The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced changes to emergency orders relating to oak wilt, an invasive fungal disease, in Ontario and Yates counties. The updates reflect recent survey findings and establish protective zones around infected areas, with restrictions on oak and firewood movement to manage the fungus’s spread. New detections have prompted these changes, specifically in Bristol, Ontario County, and Italy, Yates County.
Oak wilt poses a severe threat as it blocks the water and nutrient flow in oak trees, leading to leaf wilting, fall off, and typically the death of the tree. It spreads via beetles above ground and through tree roots below ground. It notably affects oak trees, a vital part of North American ecosystems, providing food and shelter for various wildlife, from birds and bears to numerous insect species.
The recent updates also include lifting the emergency orders in areas no longer exhibiting disease signs. For instance, the emergency order in Canandaigua, Ontario County, has been repealed after over six years without oak wilt detection. DEC continues to monitor these areas, performing aerial surveillance throughout July, and will contact property owners if oak wilt is suspected.
DEC recommends avoidance of oak tree pruning or wounding during the spring and summer when spore mats are present and beetles are most active. If a tree wound does occur, immediate sealing with latex paint is advised to deter beetles and reduce disease spread. Public cooperation and early detection are crucial in combating oak wilt’s spread, and anyone suspecting oak wilt in DEC Region 8 is urged to contact the DEC directly.
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