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Environment, Energy and Transportation

New Sudden Oak Death Infestation Found In Curry County

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The destructive plant disease seems to be on the move again on Oregon's south coast.

For decades, the plant disease sudden oak death has spread through Southern Oregon and Northern California forests. Over 120 square miles of forest in Curry County are infested with sudden oak death, an infectious disease that can damage and kill trees and wildlife. That area has been under quarantine since 2015, which has kept most of the infestation contained -- until recently.

Early last month, the U.S. Forest Service found a new infestation of sudden oak death just north of Rogue River in Curry County.

Sarah Navarro is a pathologist with the U.S. Forest Service. She says the highly infectious nature of sudden oak death makes it pretty much impossible to get rid of.

“We are running a ‘slow the spread’ program,” said Navarro. “Given our current resources and staffing, eradication of sudden oak death in our Oregon forest is no longer possible.”

It’s unclear how the infestation got there, but it has been marked and quarantined. Navarro says her colleagues were surprised the disease has moved as quickly as it has.

“This shows us that it’s spreading at a faster rate,” said Navarro. “This is several years sooner than the disease spread model showed us that it could get across the Rogue River, so we’re working with researchers to update those disease spread models.”

Navarro says they’re waiting to hear back from a federal lab before treating the site later this month. In the meantime, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service are looking for other infections.