Survey Finds 18 Million Trees Died in California During 2018

"It is encouraging that the rate of mortality slowed in 2018. However, 18 million trees are an indication that the forests of California are still under significant stress," said Thom Porter, CAL FIRE's director and California's state forester. "The stress of drought, insects, disease, and prolific wildfire will continue to challenge the resilience of the state's forests."

The USDA Forest Service announced Feb. 11 that an additional 18 million trees, mostly conifers, died in California since fall 2017. The news release from CAL FIRE and the Forest Service reported that more than 147 million trees have died across 9.7 million acres of federal, state, local, and private lands in California since the drought began in 2010,and that since 2016, federal, state, and local partners have felled 1.5 million dead trees, primarily those posing the greatest risks to people and property.

While the 2016-2017 winter officially ended California's drought, below-average precipitation recorded in 2017-2018 slowed the recovery of the state's surviving trees, it says. Dead trees continue to pose a significant hazard to people and critical infrastructure, mostly centered on the west side of the southern Sierra Nevada range, but other forested areas throughout the state and at higher elevations have also been impacted.

"The Forest Service is focused on increasing the pace and scale of ecological restoration – this includes thinning dense areas to promote healthy forests that are more resilient to wildfires, drought, and bark beetle outbreaks," said Randy Moore, Regional Forester of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. "The Forest Service completed approximately 313,000 acres of restoration in 2018, which included over 63,000 acres of prescribed fire – the largest number recorded since the National Fire Plan was implemented in 2001."

"It is encouraging that the rate of mortality slowed in 2018. However, 18 million trees are an indication that the forests of California are still under significant stress," said Thom Porter, CAL FIRE's director and California's state forester. "The stress of drought, insects, disease, and prolific wildfire will continue to challenge the resilience of the state's forests. In accordance with the 2019 Strategic Fire Plan for California, CAL FIRE will continue to increase the pace and scale of fuels and forest management project work and grants. California's Forest Management Task Force will continue to coordinate the statewide multi-agency response."

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