Washington December 1, 2016 – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to provide increased funding to remove more than 100 million dead trees in California’s forests that increase the odds of a catastrophic fire season next year. The senator also wrote to Governor Jerry Brown asking what additional federal resources the state needs to address the growing crisis.
“The unprecedented number of dead trees in California is an urgent public safety issue,” Senator Feinstein wrote to Governor Brown. “Dead and dying trees will create elevated fire risk for years to come across the state, and those nearest to homes, businesses, roads, and utilities pose the most immediate threat to lives and property. Now more than ever, the state and federal governments must take coordinated steps to remove the most hazardous dead trees as quickly as possible.”
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the mortality rate for trees in California has grown exponentially since the start of the drought.
- In 2014, the number of dead trees throughout the state was 11 million.
- In 2015, that number grew to 40 million.
- In 2016, the number of dead trees is 102 million.
Senator Feinstein previously requested from the USDA an additional $38 million to fund 19 projects in high-hazard areas identified by the Forest Service and the governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force. In response to that original request, Secretary of Vilsack allocated only $11 million for 10 projects. Senator Feinstein requested that Secretary Vilsack provide the additional $27 million as soon as possible to complete the remaining projects.
The majority of the 102 million dead trees are located in 10 counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada region. The Forest Service also identified increasing mortality in the northern part of the state, including Siskiyou, Modoc, Plumas and Lassen counties.
Several years of severe drought, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and warmer temperatures are leading to the increasing rate of tree mortality. In 2015, Governor Brown declared a state of emergency due to the unprecedented number of dead and dying trees.