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Tree Mortality in Placer County

We need your help!

Placer County and its contractor, Mountain G Engineering (MGE), may need to enter your private property to evaluate, count and possibly cut down and/or remove your dead trees that could damage county infrastructure, at no cost to the property owner. To legally do that, we need property owners to fill out, sign and return the Right of Entry form. The form should be printed out, completed and mailed to the address at the bottom of the form. The electronic version of the form is not available at this time. (Jan. 2019)  For additional information on the tree removal project, please view the Frequently Asked Questions document.

A tree killed by bark beetles stands next to a live trees

View the letter from Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery explaining the project and its importance.

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.

A large stand of dead trees amidst living trees

Placer County is one of 10 counties included in the State of California’s tree mortality declaration of emergency. Statewide there are more than 129 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 saw an additional 709,000 trees die in 2017 bringing the cumulative total in the county to 1.5 million.

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.

Recently, tree surveys from the road (windshield surveys) have been completed in most of the higher elevation areas and Right of Entry forms are being mailed out. If you received a door hanger and want to complete the Right of Entry form now, you can do so online using an electronic signature or by downloading forms and mailing them in as directed.

Foresthill Pilot Area - Crews completed marking trees for removal on properties where permission was granted through the Right of Entry process. Each tree was marked with the letters "PC" and a number identifying that tree as a part of the Placer County Tree Mortality Removal Project. For those that signed a right of entry form and noticed the marking in red paint, those trees have been identified as ones which will be cut and removed by the contractor from your property. Trees marked using green paint will be cut and left on the property for disposal by the land owner. If you notice a tree with white paint on it, it means that the tree died prior to the emergency being declared and is not eligible through the emergency funding. However, CalFire has approved additional funding to remove trees which have died prior to the emergency and that pose a potential fire threat to residences or communities. Trees marked with white paint will be submitted to CalFire for approval and if approved will be remove in coordination with the emergency project. The Pilot area will go out to bid early summer and once the contract is awarded, tree removal operations will begin. Property owners will be notified when the contract is awarded and provided with the name of the contractor.

Trees which are stressed or diseased, but have not reached a point where they cannot recover, are being recorded and monitored for the life of the project to determine if they require removal at a later date.

Marking in the Lake Tahoe Basin area will be performed this summer.

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.

A large stand of beetle-killed conifers near Alta, with a house located in the middle

How can property owners 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. 

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.

Small screen grab of CAL FIRE's statewide tree mortality map

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.

A stand of dead trees near Foresthill

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 (530-217-6259) 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.

detail of a section of a dead tree trunk and pine needles of a tree killed by bark beetles

The district also operates a low-cost, curbside chipper program. 530-889-0111 Ext. 3.

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 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