GOLD BEACH Efforts to eradicate Sudden Oak Death disease near Brookings are already underway.

Nancy Osterbauer, from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, took time out from hacking through salmonberry bushes Wednesday morning to touch bases with the county commissioners.

She said shed been flagging trees in the quarantine area northeast of Brookings. A buffer zone will be cleared, and a controlled burn will be conducted on oaks and other plants that could host the fungal infection. Trees like firs, which are not susceptible to the disease, will be spared.

The sites will be monitored and declared clean if no Sudden Oak Death is found there for two years.

Osterbauer said surveys and monitoring will be done in 2002 and beyond. Research will continue on better control measures.

We will do our darndest to get rid of this thing, she said.

Signs will also be posted to warn mushroom pickers to stay out of the quarantine area near Brookings.

Osterbauer said her department needs help translating the warning into Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese.

She said the pathogen, phytophthera ramorum, was first identified about a year ago. Like Port Orford Cedar Root Disease, it can kill trees. Unlike that fungus, it attacks bark and outer layers instead of roots.

It has killed tanoaks, black oaks, coastal live oaks, Shreves oaks and evergreen huckleberries in the San Francisco Bay area. It can also cause dieback and leaf spots on California buckeye, Oregon myrtle, rhododendron, azaleas and viburnum. Osterbauer said it may be capable of killing Pacific madrone.

She said other local diseases can produce similar symptoms. Sunburn can also cause parts of rhododendron leaves to turn brown, though the dividing line between green and brown is more distinct than that produced by Sudden Oak Death.

Osterbauer said only laboratory tests can confirm the presence of the disease. So far, it has been confirmed in only four spots, within two miles of each other, northeast of Brookings.

Those are the only confirmed infection sites in Oregon so far, said Osterbauer, and the only ones that will be targeted now.

While the agriculture department will continue research on ways to kill the fungus, Osterbauer said burning seems to be the only way to get rid of it. It is drought-resistant, but not heat-resistant.

States and nations are beginning to ban imports of certain forest products from affected counties, however.

Osterbauer said South Korea is adding products from Curry County to its quarantine and Canada followed suit Thursday. California may soon follow.

It could be devastating to Flora Pacifica, said Commissioner Marlyn Schafer of Don Mitchells business in Harbor that sells unique floral and forest products across the country.

Osterbauer said her department will work with Mitchell to see if his treatment processes are sufficient to kill the fungus.

If so, a nursery inspector could issue phyto-sanitary certificates so his products wouldnt be quarantined.

The state agriculture department has been working cooperatively with the Oregon Department of Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the federal Animal/Plant Inspection Service on the disease, said Osterbauer.

She said, The private landowners have been great. Were very pleased with the cooperation weve had.

The disease was discovered in 1995 in tanoaks in Mill Valley, Calif., but the fungus was only identified last year.

Osterbauer said the disease had probably been around longer. People were aware of problems with oaks in California, but didnt know what was killing them.

Because the climate of Southwest Oregon is similar to that of the Bay Area, ground surveys were conducted, but Osterbauer said they were relieved to find no evidence of the disease at that time.

Meanwhile, in January, emergency quarantines were issued for counties in California. It was then discovered that the disease had spread beyond oaks to other species.

In March, the quarantines were made permanent. The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency took preventative measures. All oak imports to Canada were stopped.

On Thursday, Canada banned all products from quarantined areas except kiln-dried lumber.

In July, said Osterbauer, the California Department of Food and Agriculture adopted new regulations.

The disease was discovered near Brookings on Aug. 9, and the federal government is now working on a management plan.

Regulated articles under the Oregon quarantine include identified host species and associated soil. Products from infested areas must be heat-treated before they can be exported.

In adjacent areas, products must be treated or inspected. Products from areas that are not adjacent will require certificates of origin.

Products from infested areas must be heat-treated at 71.1 degrees celsius for 75 minutes, or kiln-dried.

Wood products from adjacent areas must be heat-treated, kiln-dried or debarked. Nursery stock must be visually inspected and certified.

Osterbauer said the fungus has two kinds of spores. Some spread the disease by swimming on films of water up to the trees. Other spores help the disease survive drought.

The fungus prefers cool, wet conditions, said Osterbauer, and has been found in rain, soil and infected host materials.

It is believed to spread naturally through rain splash, but could also be spread by humans, because it has been found in a rhododendron nursery.

Were learning more every day, said Osterbauer.

In oaks, the disease causes dark red or darker sap to bleed onto the bark. Trunks will have sunken cankers with dark canker margins.

Osterbauer said it kills the bark and cambium, not the wood. It wilts new shoots on tanoaks.

Osterbauer said people who think theyve seen an infected plant should talk with their local Oregon State University extension agent or master gardener.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont said Curry Countys extension agent is Frank Burris. His office, at the fairgrounds, can be reached at (541) 247-6672, or (800) 356-3986.

La Bont said Lower Rogue Watershed Council Coordinator Bruce Follansbee is also a tree expert and has been following the issue. His number is (541) 247-2755.

People can also report the disease to the Oregon Department of Agriculture at (866) INVADER or (503) 986-4636.

Information can be found on the Web at Plant/ppd/sod/EQ_SOD.htm, or at

Osterbauer said the disease has been found in eight counties around the Bay Area, especially in the fog belt and in thick stands of trees where water is retained.

Schafer said that is what can happen when forests are not thinned.

Osterbauer said that could be the case.

The problem could have been here for a while, but then conditions changed and it reared its ugly head. That head is getting pretty ugly now.

She said the disease is up to Mendocino County. Oaks have also died in Humboldt County, but the cause has not yet been positively identified. Del Norte County also has suspected sites.

The disease has so far cost Marin County $4 million just to remove hazardous trees from around homes.

Its having a devastating effect down there, said Osterbauer.

She said China Camp State Park in California is now almost a prairie.

This will wreak havoc with tanoak, riparian areas and special forest products, she said.

In July, the Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service conducted an aerial survey 12 miles inland from the coast parallel to U.S. Highway 101, and also along U.S. Highway 199.

Spotters in planes identified 22 suspicious sites. When helicopters went in for a closer look, all but the four sites near Brookings were eliminated.

Osterbauer said infected trees are easy to spot from the air in mid-summer because the leaves suddenly turn red out of season and stay attached to the trees.

She said there would be additional aerial surveys, but it would be harder to identify diseased trees in the fall when leaves naturally change color.