Merkley Announces Funding for Programs to Combat Sudden Oak Death

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, today announced more than $466,000 in funding has been distributed to Oregon organizations and agencies for projects aimed at ending the spread of the Sudden Oak Death (SOD) and the EU1 strain of the disease, which pose severe economic and environmental threats to counties in Southern Oregon.

“Partners from broad swath of governments and industries have been working together to address this crisis, and these resources provide urgently needed support to these efforts,” said Merkley, who co-convened a task force with State Rep. David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford). “The spread of Sudden Oak Death and EU1 could have devastating impacts on our local economy and environment. I will continue to use my seat on the appropriations committee to fight for the resources our task force needs to work collaboratively on more and better solutions to fight these pathogens.”

“I am grateful to have Senator Merkley’s support as co-convener of the Sudden Oak Death Task Force and for his dedicated efforts in the collaborative work to eradicate this devastating disease,” said Rep. Brock Smith, who is a member of the Oregon House Agriculture & Natural Resources and Energy & Environment committees, as well as the Vice Chair of the Economic Development & Trade Committee and the newly created Committee on Carbon Reduction. He has been advocating for SOD management since forming the task force, and in his work as a Curry County Commissioner. “This Federal funding, coupled with our work in receiving the SOD Task Force’s recommended $1.7 million from the State, is critical to eradicate the EU1 strain and manage the NA1 of this deadly pathogen.” 

The task force is working to de develop a collaboration-based action plan to contain SOD and eradicate EU1, a strain of SOD that affects evergreen trees in the United Kingdom and has been detected in Oregon, using the best available science. It includes local, state and federal governments, as well as local tribes and industry associations: Association of Oregon Counties, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Health, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Forest Industry Council, Oregon State University, Curry County, Josephine County, Douglas County, City of Gold Beach, and Oregon Association of Nurseries.

Sudden Oak Death, caused by the non-native pathogen Phytopthora ramorum (P. ramorum), is a devastating disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of tanoak trees in Curry County. It was first detected there in 2001; about one-third of the county has since been affected. In Oregon, it occurs only in the forests of southwest Curry County, where a containment program is in place to slow the spread. If further measures aren’t taken, it could spread north into Coos County and west into Josephine County in coming years. In California, the disease has killed millions of oaks and tanoaks in the coastal region from Monterey to Humboldt Counties.

The funding is being distributed through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program. The programs being funded include:

  • $196,438 for a population genetic analysis of SOD to evaluate the threat of the disease spreading from forests to nurseries, two of Oregon’s largest industries.
  • $143,303 for a program leveraging citizen science and outreach education to reduce the risk of further SOD spread.
  • $126,470 to enhance mitigation responses to EU1 in Oregon.

“The added funding will help more people learn about early detection of Sudden Oak Death,” said Sarah Navarro, forest pathologist with Oregon Department of Forestry. “A quick response is critical to fight the disease. The Oregon Department of Forestry will host workshops with Oregon State University to train new citizen scientists about how to recognize SOD and offer treatment options for newly infested areas. This will help the community combat SOD.”

“In order to meet the objective of effectively managing the threat of Phytophthora ramorum to the Forests and Nurseries of Oregon we must understand how this invasive disease spreads,” said Jared LeBoldus, assistant professor of forest pathology at Oregon State University. “This new APHIS funding, supported by Senator Merkley, will bring us one step closer to achieving this goal.”