Drought and warm temperatures decimated California’s forests in 2022, according to a new report from the U.S. Forest Service.
An estimated 36.3 million trees across 2.6 million acres of federal, state, and private land died in California last year “due to the cumulative impacts of extended drought, overstocked forest conditions, insect outbreaks, and disease,” the report states.
The 36.3 million mark showed a dramatic increase over 2021 when an estimated 9.5 million California trees died.
Red Fir, White Fir and Douglas Fir trees are seeing the highest mortality rates, and the Central Sierra Nevada range and areas further north have been the most acutely impacted, the Forest Service said.
“Forest health is a top priority for the Forest Service,” said Jennifer Eberlien, Regional Forester for the Pacific Southwest Region, in a news release. “The agency’s 10-year strategy to address the wildfire crisis includes removal of dead and dying trees in the places where it poses the most immediate threats to communities.”
Experts say with California’s record drought, trees have become highly susceptible to bark beetle infestation and disease.
This winter’s storms and above-average snowpack will help, but the Forest Service says it will take several years of normal or above-normal precipitation to reverse the trend.
State leaders have proposed spending $1.2 billion as part of the California Blueprint to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk.
“Working together, we can mitigate the risks of tree mortality and high-intensity wildfire by reducing the overabundance of living trees on the landscape,” Eberlien said.