Report: 36 million more California trees dead due to drought
In April, the Sierra Sun first reported in the story, “California, Tahoe-area tree deaths climb to record levels thanks to bugs, drought,” that an estimated 28 million trees in the Golden State were dead or dying in 2015 as a result of the ongoing drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The 28 million figure is not only a record-high for the state, it’s roughly 10 times more dead trees than were recorded in 2014 — just one year prior — by the U.S. Forest Service Aerial Survey team.
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In the last six months, another 36 million trees have died in California.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Nov. 18 that the latest aerial survey conducted by the U.S. Forest Service identified the dead trees.
That brings the total number of dead trees since 2010 to over 102 million, and 62 million of those trees died in 2016 alone, according to a press release from the USDA.
In 2015 alone, the number of tree deaths was estimated at 28 million, according to a previous report in the Sierra Sun — and that number was 10 times greater than the number of tree deaths recorded in 2014.
In short, that state of emergency over tree mortality that Gov. Jerry Brown declared last year does not appear to be improving. That’s not for lack of trying, though. According to the release, the Forest Service spent $43 million in 2016 help impacted forests.
“These dead and dying trees continue to elevate the risk of wildfire, complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur, and pose a host of threats to life and property across California,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “USDA has made restoration work and the removal of excess fuels a top priority, but until Congress passes a permanent fix to the fire budget, we can’t break this cycle of diverting funds away from restoration work to fight the immediate threat of the large unpredictable fires caused by the fuel buildups themselves.”
According to the report, the majority of the dead trees are located in ten counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada region.
The cause of the tree mortality issue has been linked to ongoing drought and bark beetle infestation.