Tree Mortality in Placer County
Placer County, along with much of California, is facing an unprecedented threat from the millions of dead and dying trees in our forests. Successive years of drought have stressed the trees, which has enabled native bark beetles to proliferate and kill stands of once healthy trees. While the record precipitation from the winter of 2016-17 has helped, many affected trees will not recover and remain vulnerable to bark beetles; most foresters say the massive die-off is likely to continue for several more years.
Placer County is one of 10 counties included in the State of California’s tree mortality declaration of emergency. Statewide there are more than 102 million dead or dying trees as a result of the lethal combination of drought and bark beetles. That number is projected to keep growing.
Placer County is an active participant in the State Tree Mortality Task Force. We have also declared a local emergency and formed our own county Tree Mortality Task Force. The Task Force coordinates efforts between local, private and public partners in dealing with the problem. In addition to local governmental agencies, we are also partnering with the state and federal governments.
Currently, Placer County is establishing a process to accurately count the number of dead trees threatening county public safety and infrastructure, such as power lines, water systems, roads, highways and communication lines. After we have identified and prioritized which trees pose the greatest threat, we plan to begin the process of tree removal.
What can property owners do?
Know who is responsible for dead or dying trees. Dead or dying trees on private property are typically the responsibility of the property owner.
How can property get information about tree removal?
If property owners are unfamiliar with tree harvesting practices, they should consult with a licensed professional forester or arborist. The Placer County Resource Conservation District has tree professionals available for consultation and inspections. Additionally, there is a state forest stewardship assistance available.
When should dead or dying trees be removed?
Dead trees need to be removed as soon as possible. They create a fire hazard and standing dead trees will rot, becoming unstable, and will eventually fall, especially during winter storms. The longer a tree is dead, the more difficult and expensive it can be to remove.
What can a property owner do with the downed timber?
Felled trees can be left or removed. If left, they need to be properly handled. Felled wood can be used for firewood, but needs to be stored correctly. Wood from bark beetle-infested trees should be covered with plastic, following a specific technique to kill the beetles, and left covered for several months. If wood is not going to be used for firewood, then it should be chipped and used as mulch. For additional information on how to correctly store bark beetle-infested firewood, click this link: FIREWOOD
Can logs from infested trees be sold?
While anyone with downed wood is free to contact lumber mills, at this point there is a glut in the wood market, reducing the amount of wood that mills can take. Downed wood can also be sold as fuel for biomass power generation.
CAL FIRE tree mortality map
What is Placer County doing about the tree mortality problem?
Placer County has formed a Tree Mortality Task Force, which is an inter-agency effort to coordinate all aspects of the tree mortality issue, such as public outreach, resource and funding identification and procurement, and landowner assistance. In September, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved the county’s hazardous tree removal plan, and funding for tree removal using state funds for a portion of the work. This will allow the county to remove trees that threaten county infrastructure. Dead trees on private land that could directly affect county infrastructure if they fell may qualify for some funding under the county plan.
Are there other agencies or organizations that will remove trees?
Local, state and federal government and utilities may remove trees from both public and private land if those trees pose a hazard to infrastructure (roads, buildings, power and water conveyance systems, etc,). CAL FIRE is removing dead and dying trees adjacent to Interstate 80 from the West Paoli exit to Donner Summit.
How can I keep my property fire safe?
Be proactive. Create 100 feet of “defensible space,” the natural and landscaped area around a structure that has been maintained and designed to reduce fire danger;
Remove dead trees, especially around your home; Maintain trees by thinning overgrown trees and watering as necessary; and Plant a diversity of tree species, including drought tolerant species of trees native to the area.
Where can property owners get additional information?
The Placer Resource Conservation District is available to answer questions and/or conduct property assessments to provide site-specific advice. The district can help determine eligibility for various funding assistance programs.916 -600-3061. PRCD
The district also operates a low-cost, curbside chipper program. 530-889-0111 Ext. 3. CHIPPER
A forest stewardship helpline is now available for information on tree mortality. 1-800-738-8733 (TREE). STEWARDSHIP
The Placer Tree Mortality Task Force is working to identify what funding may be available to assist landowners.
If you own at least three acres of forestland property and have a minimum of four dead conifers per acre, you may qualify for cost-share assistance through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program. NRCS
If you are at a verifiable very low income annual income level INCOME and/or elderly, you may qualify for very low interest (1%) loans or grants (Age 62 & up) through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Section 504 Home Repair. FACT SHEET
If you own at least 20 acres of forestland property, you may qualify for forest management cost-share assistance through CAL FIRE’s California Forest Improvement Program . This may not include dead tree removal. FIP
PG&E is removing dead trees along powerlines. Contact PG&E to see if you qualify for assistance. Pacific Gas & Electric is also operating a debris management program for dead trees. Click here for additional information PG&E
CAL FIRE has information available online: BARK BEETLES
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an informative brochure available online: Bark Beetles in California Conifers
See the Placer County landowner assistance Frequently Asked Questions. FAQ
Placer County Fire Safe Alliance: The Alliance provides community assistance, information and assistance, information and educational programs to help reduce wildfire risks. The Alliance goal is to have informed, educated, and fire defensible communities through a collaborative approach in a fire prone environment. Fire Safe Alliance