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Washington State Parks Cope with Laminated Root Rot

July 6, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The people on Washington’s State Parks and Recreation Commission have a major dilemma at Kopachuck State Park, the Kitsap Sun reported.

In June, the State Parks Department closed the campground at the popular park, at least until August, because a soil-borne pathogen called laminated root rot is attacking many of the coniferous trees growing there.

Laminated root rot is a very aggressive fungus that occurs naturally in many coniferous forests in this part of the Northwest. It attacks Douglas firs, grand firs and hemlocks, but not cedar, alder or maple trees.

According to Park Ranger Tom Pew, it’s difficult to identify infected trees by simply looking at them.

“They can be fully green at the top, but if you check the main root, you’ll find that it’s just pulp. There’s not enough root system to take up nutrients or water, so the tree slowly dies from the ground up. Infected trees can fall over with no warning whatsoever,” he said.

That happened several weeks ago in Lake Wenatchee State Park when two seemingly healthy Douglas firs suddenly came down, injuring a camper.

“The parks department started looking at other state parks, and with the help of a tree pathologist from the Department of Ecology, we discovered that our trees here at Kopachuck are infected, too,” Pew added.

An infected tree can fall at any time, without any prior signs of trouble.

“The average height of the fir trees here at Kopachuck is 175 feet,” Pew said. “A tree that size can do a lot of damage when it falls. It puts people and our facilities in danger.”

That leaves the park service with two options: leave the trees alone and let nature take its course, which would mean long-term closure of the campground — or cut the trees and re-open the campground.

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