Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

Fixing California’s Tree Die-Off May Take Decades

Dead trees in the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County are pictured ...

Credit: Cleveland National Forest

Above: Dead trees in the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County are pictured in this undated photo. They are a casualty of the goldspotted oak borer beetle.

Despite recent storms, California is still grappling with a massive tree die-off from drought, wildfires and a beetle infestation. Experts said 102 million trees are dead or dying in the state - and that’s a conservative estimate.

California has spent $190 million since last June on the problem. Agencies have also removed 423,000 dead trees from areas where they pose a safety threat.

RELATED: Drought Kills 102 Million Trees In California, Officials Say

But members of the state's Tree Mortality Task Force told the Little Hoover Commission the problem won't be resolved soon. It will likely take decades.

“This is really a Herculean effort, and it’s not something that is going to be immediately mitigated. This is sort of like a marathon, not a sprint,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

The problem with the state’s forests is broader than removing the dead trees. Chief Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire, said more needs to be done to increase the pace and scale of thinning forests to reduce wildfire risks.

“We need to leverage fewer, but larger more effective projects," said Pimlott.

At the hearing, scientists and other experts painted a bleak picture of the state of California’s forests.

“I’ve lived in California almost 30 years now, going up to the Sierra taking kids up there, and to hear repeatedly that the landscape may be just completely different from what I’ve seen, what my kids have grandchildren will see something different,” said Carol D’Elia, executive director of the Little Hoover Commission.

The Commission plans to hold more public hearings before issuing a report that could recommend policy changes.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.