Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing

We live in a wondrous place. Even in the heart of “the city,” you don’t have to go far to see the stars, or to feel like you’ve escaped into the wild.

We cherish our resident nature, but our species is prone to blunder — and sometimes little errors get amplified.

Hard to imagine that our mighty oaks can be felled by a blackish-bronze beetle the size of an earring stud.

Or that we lay out the welcome mat for the disease that can kill trees within weeks with unthinking acts like pruning branches out of season or bringing firewood from one place to the next.

But our oaks are vulnerable in the spring, as oak wilt — a beetle-borne fungal disease — typically spreads between April 15-July 15. The disease shows its colors as summer progresses, with trees wilting from the top down, dumping leaves both brown and green.

Sap-sucking beetles spread the spores through tree wounds, and it also spreads from tree to tree through interconnected root systems. Once a tree or stand gets oak wilt, the dead and downed wood can spread it for up to a year.

And, there is no cure.

Our state is holding the northern border of the oak-wilt line, as it so far has stopped at the 46th parallel, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It’s throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and in the Upper Peninsula’s Dickinson, Iron and Menominee counties, and 24 other states. As ever, scientists are racing to come up with ways to contain it, as warming climate is expected to soften those borders and march the disease up into the forests of Canada.

But there’s plenty we can do — or in this case, not do.

When that spring yard work itch kicks in, check the calendar before you dust off those pruners — especially in May and June when infection rates peak, according to Michigan State University researchers.

The state prohibits logging red oak on public land April 15-July 15, and asks private landowners to suspend logging during the same period.

If you suspect an infection, call the MSU Diagnostic Clinic at 517-355-4536 or visit MichiganOakWilt.org

Today’s Record-Eagle GO section offers a number of tips we can do to protect our natural resources this spring, from boat washing to avoiding hiking around muddy spots in the trails.

But to preserve our oaks, the best thing we can do is to put our feet up and enjoy the view for a while.


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