SoCal bugs

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at
Fri Oct 11 06:00:46 EST 2002

October 10, 2002  Sacramento Bee
Dead trees pose fire risk in Southern California mountain resorts
The Associated Press -
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.(AP) - Thousands of trees infested by beetles
have died and pose a major fire danger to the mountain resorts of the
San Bernardino National Forest unless they are cut down and removed,
fire officials and forestry experts said.

State forestry officials estimate at least 35,000 trees, mostly pines,
have died recently from beetle infestations.

"There's at least twice as many trees dying as we had last year," said
John Regelbrugge, a U.S. Forest Service official who mapped tree
deaths during a two-day flyover of forests in San Bernardino and
western Riverside counties in late August.

The tree deaths also pose a serious fire threat in coming weeks if
nothing is done, fire officials said. San Bernardino and Riverside
counties have each pitched in $300,000 for clearing dead trees from
private properties. But some residents and forestry experts believe
the state and federal governments have not done their part.

"Lake Arrowhead is going to burn down," Richard Minnich, a fire
ecology professor at the University of California, Riverside, said of
the mountain community east of Los Angeles.

State and federal agencies said restrictions on the use of leftover
federal disaster funds and concerns about subsidizing private property
owners have hampered their efforts. Failure to cut trees and shrubbery
by residents who live in the forest also has contributed to problem.

Many of the trees have been weakened by development, especially
pavement that abuts tree trunks. Beetles have taken advantage of the
trees' poor health along with low rainfall amounts in Southern
California that has left trees unable to expel the pests naturally,
forestry experts said.

"The beetles have gone wild, in unprecedented numbers," said botanist
Tim Krantz, a University of Redlands professor of environmental
studies. "I've worked in the forest 25 years, and I've never seen
anything like this. I dare say no forester or botanist living has ever
seen anything like this in Southern California."

Tree removal also has become a problem. While smaller stands can be
cut for firewood, bigger ones are hard to dispose. There isn't a
lumber mill within 300 miles, Minnich said.

In some cases, the state will help treat and remove infested trees.
However, the state can't help if the tree is already dead. It costs
between $2,000 and $6,000 to remove one Ponderosa or Coulter pine

"This is a long-term problem," said Jim Wright, deputy director of the
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "They'll have to be
cutting these trees forever to get caught up."

Comment from poster: 
I have posted observations of these areas before in this newsgroup,
especially about the mountain town of Idyllwild. Last time I was there
was in February and the problem was critical then. Idyllwild is an
"artsy" community in the mountains east of the LA Basin and west of
Palm Springs, loaded with liberal tree huggers who are watching their
forest fall apart before their eyes. There hasn't been any timber
management there in about ten years. Their forests are loaded with
underbrush and small trees, stealing precious water away from the
majestic pines that are now brown from drought and insect attacks.
Even worse is the fire danger to the town, which almost burned up a
few years ago except for the gallant stand by firefighters on the very
edge of town.

The Southwest Center for Biologic Diversity had tried to set up shop
there but, some locals have turned a deaf ear towards them. Many
locals have consulted the local "eco-logger" Ed Arredondo for advice
on how to deal with the problem. Ed is a common-sense guy who solely
runs his own business, felling trees, skidding logs, driving his truck
300 miles each way to the mill and stacking slash.

Since the 4 LA area National Forests do not have timber programs, it
will be interesting to see how they deal with large dead trees. I'm
hoping TEAMS (a USFS Enterprise program, doing natural resource work
throughout the US) will get some work from them and I will be able to
continue to do Sale Administration, my forte.


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