Drought Emergency Rescinded But Tree Mortality Still Dire

After six-plus years of historic drought, Governor Edmund G. Brown rescinded the state of emergency order, excluding four counties, in the wake of one of the wettest winters in state history. Only Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties remain in a drought emergency.

The drought is effectively over, though one of the fallouts from sustained dry conditions are recognizable in various counties throughout California. Tree mortality, resulting from unprecedented drought and subsequent bark beetle infestations, has stripped California forests of more than 100 million trees.

The mortality data is based on the U.S. Forest Service Aerial Detection Survey flown across all forested lands of the state each year. The Forest Service has already treated 30,000 acres of dead trees, with more to come.

The estimated number of dead trees in California from 2010 to 2016 was 102 million, although that could rise once the Forest Service conducts its next aerial survey of 10 counties – Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Madera, Mariposa, Placer, Tulare and Tuolumne – likely in June. More than 3.4 million acres of dead trees were found in those 10 counties.

The drought was marked by extraordinary heat, with 2014, 2015 and 2016 as California’s first, second and third warmest years, respectively, in terms of statewide average temperatures. Californians responded to the drought with tremendous levels of water conservation, including a nearly 25-percent average reduction in urban water use across the state.

While California is officially cleared of a drought, tree mortality presents a long-term problem. Other states have endured similar issues.

More than 830 million trees have died in Colorado during a decade-long bout with tree mortality. The dire situation isn’t quite as drastic in California, but there certainly isn’t a quick fix to the issue.

Click here to learn more about tree mortality and what is being done to combat this epidemic in California.

 

Additional resources:

Cal OES

Cal OES Recovery Division

Cal FIRE

Jonathan Gudel

Jonathan Gudel is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Since joining Cal OES, he has assisted in the response and recovery efforts of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, multiple wildfires, the state's historic drought and the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident and unprecedented winter storms in 2017. Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

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