Pest Scene Investigation: Identifying tree crimes
12.18.2012

What is damaging or killing trees on private forest landowners’ properties? 
How do landowners manage for a resilient, healthy forest?

Having a dead tree can drive some landowners up a tree – literally! Recently I spent a day in the woods with 22 local family forestland owners. Each person had a keen interest in learning how to identify current or potential threats to their forest trees. Oregon State University Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Program hosted the workshop, with the goal of training each of us to be a Pest Scene Investigator (PSI).

Pest Scene Investigators, an advanced component of the Master Woodland Manager program, focus on diagnosing insect and disease problems, including bark beetles, foliage-damaging insects and diseases, root rots, tip-damaging insects, rusts, vertebrate wildlife and more.

Master Woodland Managers are qualified small family forestland owners who receive specialized training by OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension to be effective volunteers and community leaders. OFRI  is a long-term supporter of this program and all education outreach for forest landowners.

Private forest landowners manage 34 percent of Oregon’s forests, and account for 75 percent of total harvest. The health and productivity of these forests are important to us all. The majority of forest landowners have established plans that specifically address their forest objectives regarding the well-being of wildlife, quality of watersheds, health of the trees and plants, and reduction of fires, insect infestations and diseases. During our Pest Scene Investigator training we learned that most tree stands are weakened by both non-living (abiotic) factors, such as a change in the site’s hydrology, as well as biotic factors – insects, disease, rodents or over-crowding.

The drought we experienced in western Oregon this past summer, stretching more than 110 days without rain, is starting to show an impact in some of the Willamette Valley’s Douglas-fir forests. Our class witnessed many Douglas-fir trees with “flare-out,” where whole branches, tops or new growth were completely red and dead. Many trees will be able to survive and recover, but the drought will impact trees that are already stressed or on marginal growing soil. Actively managing your forests by identifying potential threats is one of the most crucial steps in having healthy and resilient forests for the long term.

Do you worry about what might be damaging or killing your trees, and wonder what you can do about it? There may be a trained Pest Scene Investigator in your area willing to assist you in evaluating the overall health of your forest or woodland, help with planning, and provide advice and information on all aspects of forest and woodland management. Contact your local OSU Extension Forester for more information.

Julie Woodward
Forest Education Program Manager

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