Roads in the Six Rivers National Forest close to prevent spread of root disease

Healthy Port Orford cedar trees grow along Blue Creek in Elk Valley. The pathogen causing root disease in the cedars spreads through water and soil, making trees growing in waterways susceptible.
Healthy Port Orford cedar trees grow along Blue Creek in Elk Valley. The pathogen causing root disease in the cedars spreads through water and soil, making trees growing in waterways susceptible. Courtesy of Six Rivers National Forest
Port Orford cedar trees grow along the coast from southern Oregon into Northern California. The pathogen that causes root disease can be found in much of the tree’s natural range.
Port Orford cedar trees grow along the coast from southern Oregon into Northern California. The pathogen that causes root disease can be found in much of the tree’s natural range. Courtesy of Six Rivers National Forest

Forest service Road and campground closures

Gasquet Ranger District/Smith River National Recreation Area:

Forest Service Roads 18N17 and spurs; 18N16 and spurs; 18N02; portions of 18N07; the upper section of 18N08; 16N02, about 9 miles up and spurs beyond that point; the upper section of 16N03 and spurs; the upper section of 15N01, about 11 miles up and spurs beyond that point; and 14N01, about 4 miles up and spurs beyond that point; plus additional road closures on smaller routes.

Orleans and Ukonom Ranger Districts:

Forest Service Roads 13N01, 10N12, 10N42, 10N27, 10N14, 10N42, 11N28, 12N11, 14N02, 14N03, 13N17, 14N21, 11N47, 12N17, 11N04, 11N16, 11N49, 11N14, 10N06, 10N04, 12N10, 12N13, all side roads off of these main roads, and Fish Lake Campground.

Lower Trinity Ranger District:

Forest Service Roads 05N10, 06N18, 06N21, 06N22, 06N36, 06N38, 07N71B, and East Fork Campground.

To prevent the spread of root disease among Port Orford cedars along the Pacific Coast, the Six Rivers National Forest is closing close to 40 forest roads and a couple of campgrounds for the remainder of the rainy season.

Port Orford cedars are native to California and Oregon. The tree’s range extends about 50 miles inland from the coast around Coos Bay, Oregon, to the mouth of the Mad River near Arcata. The tree is often used as construction material and was popular in the nursery trade prior to the 1950s.

Jeff Jones, Six River National Forest vegetation program manager, said the nursery trade is likely what introduced the pathogen, Phytophthora lateralis, to the tree’s natural range in Oregon. The pathogen has spread south into a large portion of the tree’s natural range since it was first discovered in wildland trees near Coos Bay in 1952

“Once it gets established in an area, it’s easy for it to get spread,” Jones said.

The pathogen is in the same genus as the one that causes sudden oak death, and kills Port Orford cedars in a similar manner. However, unlike the pathogen that causes sudden oak death, the root disease is spread primarily through soil movement, according to Jones.

The pathogen’s spores live in water and wet soil. Waterways can quickly spread the pathogen, as can vehicles, animals and people traveling through infected areas.

Jones said the disease can be found in most river systems along which Port Orford cedars grow. The most recent discovery of the pathogen, around three years ago, was in the main stem of Willow Creek.

At this point, creeks south of Horse Mountain and the east fork of Willow Creek are some of the only areas where the pathogen has not been found, according to Jones.

To prevent the spread of root disease as the rainy season gets underway, the Six Rivers National Forest will begin to close almost two dozen service roads and campgrounds along the Orleans and Ukonom Ranger District. Several roads in the Gasquet Ranger District, Smith River National Recreation Area and Lower Trinity Ranger District will also be closed.

“The primary method for doing that is public awareness, trying to keep people going from areas that are infected to areas that are not infected,” Jones said.

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Roads will likely remain closed until the end of May, though an exact date is subject to change with weather conditions.

Additional information about Port Orford cedars can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/srnf/PortOrfordCedar.

Tabitha Soden can be reached at 707-441-0510.

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