Bloomfield Hills City Commissioners on Tuesday, November 12 stopped short of introducing an amendment to its tree and woodland protection ordinance to include protections against Oak Wilt disease in order to critique language of the measure.
Oak Wilt is a deadly disease effecting Oak trees throughout much of Michigan, including Oakland County. The disease is spread after the fungus is introduced to a tree, infecting it rapidly from the top o the tree and proceeding downward. Total leaf loss may happen within two or three weeks, with leaves going brown from the tip to the stem, according to Michigan State University Extension.
City Commissioner Sarah McClure raised concerns in the spring about the disease and its impact on local communities, leading the city to provide informational materials on the city's website. However, city manager David Hendrickson said in October that he was contacted by a contractor who questioned whether the city had an ordinance restricting trimming and pruning activities related to Oak Wilt.
"We recently had a contractor call us from DTE asking if there was a requirement by the city," he said. "It was a suggestion to not cut an oak tree until after the first frost."
Forestry experts say mid-April through mid-July a critical time to avoid injuring or pruning oak trees, particularly red oaks, as sap-feeding beetles have the potential to spread oak wilt spores from tree to tree. Wounds and open cuts should be coated with latex-based paint to stop the spread. For these reasons, forestry experts recommend refraining any cutting or pruning of oak trees until after the first frost of the season, when trees aren't as susceptible to the spread of the disease.
Hendrickson said several other communities have ordinances on the books to prohibit the cutting and pruning of oak trees during the spring and summer months when trees are particularly susceptible.
Commissioners in October approved Hendrickson's suggestion to look into the issue and return in November with a proposed ordinance. He said that language still needed additional work in order to provide a balanced ordinance.
"It still needs more work," Hendrickson said. "We want to make sure it's not overly burdensome, but we want to protect those big oaks in our city."