U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer today urged Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to authorize $14 million in emergency funding to fight Sudden Oak Death Syndrome because scientists recently said the state's redwood trees might be at risk.
“I urge you to make this a top priority. Time is of the essence. We must act now,” Boxer said.
The disease, believed to be caused by a fungus, has killed tens of thousands of oak trees in California from Monterey to the Oregon border. The disease affects fifteen plant species.
Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley and UC Davis are conducting tests to determine whether the Phytophthora fungus spores found on dead redwood tree sprouts in Big Sur and on the UC Berkeley campus have infected and killed the trees.
“If this proves true, the economic and ecological costs to California would be incalculable. The majestic redwoods draw visitors to the state from around the world. They also play an essential role in the state’s timber industry,” Boxer said in a letter to Veneman.
Concern about the disease has led to a quarantine on the shipment of wood products from infected areas. It is uncertain how the disease spreads.
Boxer said she has introduced a bill authorizing $70 million in additional Sudden Oak Death funding over the next five years and to create a task force to provide a coordinated response.
Rather than wait for the passage of that legislation, Boxer asked Veneman to release the $14 million under the Plant Protection Act from the Commodity Credit Corporation.