Abandoned Christmas tree plantations are becoming disease-ridden fire hazards in Michigan.
Note: One of the great dangers with genetically engineered eucalyptus plantations that have been proposed for planting across the US South from South Carolina to Texas, is what happens if they are abandoned. Older eucalyptus plantations are tremendous fire hazards, as we recently saw with the massive wildfires in Portugal. The unpredictability of their genetic manipulations over time are also a great concern as there is no way to know how the trees will react to environmental stresses as they age. They could pose a serious threat to nearby forest ecosystems, water or communities. –GJEP
According to CadillacNews.com, many landowners took on Christmas tree plantations as a way to make extra money in the 1960s and 1970s, planting non-native trees like Scotch pine and Colorado blue spruce.
Many landowners during that time planted these trees as a way to make some money off their land.
“They soon found out that raising Christmas trees is hard work,” (Wexford County Conservation District Forester Larry) Czelusta said. “The trees needed to be sheared every summer to produce the dense foliage that Christmas tree shoppers look for.”
Making matters worse is the Christmas tree market for Scotch pine and blue spruce trees bottomed out years ago.
“They used to be 70 to 80 percent of the market,” Czelusta said. “They’re now down to maybe 20 percent.”
When the market dropped out, many landowners abandoned their plans to grow Christmas trees but left the plantations to grow out of control.
Both the Scotch pine and blue spruce are susceptible to diseases, with the blue spruce facing a fungal disease called Rhizophaera needlecast that can defoliate the tree, especially when grown in dense plantations, according t o Czelusta said.
Scotch pine is a notoriously dry tree with a short life cycle that drops dead branches and other dry material often, making it a serious fire hazard.
Landowners hoping to have their former Christmas tree plantations cut for timber are also in for a rude awakening, according to Czelusta, who said that natural gas prices and the often bent trunks of plantation trees are causing them to be unfavorable in the market. Clearing these trees can actually cost land owners hundreds of dollars per acre, Czelusta said.