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County To Spend $7 Million To Remove Dead Trees

Aired 2/29/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego County will spend a federal grant to clear dead and dying trees around Julian. The strategy was challenged in court.

San Diego County will spend $7 million on clearing dead and dying trees on private land in the rural back country to reduce the threat of wildfires.

“The money specifically will be used throughout the greater Julian area, ” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, “to remove dead, dying and diseased trees within 500 feet of evacuation corridors and habitable structures.”

Jacob said at the county supervisors’ meeting that the county has already spent $47 million on fuel reduction activities to reduce the threat of wildfires, like the ones that began in the back country in 2003 and 2007.

Jacob said the $7 million is a federal grant obtained in 2009. A court challenge delayed the tree removal program

Rick Halsey of the Chaparral Institute said eradicating trees encourages growth of flammable grasses. He said clearing a distance of 100 feet from roads and structures would be less destructive to natural habitat than clearing 500 feet.

However the county said in an Environmental Impact Report that clearing 100 feet does not meet the goal of helping firefighters reduce the hazards of wildfires.

A court cleared the way for the tree clearing program to begin.

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