Who Cares About Millions of Dead Trees?

From 2010 through 2017 a historic decimation of an estimated 129 million trees occurred throughout the state of California. The dead trees cover over 8.9 million acres, mostly centered in the central and southern Sierra Nevada region of the state. 66 million of these potential fire starters are in the National Forests of the Sierra (Eldorado, Sequoia, Sierra, Stanislaus, Tahoe National Forests and LTBMU).

Record-breaking rains from the winter of 2016-2017 did slow the die-off somewhat; but 5 previous years of consecutive drought, an increase in the bark beetle population and warming temperatures have created a tree mortality problem difficult to combat. On October 30, 2015 Governor Brown issued a State of Emergency proclamation, recognizing and addressing the need to remove the dead and dying trees. He authorized California Disaster Assistance (CDAA) funding which provides 75% reimbursement for all eligible costs related to removal of hazard trees that threaten public infrastructure. California has also formed a Tree Mortality Task Force comprised of state, local and federal agencies, utilities, industry representatives and environmental stakeholders. This much-needed task force has removed more than a million dead trees in areas where public safety was at high risk. While 1 million is a large number of trees, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the 128 million (and increasing) dead trees we are left to contend with.

The problem is so severe in the central and southern Sierra Nevada that some areas have experienced more than 90 percent tree mortality. The landscape that was lush, green and majestic is now an ugly brown smear of fire tinder. And the threat of large-scale wildfires being fueled by these dead trees has sparked great concern throughout the state. Scott Stevens, a professor of Fire Science at UC Berkley, co-authored a study that reported: “These dead trees have created unprecedented levels of fuel, which could create dangerous wildfires in the near future that are beyond the predictive capacity of current fire models, making fire behavior and its impact on structures and public safety difficult to manage and predict.” These massive fires can generate their own wind and weather conditions and can become so intense that they could prevent forests from becoming re-established.

No future forests? It is daunting to consider loss of lives and property from falling dead trees and or monstrous forest fires. But, consider the horror of land that is so consumed by fire that trees can longer grow in the soil. Land management agencies and scholars are working at a fevered pace to come up with solutions to make live forests more resilient. New studies are calling for an increase of prescribed fires, mechanically thinning forests and physically removing the dead trees. Certainly, this mass die-off has awakened community members to the need for better long-term forest management.

Joe Benigno’s Tree Service is an industry partner in this fight. As an active member of the Tree Mortality Task force, Joe has been instrumental in removing dangerous dead and dying trees in the Northern California Region. Our crew recently aided in Tree Mortality Project Phase III in Camino, taking down and removing 39 large pine trees. We completed the job ahead of schedule and with minimal to no impact on local traffic. As an industry leader, Joe Benigno’s Tree Service has the skillset, equipment and determination to stay with the tree mortality issue until the last dead tree is removed. The threat of lost lives and damage to public and private lands is too great to ignore this issue.

Who cares about millions of dead trees? Joe Benigno’s Tree Service does, and we are proud to be a part of the solution!

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