Work continues on beech bark disease
By Sue Tiffin
Beech bark disease, a quick-spreading, highly destructive threat continues to be a challenge to manage throughout the county. In his report to county council on Sept. 25, the county’s forest conservation bylaw officer James Rogers said landowners are taking different approaches to managing the problem.
“Many landowners are actively removing beech trees that display signs of the disease to salvage the wood and reduce the hazards posed by the dying trees,” he wrote. “Some beech trees may be resistant to the disease and remain healthy at this time.”
“While beech bark disease is just more advanced as we would expect, a lot of those trees are already down in areas where it’s been there the longest,” Rogers told councillors. “We still have a lot of hazardous trees in forests, roadsides, that continue to be looked at and treated as possible. It’s a huge task, huge undertaking.”
Emerald ash borer is spreading in areas south of Haliburton County, but Rogers said he has yet to confirm any presence here.
“It probably is here but we’re just not seeing the dead trees yet,” he said. “I’m just waiting for the phone call where I’m going to be able to say we do have it.”
Rogers said he was glad to see “don’t move firewood” signs still up.
“That’s a really valuable lesson we’re trying to convey, not only for emerald ash borer, but for all forest pests, just reducing that flow of firewood especially from south to north,” he said.
Asian longhorn beetle outbreaks in and around Toronto have been very vigorously treated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, according to Rogers.
“Be on the lookout,” he advised the public. “If you ever do find that beetle it would be a very serious situation that would require immediate action.”
Rogers said many tree species are susceptible to Asian longhorn beetle, including maple, elm, birch, poplar and willow trees. He said the beetles leave a distinctly round pencil-sized hole as they exit their host tree.
Hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that targets hemlocks, has been found and removed in two locations in Ontario since 2012 but is not known to be established here.
“I have to say it’s inevitable that it will eventually make its way here, and so we need to identify this as early as possible,” he said. “Looking for the early warning signs of that is important.”
Rogers said early warning signs include white woolly patches on the underside of hemlock twigs near the base of the needles, most easily seen in late winter or early spring.
Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt stressed the importance of having easy-to-find information on the county website about invasive insects for residents.
“We’ve made huge commitments as a county to be attentive to, and potentially help to eradicate or keep an eye on, any or all of the issues that are in James’s report, and yet our online presence, I don’t think matches the commitment we’ve made, and I think our new website could make the information more easily consumable,” she said.
Rogers said he is also available for speaking engagements to help educate the public about invasive species. To learn more visit haliburtoncounty.ca/services/forestry.
From March 31, 2018 to Aug. 31, 2019, Rogers reported 35 permits were issued for harvesting, with 49 per cent being in accordance with good forestry practices, and 51 per cent under the diameter limit system. Additionally, two permits were issued for relief from the bylaw, for solar installations in the county, resulting in a total of 12 acres of clearing.
“Of the total area of 6,546 acres scheduled for harvest, 4,956 acres [76 per cent] were harvested in accordance with good forestry practices, and 1,590 acres [24 per cent] were harvested using the diameter limit system,” reads Rogers’s report to county council.
Rogers said several operations made corrective measures after being advised of poor practices, but that for the most part, compliance was acceptable on most sites.
“I guess we’ve been doing this long enough now, we have pretty good compliance,” he said. “The operators are very familiar with the regulations, they’re familiar with me, and we’re not having any major illegal operations going on under the forest conservation bylaw.”
Changes to a shoreline tree preservation bylaw that has seen some changes recently, as well as more awareness of the bylaw, have prompted inquiries to the planning department, or to Rogers himself.
“I guess it all funnels down to me eventually if the question requires some details to answer,” he said.
Almost 30 site visits due to complaints were made, with Rogers noting bylaw compliance has been very good. From the 2018 to 2019 period Rogers was reporting on, he said two fines were levied for $930 each, two stop work orders were issued and two work orders were issued to restore trees within shoreline areas.
“It has been a very busy summer but I think I’d attribute that to the fact that every time we do an update and we put it out there as a change for public notice, just over time, more and more people become aware of the bylaw,” he said. “I think I’m going to attribute that to an increase in call volume and concerns about it, just a greater awareness.”
He said he recommends that residents use the service of local arborists to assist with concerns when possible.
Awareness of invasive plants
Rogers, who is appointed county weed inspector under the weed control act, said the number of outbreaks of weeds “hasn’t been busier this year.”
“Non-native invasive plant species continue to persist in Haliburton County, namely the invasive and toxic giant hogweed and wild parsnip, as well as phragmites, and garlic mustard,” he reported. “As part of the duties of county weed inspector, work is ongoing with the public and municipal staff to identify noxious weeds, document occurrences, examine and implement control options, and provide public education and safety awareness.”
Rogers said he felt there had been control over known outbreaks. Warden Liz Danielsen asked if there had been inquiries related to phragmites.
“I do get inquiries, people are concerned about it,” he said. “It’s along the highway corridors and sporadically in other places.”
Rogers said that ongoing research is happening around the province conerning phragmites, which can be difficult to deal with if they are located near water.
“A lot of municipalities have it worse than we do,” he said.
Quiet on the trail
On illegal use of the Rail Trail, Rogers said it had been quiet for him.
“We’ve got only one month of the year that’s non-motorized now, so that’s made the job much less busy,” he said.
During April, the non-motorized period, Rogers said illegal motorized use was not observed by enforcement staff.
“Vehicle tracks observed on the trail would indicate occasional and sporadic illegal use,” he said.
He noted that he recently responded to a report of side-by-sides on the trail, which are allowed on portions of the City of Kawartha Lakes rail trail.