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Emergency Rule Eases Process To Cut Down Drought-Stricken Trees

Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

This aerial view shows Jeffrey pine and oak mortality in the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County, April 2015.

With extreme drought and an infestation of bark beetles decimating California’s forests, the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has adopted an emergency regulation for removing dead trees.

With extreme drought and an infestation of bark beetles decimating California’s forests, the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has adopted an emergency regulation for removing dead trees.

The new rule will help property owners in places such as Mount Laguna and Julian expedite the process of removing dead trees from their properties, allowing them not to have to follow typical timber harvest requirements.

“Instead of having to go through weeks and months of processing for approval of a permit, this will only take a few days,” said George Gentry, executive officer of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 87,000 trees in San Diego County’s forests have succumbed to drought over the past year, according to an aerial survey conducted in April by the U.S. Forest Service.

The massive die-off of pines and oaks has heightened the risk of wildfires, Gentry said, and the unprecedented move to make it easier to remove the dead trees shows how severe fire fuel levels are.

“About a decade ago we had conditions that were not as bad as what we have right now,” Gentry said, “and that led to several very catastrophic incidents — the Cedar fire obviously comes to mind.”

The Cedar fire was one of three massive brush fires that started during October 2003, scorching more than 376,000 acres. More than 2,500 homes were destroyed and 17 people died in the three fires.

The Cedar fire was the largest, burning more than 280,000 acres, including parts of Scripps Ranch, Tierrasanta, Lakeside, Harbison Canyon, Crest, Cuyamaca and Julian.

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