The battle against beech bark disease came full circle in fall 2017 at Ludington State Park, when volunteers planted more than 200 disease-resistant trees where the disease first was discovered in Michigan in 2000.
That planting effort, a decade and a half in the making, is one of the success stories in Michigan’s Forest Health Highlights report, published by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The report includes successes and challenges regarding the health of nearly 20 million acres of forest in the state, including about 4 million acres of state forest managed by the DNR.
“Invasive species such as beech bark disease present challenges,” said Deb Begalle, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “We also are coordinating efforts to cope with other invasive species such as the hemlock woolly adelgid.” That tiny insect, which attaches itself to hemlock trees and eventually kills them, is known to be in four west Michigan counties to date.
The atmosphere at Ludington State Park was festive when volunteers and park staffers planted the 3- to 6-foot, 3-year-old saplings last fall.
The disease-resistant beech saplings were grown in a U.S. Forest Service laboratory in Ohio by researcher Jennifer Koch, who visited the park for the planting event. At least 50 percent of the young trees are expected to be resistant to the disease.
“At least half of them, probably more, are going to grow and never come down with the disease,” said U.S. Forest Service researcher Jennifer Koch, who has been visiting Ludington since 2002 as part of her work in breeding resistant trees.
The report also highlights a coordinated statewide effort to keep the hemlock woolly adelgid from spreading, including surveys for infested trees, an outreach and information campaign and research that could lead to biological controls for the pest.
Other challenges include stemming the spread of oak wilt, a fungal disease that can kill red oak trees within weeks, and taking steps to prevent the spread of fungi, including Heterobasidion root disease, which affects pine trees.
New tools, such as the Heterobasidion root disease reporting viewer on the DNR forest health website, also are being developed to make it easier for individuals to report suspect forest health issues.
“We’re making every effort to implement plans and programs that will keep Michigan’s forests healthy for generations into the future,” Begalle said.
You also can learn mor and get updates regarding forest health on the DNR's Forest Health web page.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/DNR.