Once bathed in deep green, the forests in the foothills and Sierra east of the San Joaquin Valley are increasingly turning reddish-brown as drought- and beetle-weary trees die by the month. It is a somber warning of a potentially dangerous summer.
That ominous unnatural color reveals the homes of Western bark beetles, who bore into ponderosa pines, their tree of choice, and carve tiny pathways into drought-stricken trees that possess too little sap to eject the insects, as they had before the drought.
The tiny beetle, about the size of a flea, has mobilized fire crews, utilities, county officials, the California Department of Transportation, the U.S. Forest Service, local volunteer agencies and residents to reduce the threat of potentially devastating fires.
A study next month examining trees from the air is expected to report a near doubling of the 29 million trees already reportedly dead or dying. In 2014, it was already a crisis when 3.3 million trees had fallen prey to the infestation, said Daniel Berlant, communications director for Cal Fire.
“From the top of Kern (County) to Tuolumne County is the hardest hit,” Berlant said. “But we are seeing tree mortality moving farther north into the Placer County area at the top of Lake Tahoe.” Local and state officials want the ponderosa pine’s territory, generally above 3,000 feet in elevation, declared a federal disaster area. But so far, the pitch has fallen on deaf ears.
From The Fresno Bee: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article73627167.html