Drought Putting a Damper on Hunt for Christmas Trees

With leftovers from Thanksgiving officially moving into the “when in doubt, throw it out” category, Christmas is now just 24 days away. The craze of Black Friday and Cyber Monday typically signify that shopping season is upon us.

Shopping for presents, stringing lights on the house and decorating will all consume many of the days until Christmas. But there’s one tradition that may need to be adjusted this year.

Family trips to the Christmas tree farm are also among those timeless staples of the holiday season. Now, some families may be forced to buy artificial trees instead.

Due to the ongoing six-year drought in California, a lack of rain and snow has slowed the growth of Christmas trees, even stunting typical 8-foot trees down to 6 feet.

Dry conditions and bark beetle infestations have considerably increased the amount of dead trees across the state, according to a new survey released by the United States Forest Service. An additional 36 million dead trees were found in California since the Forest Service’s previous aerial survey in May 2016, increasing the total to 102 million dead trees on 7.7 million acres.

The population of California is estimated at 37 million. In comparison, the amount of dead trees is nearly three times the number of actual people living in California.

In 2016 alone, 62 million trees have died, representing more than a 100 percent increase in dead trees across the state from 2015. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years.

As holiday festivities commence, there are still countless reminders of the state’s ongoing historic drought. Learn more about what can be done to conserve water.


Additional resources:



Tree Mortality Task Force


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, the state's historic drought, the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, unprecedented winter storms in 2017, the October (Sonoma County) and December (Santa Barbara County) 2017 wildfires, and statewide wildfire siege in 2018 . Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

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