Following five years of drought, there are an estimated 102 million dead trees in California, shockingly. “Probably 70 to 80 percent of the whole mortality situation last year was mapped in areas of the Southern Sierra Nevadas,” said Jeffrey Moore, an employee of the U.S. Forest Service for the past 18 years.
Although the past year has broken the drought and brought much needed rain to the American West, the strain that dry spells put on trees has a lasting effect. “This drought has really pushed them over the edge,” said Moore. “Now, the bark beetle population is taking advantage of trees that have been weakened from these past few, dry years, and is just finishing them off.”
The die-off is so high that the dead trees outnumber the living, causing a serious fire risk. “We’re going to need a couple of more good years for these trees to be really healthy again,” said Moore. “We’ve never experienced anything like this in California.”