Tree Mortality

Graphic of forest with live and dead trees.Sierra Nevada

California is in its fifth consecutive year of severe drought, which coupled with rising temperatures and elevated bark beetle activity, has killed an estimated 66 million trees across the state. Since 2012, California experienced the driest three years in the past 120 years. Ecological change is happening on a scale none of us has ever seen before.

Dead trees pose a threat to the public and employee safety and major infrastructure. Millions of dead trees across the forested landscape are having significant effects on the people who live and work in and/or visit affected areas. Tree mortality crosses all ownership boundaries.

Governer Brown declared a state of emergency in 2015, which prompted the Office of Emergency Services and CALFIRE to establish a Tree Mortality Task Force comprised of state and federal agencies, local governments and utilities. The Forest Service is part of this task force, which is designed to bring as many resources as possible to address hazard and safety conerns, focusing efforts around urban interface, major facilities/infrastructure, and transportation corridors.

Bark Beetles

Under normal conditions, bark beetles renew the forest by killing older trees and those weakened by disease, drought, smog or physical damage. Our current prolonged drought has weakened a greater number of trees, increasing the number of successful beetle attacks. The more success the beetles have, the more beetles reproduce and spread to other areas of the forest. The bark beetle population has exploded in the Sierras.

Eldorado National ForestPhoto of forest canopy of mostly dead trees.

The Sierra, Sequoia, and Stanislaus have been hit the hardest with over a million acres with high levels of tree mortality. Based on the May 2016 overflight of the forest, the Eldorado National Forest has an estimated 200,000 dead trees (El Dorado County has about 512,000). 

In 2016,

  • At the beginning of the summer, Dru Barner Campground in Georgetown was temporarily closed to remove several hundred beetle killed trees.
  • The Eldorado NF and Cal Trans is working on an agreement for CalTrans to remove dead trees in the Highway 50 corridor up to 200 feet from centerline from the forest boundary at mile post 34.2 to mile post 66.5 at Echo Summit.
  • A process for hazard tree abatement on the national forest adjacent to private land has been developed. 
  • The Forest continues to work with other state, county, and local agencies.

Future treatment areas will focus on identified high hazard areas, to include: land adjacent to communities; campgrounds and trail heads; administrative facilities; and alongside roadways.

Hazard Tree Evaluation Form 

Members of the public can fill out a Hazard Tree Evaluation Request Form for consideration of specific hazard tree abatement on the national forest, adjacent to private land. Forms are available online and at the Visitor Information Desk on each ranger district. Priority or need for hazard tree abatement will be considered on a case-by-case basis using established agency requirements for the identification and removal of hazard trees.

Related Links

Please contact the County at the following email address if you see the following: 

  1. Dead or dying trees that threaten County roads 

  2. Dead or dying trees on County property that threaten infrastructure 

If the tree threatens a state interstate or highway please call Caltrans at: 530-741-4572. If the tree threatens the roads of the City of Placerville or the City of South Lake Tahoe please contact the responsible city.