Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Looking Back on Invasive Species Encounters in Oregon

A blog post by Dan Hilburn

He writes, "The time has come for me to pass the baton and head for the locker room. I’ll be retiring in November. The Department has generously allowed me several weeks to wrap up loose ends. One of those is downloading information that that might be useful to those still in the race. Here is a look back at how Oregon has responded to invasive species in the last few decades. My focus is on ODA insect and weed programs where I have first-hand knowledge."

The Early Years

1960's - Recognition of the Risks

Prior to the 1960’s, ODA surveys focused on documenting pest population levels of established agricultural pests. By the late 1960’s, this evolved to include surveys for pests threatening to invade but not known to occur in Oregon, including Japanese beetle, cereal leaf beetle, and Khapra beetle. One of my predecessors, Bill Kosesan, recognized the risk. He wrote in 1968: “Because we travel more and faster these days and move plants, food, forest, and fiber products in greater quantities, the danger of spreading plant pests is greatly increased.” “If present trends are any indication Oregon can expect more pest invasions, not fewer.” 1

Gypsy Moths

In 1977, Oregon began annual surveys for gypsy moth, one of the worst forest pests ever to invade North America. Two years later, Diana Kearns, who still works for us, reported the first positive trap in West Linn. The first infestation to trigger an eradication treatment occurred in Salem in the early 1980’s. Mill Creek, right outside ODA headquarters, was covered with plastic to minimize insecticide getting into the water. That was good practice for 1984 when a very large infestation was discovered in Lane Co. 19,096 gypsy moths were caught that year triggering a massive aerial assault that grew to include a quarter of a million acres. 2 The State Legislature allocated several million dollars for the treatments and continued monitoring. Due to concern about spraying residential neighborhoods with chemical pesticides, ODA pioneered use of B.t., a naturally occurring biological insecticide, for this large-scale eradication project. It took three applications per year applied by helicopter for several years, but happily it worked. We’ve continued to rely on that technique for the last three decades and the funding that came in response to that outbreak.

1990's - the Federal Government

In 1993, the U.S. Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment came out with a report on “Harmful Non-Indigenous Species in the United States.” 3 The following year, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture came out with “Biological Pollution: A Serious New Environmental Challenge.” That report concluded: “What is needed is a national initiative to properly address the issue of harmful non-indigenous species as biological pollutants. Such a national initiative would provide a mechanism whereby all federal, state, and private agencies could join in a holistic effort to deal with the problem.“ 4
The term “invasive species” wasn’t commonly used until President Clinton signed executive order 13112 on Feb. 3. 1999, entitled “Invasive Species.” 5 His order created the national invasive species council and it’s advisory committee. I remember reading that order, especially one particular paragraph that read: “Among other things, the advisory committee shall recommend plans and actions at local, tribal, State, regional, and ecosystem-based levels to achieve the goals and objectives of the management plan in section 5 of this order.” Somebody should do that in Oregon, I thought. The idea stayed with me.

The Start of the Oregon Invasive Species Council

Eventually I called Dr. Mark Systma, Oregon’s aquatic nuisance species guru at PSU. He’d also read the executive order and was thinking along the same lines. We pulled in Paul Heimowitz from OSU Sea Grant and Larry Cooper from Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and together drafted a legislative concept that would create an Invasive Species Council in Oregon. We made it easy for legislators by suggesting funding for the Council come from reassigning a few thousand dollars that were going toward a moribund interagency IPM committee. Momentum built through 2000 when OSU hosted a Biology Colloquium called: Biological Invasions! The Quiet Global Change. The legislature responded and the Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC) was born a year later.
OISC included ex officio members from State agencies that deal with invasive species plus appointed at large members representing “the geographic, cultural and economic diversity of this state.” The Council’s purpose was, and is, to:
  • Facilitate reporting of invasive species,
  • Educate people about related issues,
  • Develop a statewide plan for addressing invasions, and
  • Provide grants or loans for eradicating new invasions.



OISC has made a difference. Oregon’s 1-866-INVADER hotline facilitated reporting right out of the gate and then it’s online counterpart made it even easier to connect people noticing suspicious animals and plants to experts that can identify them and respond if necessary. Public awareness has also improved. In 2005, OISC contracted with Anthill Marketing to do a random telephone survey of Oregonians’ knowledge of invasive species. 6 The conclusion was: “The average Oregonian does not understand what nuisance or invasive species are other than perhaps weeds.” In 2007, Lisa DeBruyckere, was hired as the first OISC Coordinator. She made an instant impact coordinating an educational campaign. Especially effective were a series of articles in the Statesman Journal by Beth Casper, and an hour-long OPB special directed by Ed Jahn called the “Silent Invasion.” Public awareness improved to the point it became rare to encounter someone who didn’t have some knowledge of the issue. That is a big change from early legislative hearings when Mark, Paul, Larry, and I were questioned about zebras and giraffes!
The OISC has produced two action plans, the first in 2003 and an update in 2012. The original is notable for it’s Appendix III that provides a baseline list of 341 invasive species established in Oregon in 2000. 7 A noxious weed strategic plan and an economic assessment of the impact of invasive weeds came out in 2001. 8 9 Look for an updated economic assessment is in the works. Stay tuned for that; the documentable impacts are increasing. Also in 2001, Oregon’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan made its debut. 10 This was followed by a Feral Swine Action Plan for Oregon in 2007. 11 The granting function of the Council is mostly a dream because of the inadequate size of the emergency fund and the lack of a mechanism to replenish it. However, OISC has contributed funding toward the effort to eradicate Japanese beetles from the Portland airport and to address invasive tunicates in the Charleston boat basin and Umpqua triangle. More on funding later.



Gypsy moth is our poster species for successful early detection and rapid response (EDRR) in Oregon, but there are other examples including:
Insects. In 1989-‘91 ODA detected and eradicated Japanese beetle infestations in Cave Junction, Rivergrove, and Tigard. Several other infestations have been eradicated since then and a current effort to eliminate JB’s at PDX is ongoing. In 2008 an infestation of granulate ambrosia beetle was eradicated from The Dalles.


Kudzu, the weed that ate the South, was detected in Oregon in 2000. Four sites in Clackamas and Multnomah Counties have been eliminated since. We’ve also eradiated several Spartina infestations on the coast and we’re working on purple starthistle, giant hogweed, Patterson’s curse, distaff thistle, African rue, and yellow-tuft alyssum. Weeds are harder to eradicate because there is a seed bank in the soil; it takes a sustained effort.

Plant Diseases

In 2001 sudden oak death was detected in Curry County. Though the eradication effort ultimately failed, we did greatly limit the spread and impact of this disease and we’ve minimized the importance of nursery stock as a vector. Chrysanthemum white rust, was introduced a couple of times, hasn’t yet established here.
When I look at where we are today, I see a lot of positives -- and one big dark cloud. We’re doing some EDRR in Oregon, we have great people in key positions, our laws and regulations have been updated, and we work together well across agencies and organizations. Our challenge is that globalization continues to accelerate and along with it the rate of introduction of new invaders. At the same time government funding for survey and response programs is static or declining. Even if it were available, I don’t think spending more tax dollars is the answer. What we need is a way to link funding for EDRR to globalization.

Funding for Protecting Oregon against Invasive Species

Earlier this year the OISC proposed a 1% pathways assessment on existing fees related to trade and travel. That type of linkage would make a huge difference; funding would increase with heightened risk or decrease if globalization slowed. I’m convinced that is where we need to go. The people and businesses that are engaging in trade and travel should be supporting efforts to prevent negative side effects. I like the “polluter pays” concept; it just makes sense. Let’s keep working on it.

Introducing Dr. Helmuth Rogg

Dr. Helmuth Rogg is my replacement as Director of Plant Programs at ODA; he has already taken the baton and sprinted off to a great start. I’ll be cheering from the sidelines as he leads us on the next leg of the rat race, pig race, beetle race, weed race, plant disease race, etc. There is no finish line to the invasive species chase; for us, keeping up is winning.

Good luck Helmuth, good luck ODA, good luck OISC, good luck Oregon, good luck USA, and good luck Earth!

 --- Dan


1. Kosesan, W.H. Plant Protectors. 1968. Oregon Agrirecord, State Dept. of Agriculture, Salem, OR. No. 239, pp. 11-12.

2. Plant Division Annual Report 2005. Gypsy moth. Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, Salem, OR. pp.23-24.

3. U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Harmful Non-Indigenous Species in the United States. OTA-F-565 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1993).

4. Westbrooks, R.G. and R.E. Eplee. 1994. Biological Pollution: A Serious New Environmental Challenge, An Exposé on the Ecological Significance of Harmful Non-indigenous Species. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, APHIS, PPQ, Whiteville Plant Methods Center, Whiteville, North Carolina.  5 pgs.

5. Presidential Documents, Executive Oregon 13112. 1999. Invasive Species. Federal Register, Vol. 64, 6183-6186.

6. Oregon Invasive Species Council, Statewide Awareness Campaign Plan. 2005. Ant Hill Marketing. 19 pgs.

7. Oregon Invasive Species Action Plan. 2003. Oregon Invasive Species Council, Mark Systma, Chair, Center for Lakes & Reservoirs, Portland State University, Portland, OR 97207-0751. 38 pgs.

8. Oregon Noxious Weed strategic Plan. 2001. Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, 635 Capitol St. NE, Salem, OR 97301-2532. 66 pgs.

9. Economic Analysis of Containment Programs, Damages, and Production Losses From Noxious Weeds in Oregon. 2000. Prepared by The Research Group, Corvallis, Oregon, for the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, Noxious Weed Control Program, Salem, Oregon.

10.  Oregon Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan. 2001. Center for Lakes and Reservoirs, Portland State University. 86 pgs.

11.  Rouhe A. and M. Sytsma. 2007. Feral Swine Action Plan for Oregon. Environmental Science and Resources, Portland State University. 28 pgs.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Invasive Species in Vacationland

-- by Dan Hilburn

My wife and I spent much of our youth in Maine and many of our relatives still live there. When we go back to visit, we fly from Portland, OR to Portland, ME and cross our fingers that the luggage handlers don’t get confused. Maine and Oregon have a lot in common, including some invasive species. When I’m there, I can’t help comparing their issues with ours. Here are some observations from my recent vacation Down East.

1. Gypsy moths

Gypsy moth populations in Maine are low this summer. I didn’t look for them; I don’t have to. The males are attracted to my wife and I. This year we only saw a dozen and never more than one at a time. On other visits we’ve drawn small clouds of sex-crazed male moths. All because I work in an office with people that handle gypsy moth pheromone. The lures in gypsy moth traps Oregon Dept. of Agriculture staff place around the state every summer are amazing. Even though I never handle the pheromone, my cloths smell faintly like a female gypsy moth and after our clothes are washed together, so do my wife’s. If you want to hear a funny story, ask my wife about the time a flutter of gypsy moths followed her and my daughter on a guided tour of MIT.

2. Knotweed and Beetle Reunion

I don’t remember Japanese knotweed in Maine when I was young, but it is common there now. This year on my drive-by surveys I noticed considerable feeding damage on the new growth. Since nothing seems to feed on Japanese knotweed here in Oregon, I stopped to check it out. I should have guessed, it was Japanese beetle -- another invader. I was witnessing the reunion of old friends: an invasive insect pest from Asia is attacking a non-native noxious weed from the same part of the world! It will be interesting for my counterparts in Maine to see whether Japanese beetles keep the Japanese knotweed from becoming problematic and whether the proliferation of a favorite host plant serves as a trap crop or a nursery for the Japanese beetles.

3. Eastern white pine replacement masts

I love to sail. This summer we were in Camden on a perfect day and couldn’t resist an afternoon sail on a 100-year old schooner. It was awesome. An added bonus for us was a friendly captain that loved to talk about the local windjammer fleet and the challenges of maintaining those beautiful old sailing ships. According to him, finding authentic replacement masts is difficult. Traditionally they were made from trunks of Eastern white pine, which grew tall and straight. Not anymore. White pine weevil attacks young pines, killing the leaders. White pine is still a common tree in New England, but now almost all of them are crooked or have multiple trunks. Our captain said that replacement masts have to come from the Pacific Northwest!

Since introduction of invasive species is tied to global trade and travel,
invaders have had less impact in Oregon than in Maine

Another difference between the two states is the length of time they’ve been settled. Little signs on historic buildings in Maine attest to construction in the 1700’s. Settlement and intercontinental commerce in Oregon is, of course, much more recent. Since introduction of invasive species is tied to global trade and travel, invaders have had less impact on our environment. There are lots of reasons why that is important, the least of which might be that if you want to build a traditional sailing ship with local materials, you can still do it in Oregon!

If you love both states the way I do, my suggestion would be to build your boat in Oregon, then sail it to Maine. If you do that, keep me in mind for the crew.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Say Goodbye to Our Black Walnut Trees

Photo from Google Street View
  • Post by Dan Hilburn
Next time you drive out Center Street in Salem take a look at the black walnut trees on the State Hospital campus. Those big, beautiful trees are doomed. If you look up, you can see the tops are dying. Within a decade, they’ll all be dead and gone. The same fate awaits other black walnuts in Oregon. The killer is a fungus that causes thousand cankers disease (Geosmithia morbida) and it’s vector, a tiny insect called walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis). This is an invasive species story with a twist – both the fungus and the beetle are believed to be native to North America, though not to Oregon.

Until recently walnut twig beetle was known only from the Southwest where it lived in harmony and obscurity with its host, Arizona walnut.

Until recently, the walnut twig beetle lived in obscurity with its host, the Arizona walnut. 
The beetle expanded its diet to include non-native walnuts.
The killer fungus came along too.

Unexplained die-offs of black walnuts in the mid-West in the early 2000’s were initially blamed on drought and/or the walnut twig beetle. Eventually researchers noticed large numbers of dark cankers under the bark of dead trees. And that led to the 2008 discovery of the associated fungus. The researchers named the fungus thousand cankers disease.

The walnut twig beetle, a type of bark beetle native to the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico, is the only confirmed vector of the pathogen. Apparently, it adjusted to non-native black walnut street trees and expanded its range throughout the West. The fungus hitchhiked with the beetle.

No one has yet figured out a control or management strategy that works. Severe pruning and burning of infested branches may slow the disease, but eventually, even big, healthy black walnuts succumb. Neighborhoods with black walnut street trees are going to look bare when they are removed.

It is sad that we’re going to lose some street trees in Oregon, but the real tragedy will be in the East where black walnut is native and treasured for it’s high-value wood. Several states have enacted quarantines to lessen the risk of human-aided introduction. The biggest threat is movement of infested logs and firewood.

The biggest threat is people moving infested logs and firewood.
If the logs or firewood are put on a truck and moved to a mill, buyer or campsite, the beetles can emerge in a new place and Thousand Cankers Disease jumps ahead like a spot fire started by a spark.

When trees die, people naturally want to sell the trunks and cut up the rest for their fireplaces. If the logs or firewood are put on a truck and moved to a mill or a buyer somewhere down the road, the beetles can emerge in a new place and thousand cankers disease jumps ahead like a spot fire started by a spark. Since it takes several years from infection to the first symptoms, by the time trees start dying no one will remember the shipment of infested wood that inoculated the neighborhood.

For us in the West, its a story of a native beetle/fungus with an expanded range attacking non-native street trees. The take home lesson is that firewood should be bought and burned locally. Don’t take it with you when you go camping out-of-state. The same principle applies to logs. When mills and kilns are local, pests and diseases are less likely to hitchhike to new areas.

I used to have a black walnut overhanging my driveway. The falling nuts were hard on my car and messy to clean up so I wasn’t sorry when the power company cut it down. Black walnuts are the sort of tree you enjoy if it is across the street and belongs to someone else, like the State Hospital -- I’ll still be sad to see them go.