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Sixty-Six Million Dead Trees

Sixty-Six Million Dead Trees

The die-off has been swift. Between 2010 and late 2015, 40 million trees died in the area, with nearly 75 percent of them succumbing between September 2014 and October 2015.

Massive Tree Die-Off In California

Drought And Beetle Infestation The Cause

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

There are now 66 million dead trees in a six-county area in the southern Sierra Nevada region in California, and if they go up in flames, the result would be catastrophic, the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday.

The massive tree die-off has been going on since 2010 and is the result of a prolonged drought and a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation. And unless those dead trees are cleared out, California could face massive wildfires.

“The die-offs of this magnitude are unprecedented and increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires that puts property and lives at risk,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “While the fire risk is currently the most extreme in California because of the tree mortality, forests across the country are at risk of wildfire and urgently need restoration requiring a massive effort to remove this tinder and improve their health.”

The die-off has been swift. Between 2010 and late 2015, 40 million trees died in the area, with nearly 75 percent of them succumbing between September 2014 and October 2015. Since last October, another 26 million trees have died.

The Forest Service said it is working to remove dead and dying trees, but the effort would have to be massive because the die-off area covers 760,000 acres. To date, the Forest Service has cut down more than 77,000 dead and dying trees in the area.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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