California’s forests are seeing a continued die-off of trees even a year after last year’s heavy rains ended the state’s crippling drought.
The U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that 27 million trees died over the past 13 months after five dry years left them severely dehydrated and vulnerable to bark beetle attack.
The unprecedented casualties, which run rampant across the Sierra Nevada as well as parts of the coast, have turned patches of forest into a somber rust color for mile after mile. The mortality is so great in some places that foresters have closed roads and campgrounds for fear of the dried-out, lifeless trees falling on people. Tourists to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, meanwhile, have been stunned by the unexpectedly grim views.
State officials also worry about dead groves becoming easy tinder for the lethal wildfires that have plagued California in recent years. Efforts to remove hazardous stands have been slow due to the sheer volume of death.
An estimated 129 million trees across some 8.9 million acres have died since 2010, according to the Forest Service.