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Meeting on tree mortality April 2

A Tree Mortality Resource Fair will be held 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 2, at the Oakhurst Elementary School Auditorium.

The fair, organized by Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, is a chance for constituents to get one-on-one time with key partners who may be able to provide resources or educational information.

Booths, from a number of organizations including Cal Fire, USFS, Office of Emergency Service, FireWise, Homeowners Insurance contracts, and PG&E, will be set up by representatives, and the public will have the opportunity to speak with them directly.

Wheeler has been working non-stop on the tree mortality issues. In May 2015, he hosted his first informational meeting on the Bark Beetle, and has presented updates at his monthly town hall meetings.

When the number of dead and dying trees increased in late summer 2015, he began an initiative to get a county-wide emergency plan in place which became effective in September 2015.

The following month, he met with Gov. Gerry Brown about the need for a state-wide emergency, and by Oct. 30, the governor released his emergency Executive Order, and convened a Tree Mortality Task Force (TMTF) in November. (see www.fire.ca.gov/treetaskforce/).

At the December TMTF meeting, eight working groups were established and six priority counties were identified, including Madera County.

In January, it was reported that there were millions of dead trees throughout the Sierra Mountain Range, with that number is expected to grow.

Throughout this process, Wheeler has been advocating for private land owners, and has held weekly meetings with key staff and partners to try and identify available resources to assist home owners in removing dead trees from their property.

Wheeler has pushed for private land owner resources, as well as the need for equipment, contractor support, and a place/market for the material. He hopes that sometime in the near future either FEMA support dollars, tax credits, or low interest rate loans will be available for private land owners.

In the meantime, he is working with Cal Fire to identify priority roadways in Eastern Madera County where dead trees can be cut down and removed, in order to make the roads safer, which double as fire breaks.

Details: Supervisor Tom Wheeler, (559) 662-6050.

Staff report

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