In November of 2016, the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that the number of dead trees in California since 2010, resulting from a five-year drought, now exceeds 100 million. Additionally, there are many more trees that have been infected by the invasive species known as the “Bark Beetle” which are anticipated to joint this growing rate of tree mortality in the coming years. There are differing opinions regarding what could’ve or should’ve been done to prevent the current condition of California forests but the fact remains that this is a nature epidemic. Tree mortality rates have not only led to a significant public safety crisis with elevated fire danger and risk of naturally falling trees but also a burdensome financial hurdle for state and federal agencies charged with mitigation measures.
With public safety as its most pressing concern, the U.S. Forest Service has committed significant resources to help impacted forests, including reprioritizing $43 million in California in fiscal year 2016 to conduct safety-focused restoration along roads, trails and recreation sites. However, limited resources and a changing climate hamper the Forest Service’s ability to address tree mortality in California. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service officials are seriously hampered not only by short-term budgets passed by Congress, but also a broken budget for the Forest Service that sees an increasing amount of resources going to firefighting while less is invested in restoration and forest health, said Vilsack.
“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 Vilsack. “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.” More information on this article published in Science Daily can be found @ https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161125083555.htm
For more information on California’s tree mortality epidemic and to see what measures have been taken by various levels of government visit http://calforests.org/governors-action-on-tree-mortality/
Additionally, over 1,000 trees at UCI have been significantly impacted by invasive species as well which has caused the university to take action. For more information visit http://sustainability.uci.edu/pshb-uci/