Thanks to Mac McConnell for sending this in. You may have seen the posts “128 million dead trees in California” from last December. Here’s a quote:
Though California received record-breaking rains in the winter of 2016-2017, the effects of five consecutive years of severe drought in California, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and rising temperatures have led to historic levels of tree die-off. The Tree Mortality Task Force (TMTF), with support from the Governor’s office and comprised of more than 80 local, state and federal agencies and private utility companies, continues to remove hazardous dead trees. To date, the TMTF members have collectively felled or removed over 860,000 dead trees; this includes over 480,000 dead trees felled or removed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The TMTF members are using a triage approach to this tree mortality crisis, first focusing on public safety by removing dead and dying trees in high hazard areas. To further improve forest health, the U.S Forest Service and CAL FIRE have increased their pace and scale of prescribed fire. The U.S. Forest Service has treated over 55,000 acres and CAL FIRE has completed over 33,000 acres in fuel treatment projects. By combining tree removal with prescribed fire, crews will be able to decrease overly dense stands of trees, reduce greenhouse gases, and protect communities across the state.
“Tree mortality at this magnitude takes on-going cooperation between public, non-profit and private entities,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director and California’s state forester. “California’s forests are a critical part of the State’s strategy to address climate change. By working together and using all the resources at our disposal we will be able to make more progress towards our common goal of healthier, more resilient forests that benefit all Californians.”
With record breaking levels of tree die-off, the TMTF has used this event as an opportunity to collaborate on several fronts: from public workshops about reforestation, public outreach in urban and rural areas, and awarding over $21 million in grants aimed to protect watersheds, remove dead trees and restore our forests. The TMTF continues to collaborate on the efficient use of resources to protect public safety and build consensus around long-term management strategies for California’s forest lands.
“The Tree Mortality Task force has provided an essential venue for coordination of response efforts, exchange of ideas, reporting, and accountability for the ongoing statewide response to this incident,” said Supervisor Nathan Magsig of Fresno County. “Leadership from the Governor’s Office, CAL FIRE and Office of Emergency Services has helped to ensure county issues are heard and addressed. Monthly coordination of the 10 most impacted counties has resulted in a more effective use of resources and has allowed counties to share ideas and successes.”
Colorado experienced much tree mortality in the recent past (as did Central Oregon in the 80’s). It’s always interesting to see how different states handle the problem. Perhaps because of the importance/funding of Calfire, there seems to be a strong integrated push at the state and county level. It seems (perhaps related) to be less on the ideological side and more pragmatic than the discussions we often have here. Due to the emergency, they simply seem to have made exceptions to the State Forest Practices Act without much pushback (documented here) (or it’s not obvious from here).
They have a multiagency Tree Mortality Task Force linked here, which has many interesting links including this very cool zoomable map with interesting layers tree mortality viewer (below is a screenshot).
There are a variety of working groups including prescribed fire, insurance, regulations, utilization and so on here. For those interested, the Task Force has a webinar on June 11. As always, I’m particularly interested in the perspective and observations of the Californians here.