Drought Taking Heavy Toll On San Diego Trees
Governor. Jerry Brown has declared an emergency over the astounding number of dead trees in California. The governor says the estimated 22 million dead trees across the state pose a fire risk, add to the potential of dangerous mudslides, and are dangerous to visitors in state and national parks. The state of emergency will allow California to ask for federal help and funds to remove the dead trees. Dead and diseased trees are a problem that managers in San Diego parks and forests are well aware of, in addition to native species of oak trees, San Diego native Torrey Pines is being stressed and depleted a drought and climate change. Joining me is Darren Smith , Darren welcome to the program. And Anne Fege , welcome to the show. That Darren, you manage the Torrey Pine State Park. The to refine -- the Torrey Pine is an iconic tree, we wouldn't have the space along the coast, its biggest contribution is that is can -- protected all the other species. What has the drought in increase in temperature done to the trees. The trees have become stressed, without precipitation, without enough water they are unable to defend themselves against pests. We have to different kinds of bark beetles, they are native species, the drought has weakened the trees, and they are potentially lethal. So they are always around copper because of the drought, they are now killing trees. That is correct. How to do it -- they normally handle it. The usually use the sap to push the Beatles out of the holes, that is their natural resources. How many the loss of the last year or so pretty About 2% of the population. What is the doubt in temperature change has to do with the bugs in general. The higher than average lower temperatures allow the Beatles to have an endless reproduction cycle. There is not a winter break or a cold weather break, they can have a lot more for a lot longer. Anne Fege, what are you seeing happening to the health of the trees around the city. Are being trees have also been dying to to be extended drought. For four years the trees have not been good enough water in the rainy season, and we often didn't think to water them to give them the average amount that they are used to. Than the hotter summer months help distressed on the urban trees, and property owners have suffering their lawns, and that is slowly killing the trees. I've heard a number of from directly from people in managing that they are going to match the water targets and they cut back, and they just cut back on the water spigot. So we see the politics of cutting water, but not looking at the entire system of the trees, and the rest of our resources. Yet even the strictest drought solutions of level IV allow for watering trees, we need to get better educations, we are not limited by policy, we are limited by perceptions. Does your group, does the city do an inventory trees? The city's tree inventory is about 15 years old, and California Department of for street fire protection has just awarded the city of $750,000 grant to do a tree inventory on part of the city as well as an urban tree canopy assessment that will be used to promote data, and will give us an image of where we currently have trees, and then we can go back and go forward in the future to see the changes. We have not had a baseline for many years, and now we're going to be getting at with the money, we will have two new staff in the city that are managing this. Things are looking up, except the trees are not. Darren, you used to encourage people in the community to plant story Pines on their property. Because it is a nice complement to the state park. That is perfectly designed for those trees to first. But how is that turned out. It is interesting, we have had these trees planted in landscaping, with irrigation, and they didn't develop through systems like a native tree. With the drought restrictions, cutting up the water mainly thinking they were cutting up the water to their lawns but not realizing that the trees would be affected, it is causing problems. A lot of these lands create -- landscape trees are beautiful, and are able to sustain a lot of Eagle population and they become stressed. This problem with their trees becoming weak and feeding infestation so what I understand to is because this is a native tree can get by with not too terribly much water. But because they have been over watered, they are used to getting so much more water, and when they do not, they get sick. I am not sure about overwatering, I just think that it's been a watered somewhat to not at all. That is the situation. Joining us now is Spencer Bleadorn , he is land and special uses program manager with Cleveland national Forest. In declaring a state of emergency Governor. Brown called what we are seeing the worst epidemic of tree mortality in modern history. What is the situation like in Cleveland national Forest. We are seeing similar decline in the trees, we've mentioned before, we are also seeing a lot of oak mortality through the oak for -- bore which is not native to California. I believe that came over for shipping pallets and other wood products coming from overseas. To the same situation the Darren was talking to us about, if the tree is healthy they are able to withstand that type of bug, but if that tree gets weakened because of drought it is more susceptible. There is a little bit of a difference because it is not a native back. Because it is an invasive, the old trees do not have a natural defense against the bug. If there would be more water in the system they would do better, is similar to a Darren said before, on how the Torrey pines would dispel the art -- the beetle, to have an estimate on how many trees you might've lost? Were in the process of losing?. With the working properly with the County of San Diego with other entities, the last I heard the County of San Diego has lost over 50% of the oak trees. Well. What about the other trees the Cleveland national Forest. We do see some mortality in the other Pines, and we see them struggling because the doubt -- drought. To be clear out the dead in drainage -- and dying trees?. We do quite a bit of school -- fuel reduction projects, for we clear out and burn the trees along the ground. On her Facebook page the proposed other that we are doing some prescribed burning up in the Laguna Mountain area. That is an example of how we would try to eliminate some of that material. Okay. But this call from Governor. Brown is a little bit more extensive, than that. Let me ask you for instance the governor wants them to identify dead and dying trees the pros the most risk. I know that of course she were working with the national Forest, you think you might be working with state agencies to identify areas the pose a great deal of risk question Yes. We worked with state and local agencies quite a bit. We're looking at the chicken mortality risks, we look at community defense projects, we worked quite a bit with individual homeland -- homeowners, about how we can both help each other to reduce risks of fire and reduce the spread of these beetles that occur in the trees for Can I get a perspective on that list of -- on that? Just a moment when you finish my conversation with Spencer, said you lost so many trees, are there any plans to start replanting? Yes, we have started doing that. The Ranger District specifically in the Laguna recreation area, has done quite a bit of work with volunteers to replant acorns to get a next generation of oak trees growing up. Okay then. Thank you summer Spencer. -- Spencer Bleadorn. Let me reintroduce my guess, we have Darren Smith, and Anne Fege I was served as a Forest supervisor of the Cleveland national Forest, there was a severe drought in all of Southern California. In the early 2000's, there was an organization started call the forest agency task force, and that was what Spencer was referring to, at some point there was a federal assistance of about $50 million to do fuel reduction, that was basically removing dead and dying and diseased trees from the field, their homes and structures, so that it would reduce the fire damage. And it indeed did. The government had a proclamation in the early 2000's for the state for emergency trees, and there was a fair amount of money to support the program. There and, now we are talking about the Darren declaring a new state of emergency just now. We are asking for federal funds, and asking for boots on the ground to help clear the trees, and help clear the areas of high stress. Did you use that type of help? Absolutely. We do not have a wholesale plan for the entire reserve. What we would do, is selectively look at trees that are nearby private property, are the pose a risk, that is something that we way considered to them. So you have identified those areas that there may be the most risk. Currently, it is a case-by-case business. If something is within a couple of hundred feet to the structure, And, Do you think that the County could be more clear about keeping the trees alive? What I'm hearing here is that people turned up this bunglers and let their lawns die that's the -- but forgot about the trees. Professionals as a group have been worried about this and working with this for the last year and a half. Basically what the messages are for those who are in the water conservation programs, in the different water districts to include this in the messages when they're providing general public information, as well as training courses. I think they have been better in the training courses, but I've seen few of the quick soundbites about watering trees that could've made a difference. It is hard to get trees higher up in the public information soundbites. It is not too late, we are still going to be dealing with these trees even if we have a wet winter. And we need to be making investments in changing our landscaping systems so that we have separate zones for trees and we are able to water trees caught they need deep soaking watering once a month. It might be 30 4050 gallons, instead of just a little bit twice a week, that is encourages the roots to be very shallow and the trees not to have much resilience to drought. To understand how trees grow, and to begin to convey that to the public in the water conservation messages is that -- where we need to be's -- the. Like to thank Darren Smith, and Anne Fege, thank you very much.
Gov. Jerry Brown said the state has lost an estimated 22 million trees due to drought, and those dead and dying trees pose a fire risk, add to the danger of potential mudslides and are hazardous for visitors in state and national parks.
Brown has appealed to the national government for help, declaring a state of emergency that will allow California to ask for federal funds to help remove them.
Can a rainy fall and winter prevent more trees from dying? Or is San Diego's flora changing forever? Those are questions that will be explored on KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday.