As California’s tree mortality crisis continues to plague its forests with more than 100 million dead over the last six years, Cal Fire and its partnering agencies announced Thursday the removal of more than 423,000 trees throughout the state.
“Although the epidemic tree mortality we are facing is devastating, it has galvanized partnerships at all levels, and focused renewed interests on forest health,” Chief Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire Director and state forester said in a release. “With disaster comes opportunity, and we will continue our work to remove the dead and dying trees that post the greatest risk to public safety and private property.”
Along with the removed trees in 10 counties, Cal Fire and other agencies have also inspected and cleared them from nearly 52,000 miles of roads and power lines, treated more than 26,000 acres, and created roughly 1,300 acres of fuel breaks, officials said.
“The number of dead trees in our state is truly saddening and another widespread impact of this historic drought we are managing in our state,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “Through the Governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force, we’re actively leveraging all of our resources around California to ensure protection of lives, critical infrastructure and the environment in our wooded communities and wildlands.”
Continued drought has assisted the rise of the bark beetle, officials said, as unhealthy trees are unable to repel the species and its larvae as they feast on the living tissue of trees across the state.
Over $10 million in state funds have been earmarked for local projects to help battle tree mortality, primarily focused on the removal of dead or dying trees around homes. Another $6 million has been used to buy equipment. Ten counties, from Placer to Kern, have been identified as the highest-hazard region for tree mortality.
“Work to address this massive bark beetle epidemic began quickly a year ago, and the joint undertaking continues,” Mariposa County Supervisor Kevin Cann said. “The sheer number of dead trees is hard to imagine, but it’s real and we must continue our efforts to address the fact that this will be an ongoing issue for years to come. We have come a long way since Governor Brown first declared this emergency. It is important that we recognize the substantial progress as we redouble our efforts to deal with this ecosystem impacting event.”
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, one of Cal Fire’s partners, has brought in hundreds of workers to cut down dying trees in Eastern Madera County.
Gov. Jerry Brown first declared a state of emergency on tree mortality Oct. 30, 2015.
The latest aerial surveys released Nov. 25 this year indicated 102 million trees are dead, an increase of 36 million since May.