ODOT will look into tree die-off along highways
Last updated 6/22/2021 at Noon
Trees are dying along Highway 20 and Highway 126 east of Sisters. That sets off alarm bells in a community that saw a large-scale die-off in recent years tied to the use of the herbicide Perspective.
That die-off led to the felling of some 2,100 trees — mostly ponderosa pines — along Highway 20 from Sisters to beyond Black Butte Ranch in 2019. The problem with the trees near Sisters began developing from 2013 to 2015 when the herbicide Perspective was used along the highway corridor to remove brush within the Oregon Department of Transportation right of way. The herbicide harmed ponderosa pines and other trees in the area where it was applied.
Tree mortality can have a variety of causes, and it is well established that drought is stressing trees across the West. It is not known — yet — if the problem east of town is related to herbicide use or is attributable to other factors.
“Some of those trees could have been exposed to the herbicide we were using,” said ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy. “It’s possible that some Perspective is continuing to affect those trees and we have to take a look.”
Murphy told The Nugget that the agency “has the same visual evidence that you do.” In order to confirm whether Perspective is a factor in the die-off, the trees will have to be analyzed. Murphy said that such an analysis may be conducted this fall. Then ODOT will determine what is to be done about any affected trees.
While the 2019 tree-removal project was conducted on lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service, to the east there are a variety of landowners potentially affected.
“We’d have to work with those partners and agencies and individuals once we see what we’ve got,” Murphy said.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture severely restricted the use of the active chemical in Perspective in the wake of the Highway 20 corridor die-off.