Millions of trees have died during California’s four-year drought and millions more are in distress because of a lack of water. And all those dead and dying trees are increasing the state’s fire risk.
Now the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has taken the unprecedented step of recommending that landowners be able to cut and remove dead and dying trees of any size without following a timber harvest plan. Until now, harvest plans have been required for the removal trees – whether they were dead or not.
A recent study by the U.S. Forest Service found that the drought has killed roughly 12.5 million trees in the state, mostly in the Sierra Nevada and Southern California. Millions of more are expected to succumb this summer and scientists say the die-off will continue as long as the drought persists.
The proposed emergency regulations come as the Board and others warn of incendiary fire conditions. It’s feared the dead timber could help fuel massive blazes in the state’s forests that could burn for weeks, or even months. The situation is exacerbated by the spread of the voracious bark beetle, which thrives in dry conditions.
Up in Northern California, the Pacific Gas & Electric has started to remove and prune dead and dying trees that are near power lines because of the fire danger.
The emergency tree cutting regulations could go into effect next month and last for six months.