease was brought up, Kelly said he had a job for Sinnaeve.

“I would like to get you out to the county park,” Kelly said. “I am pretty sure we have got a huge oak wilt problem down there.”

Oak wilt is a fungal disease that makes the foliage of a tree wilt, eventually causing the death of the tree. There is no cure for the disease, and any tree that contracts it will die. The disease can be spread from underground root contact. It can also be contracted if an insect infected with the disease feeds on a vulnerable tree.

Sinnaeve said Oscoda County has a significant oak wilt problem.

“It kills red oaks in a matter of weeks,” she said. “We have a lot of red oaks in the area. It also kills white oaks, although it takes a longer period of time. We have a lot of those in this area so it’s a serious problem.”

To help combat the spread of oak wilt, the Forest Service has dedicated a grant to Oscoda County that will pay for 75 percent of any tree removal done as a result of the disease. Any county resident can call the conservation district and receive a free oak wilt survey of the trees on their land. The grant can also be used by any resident of an adjacent county within 5 miles of a national forest.

Sinnaeve said it’s important to take action immediately if you suspect oak wilt on your land. She said although the district may not be able to fix infected trees, if caught early enough it can be stopped from spreading.

Sinnaeve said one of the main signs a tree may have oak wilt is dying or brown leaves in the summer when they should be healthy and green. She said to help prevent the disease from spreading, refrain from pruning your trees from roughly mid-April to mid-July. If you must trim back a tree, put a small amount of paint on the cut portion to keep the disease from getting into an open wound. She also said to avoid moving firewood from one place to another because that can also spread the disease.

Sinnaeve said she and the county have not yet set a date for her to do an inspection of the county park.


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