Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) submitted a request to Governor Jerry Brown and California Office of Emergency Services Director, Mark Ghilarducci, to declare a State of Emergency because of the threat presented by the increasing numbers of dead and dying trees in rural areas.
"Unprecedented drought has left our forests not only at high-risk of catastrophic wildfires, but also particularly susceptible to insect and disease infestation, like the Bark Beetle, leaving the forests and communities impacts even more vulnerable to wildfire," said Berryhill in his letter to the Governor.
"The severity of fires this summer underscores the importance and need for swift action on removing dead or dying trees."
Local resources are no longer enough to address the overwhelming increase in dead or dying trees throughout the state, according to Berryhill.
A U.S. Forest Service survey of about 3.6 million acres of land covering the lower western foothills of the central and southern Sierra, from the Sacramento area south to Visalia, found more than 6 million dead trees across roughly 526,000 acres.
Berryhill voices concerns about risks to "treasured state and national parks," the potential for falling trees to pose a problem for power lines, and the public safety risk to people who visit California's forests.
Mariposa, Madera, and Fresno county Boards of Supervisors recently issued resolutions stating that the level of tree mortality "has created extraordinary threats to public safety," and "exceeds their functional capabilities."
Berryhill hopes that State recognition of the disaster would draw much needed attention to the problem and begin the process of getting resources, both state and federal to the affected counties.