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California Tree Die Off Prompts Review Of Management Policies

Photo / U.S. Forest Service
 

Photo / U.S. Forest Service

Despite recent storms, California is still grappling with a massive tree die off from drought, wildfires and a beetle infestation.102 million trees are dead or dying in the state - and that’s a conservative estimate. 

California has spent $190 million since last June on the problem. Agencies have also removed 423,000 dead trees from areas where they pose a safety threat. 

But members of the state's Tree Mortality Task Force told the Little Hoover Commission the problem won't be resolved soon. It will likely take decades. 

“This is really a Herculean effort and it’s not something that is going to be immediately mitigated. This is sort of like a marathon, not a sprint,” says Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

The problem with the state’s forests is broader than removing the dead trees. Chief Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire, says more needs to be done to increase the pace and scale of thinning forests to reduce wildfire risks. 

“We need to leverage fewer, but larger more effective projects," says Pimlott. 

At the hearing, scientists and other experts painted a bleak picture of the state of California’s forests. 

“I’ve lived in California almost 30 years now, going up to the Sierra taking kids up there, and to hear repeatedly that the landscape may be just completely different from what I’ve seen, what my kids have seen...my grandchildren will see something different,” says Carol D’Elia, executive director of the Little Hoover Commission.

The Commission plans to hold more public hearings before issuing a report that could recommend policy changes. 

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