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Managers at Sleeping Bear Dunes want take down more diseased Beech trees

Joseph O'Brien
U.S. Forest Service
A beech tree in Michigan killed by beech bark disease.

For a beech tree, the end comes in two parts.

It starts with the wooly beech scale opening up a wound, then a fungus gets into that wound and can eventually kill the tree (either by girdling it or by weakening it until it falls over).

The disease has been around in Canada and parts of the U.S. for more than a century. It was discovered in Michigan in 2000.

Now managers at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are hoping to keep ahead of the disease which has been spreading in the National Park.

Michelle Merlin reports for the Traverse City Record-Eagle that they want to create a more aggressive tree removal policy.

“They’re high canopy trees that a lot of wildlife depend on,” said NPS biologist Ken Hiser, who came to Sleeping Bear Dunes six months ago to work on the new plan. “(The diseases) are going to change things in ways you might not notice, but there’s a big change.” The new plan is still in its exploratory phase and will need to pass an environmental assessment and several other hurdles before it can be implemented. Skerl said the plan would prioritize only certain areas for removal, such as campgrounds and heavily trafficked trails. Emerald ash borer is already rampant in the park, but there only are early signs of beech bark disease, and no reports yet of oak wilt.

Merlin reports that the public can comment on the “Hazard Tree Management Plan” until February 15th.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.