Special Report: Death of the Sierra

Dead pine at sunset, Sequoia National Park (11-12/16) Anson Davalos

Dead pine at sunset, Sequoia National Park (11-12/16) Anson Davalos


Sequoia National Park (11-12/16) Anson Davalos

Nearly 70 million trees have died in the Sierra Nevada.

29 million died last year, alone.

When the setting sun illuminates the dead trees (mostly pine), as seen in Anson Davalos’ photographs, their orange glow almost resembles fall color.

It is a false beauty. There is no attraction in what has happened to the Sierra Nevada.

The death of its pine forest has followed four years of drought and 100 years of fire suppression which, together, have resulted in an overgrown forest that competes with itself for water, making it susceptible to high temperature fires and insect infestations.

Sequoia National Park (11-12/16) Anson Davalos

Sequoia National Park (11-12/16) Anson Davalos

Sequoia National Park (11-12/16) Anson Davalos

Sequoia National Park (11-12/16) Anson Davalos

Parched pines, unable to emit sap, have been defenseless against bark beetles, and the beetles have had a feast.

The death of the forest is most evident in the southern Sierra. Though, the infestation has been advancing northward. And, foresters are unsure where or when it will stop.

The forest will restore itself in 200 years, but we don’t have that long. That’s because California depends on the Sierra Nevada watershed for 60% of its water.

Unless the forest is thinned, more trees will die and the watershed will suffer.

Restoring the watershed will require heavy investment ($500 million per year), in order to log the forest, process the timber and convert it into bioenergy (it’s basically useless as lumber).

CLICK HERE to read more about the problem and possible solutions.

2 replies
  1. Darrell Sano says:

    We wondered about all the dead trees, and clearly after the fire a few years back, knew it was not the fire that is causing this damage, since it is ongoing today. What on earth can be done? I’ve seen this along 120 to Yosemite. Thanks for shedding light on this. Good post.

    • John Poimiroo says:

      What must be done is that the trees need to be thinned, and a more natural balance of trees planted (not just pine and fir), including aspen, hardwoods, etc. Problem is, we’ve lost mills and loggers due to foreign competition and environmental regulations. If we don’t solve this quickly, our watershed will continue to deteriorate and all Californians, agriculture and our economy will suffer.

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