LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Eighteen million trees have died in California since the fall of 2017, even as the state emerged from a years-long drought, according to the USDA Forest Service.
Federal and state officials say that while tree mortality in the state has actually slowed since the drought was declared over in 2017-2018, the number of trees that have died across 9.7 million acres of federal, state, local and private land since 2010 has reached 147 million.
“It is encouraging that the rate of mortality slowed in 2018. However, 18 million trees are an indication that the forests of California are still under significant stress,” Thom Porter, Cal Fire Director and California’s state forester, said in a statement. “The stress of drought, insects, disease and prolific wildfire will continue to challenge the resilience of the state’s forests.”
Dead trees are especially a continuing hazard to people and infrastructure on the west side of the southern Sierra Nevada Range, and the issue was blamed by President Trump for causing the deadly 2018 wildfires that burned throughout California.
“Years of drought and a bark beetle epidemic have caused one of the largest tree die-offs in state history,” California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said in a statement.
While California officials remain firm that actual cause of more frequent and devastating wildfires is climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for a five-year, $1 billion forest management plan in his 2019-2020 state budget proposal on his first full day in office.