Editor’s note: Nick Smith’s service circulated this article, from AgAlert, yesterday.
From state highways, foothill campgrounds and aerial surveys, it’s easy to see the catastrophic tree die-off in California forests. What isn’t as easily grasped is the scale of rapidly expanding tree mortality in the state’s 40 million acres of forestland—and what to do about it.
The U.S. Forest Service said in June that its survey showed more than 66 million trees, mostly pine species, have died in the southern Sierra Nevada alone, and more are dying. Forestry experts say the scale of the die-off is beyond anything ever observed. They attribute the tree mortality to four years of drought, bark beetle infestations, climate change and mismanagement.
“I’m afraid people are going to think the catastrophe we’re seeing in our forests today is just a natural cycle of drought and insect infestations, but there’s a lot more to this story,” Tuolumne County rancher Shaun Crook said. “What we have now is the culmination of 40 years of forest mismanagement that has led to these devastating conditions.”
Crook said if Sierra forests had been harvested in recent decades using sustainable-yield practices, they would not be as overgrown and would not be as vulnerable to drought, infestation and disease, which occur naturally.