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Butternut Health Assessment Program

The RRCA Butternut Health Assessment Program
Most of the land in eastern Ontario is privately owned so the involvement of concerned landowners is critical to the success of the program.
The vast majority of butternut trees across North America have been infected by a fungal disease known as butternut canker. Presently this disease has infected more than 95% of the butternut trees examined thus far in eastern Ontario. There is no known cure for butternut canker and it is for this reason the butternut tree has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, 2007. Currently the Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA) is working closely with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), Forest Gene Conservation Association (FGCA), the Ontario Butternut Recovery Team, Ferguson Forest Center, the SD&G Stewardship Council, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) to develop and implement recovery actions and projects that work towards conserving this valuable species. 

Under the 2007 Endangered Species Act it is PROHIBITED to cut down or remove any living or dead butternut tree, know matter its age, without first having the tree assessed by a certified Butternut Health Assessor (BHA). The objective is to ensure that all potentially retainable butternut trees are identified and assessed for their resistance to the butternut canker. Retainable trees are very valuable to the recovery effort and can ONLY be removed once a species at risk permit is obtained from OMNR. Butternut trees that have been assessed as non-retainable can be removed without a permit.  

As with many species, including humans, some individuals show a resistance or are less susceptible to certain ailments or disease. Conserving vigorous retainable butternut trees in close proximity to heavily infected ones is the main objective of the recovery effort. These trees are showing signs of possible resistance to the butternut canker and are valuable for natural regeneration, seed collection and propagation, and cloning (grafting) to produce resistant butternut trees to replace those dying from the canker. Finding these trees is of the upmost importance because butternut is not an abundant species and even uninfected butternut trees have a short lifespan. Retainable trees should be managed in such a way as to ensure long-term vigour of the tree and to promote regeneration.
Currently the Raisin Region Conservation Authority has several certified Butternut Health Assessors on staff who are available to complete assessments on both private and public property. Two types of assessments are available through the RRCA: a Recovery Assessment or a full Butternut Health Assessment. For a description of the assessments click on the appropriate “what is” question below. Please do not hesitate to contact the RRCA if you have any further questions pertaining to this program or butternut health assessments.

Disclaimer: This survey is not for those landowners interested in the identification of “retainable and non-retainable” trees for the purposes of cutting/removing butternuts on their property. If this your interest please refer to “WHAT IS A BUTTERNUT HEALTH ASSESSMENT?”
The RRCA Recovery Assessment is a program based on BHA protocols and is designed to identify trees which show signs of being suitable candidates for the recovery of the species. These assessments must be completed during leaf-on and during periods of dry weather. The health of each tree is rapidly assessed by determining the diameter of the tree, the severity of crown dieback, and the number of cankers present. A general survey of habitat features such as topography, vegetation community, and soil drainage/texture/depth are recoded. This data is then sent to the Butternut Recovery Team who will analyse it and determine if further investigation of any trees are necessary for the recovery of the species. If suitable trees are identified then the RRCA and the Recovery Team will work with the landowner to determine the best management strategy to maintain the long-term vigour of the tree and enhance the probability of natural regeneration. The Recovery Team may also decide to collect seeds or clippings from these trees to enhance the propagated and cloned stalks currently underway as part of the recovery effort. There are no fees associated with a recovery assessment.
Disclaimer: This survey is not for those landowners who are interested in identifying butternut trees strictly for recovery purposes. If this is your interest please refer to “WHAT IS A RECOVERY ASSESSMENT?”
A BHA is a survey which is completed, by a certified Butternut Health Assessor, for each individual (dead or alive) butternut tree in order to determine its overall health. These assessments must be completed during leaf-on and during periods of dry weather. The health of the tree is assessed by determining diameter of the tree, the percentage of live crown, and the number of cankers (sooty and open) on the roof flare and trunk below the live crown. The data gathered for each tree will then be run through the “Butternut Retainable Tree Analysis” program. This program then categorizes and outputs a list of those trees which are retainable and non-retainable. Once complete the Butternut Health Assessor will send the landowner and OMNR a letter which includes the identification numbers and coordinates of those trees considered to be non-retainable, retainable, or hybrid. Trees which have been assessed as non-retainable or hybrid may be removed without a permit once the 3 week audit notification window has passed. All trees identified as retainable can ONLY be killed or harmed once an OMNR permit to do so is obtained. All fees associated with a Butternut Health Assessment will be reinvested into the butternut recovery effort. Please contact the RRCA for the current fees or to get a quote.
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Raisin Region Conservation Authority
18045 County Road #2, P.O. Box 429, Cornwall, ON, K6H 5T2
Tel. 613-938-3611   Fax. 613-938-3221