Drought Conditions at Lowest Point since Autumn 2010

usfs logoNationally, we are seeing extreme to exceptional (D3 to D4) drought conditions fall to their lowest point in more than 6 years.  Nowhere is that change more dramatic than in California.  The current (February 21, 2017) Drought Monitor for California notes the disappearance of D3/D4 from California.  At the California drought’s peak from August-October 2014, that percentage was nearly 82 percent.  As recently as early-December 2016, coverage of D3/D4 in California stood at 43 percent.

Forest Fires in Sierra Nevada Driven by Past Land Use

Firefighter with drip torch setting a prescribed burn

Changes in human uses of the land have had a large impact on fire activity in California’s Sierra Nevada since 1600, according to new research

Forest fire activity in California's Sierra Nevada since 1600 has been influenced more by how humans used the land than by climate, according to new research led by University of Arizona and Penn State scientists.

For the years 1600 to 2015, the team found four periods, each lasting at least 55 years, where the frequency and extent of forest fires clearly differed from the time period before or after.

However, the shifts from one fire regime to another did not correspond to changes in temperature or moisture or other climate patterns until temperatures started rising in the 1980s.

Forest Service Survey Finds Record 66 Million Dead Trees in Southern Sierra Nevada

VALLEJO, CALIF., JUNE 22, 2016 AT 2:30 PM EDT -The U.S. Forest Service today announced that it has identified an additional 26 million trees dead in California since October 2015. These trees are located in six counties across 760,000 acres in the southern Sierra Nevada region of the state, and are in addition to the 40 million trees that died statewide from 2010 to October 2015, bringing the total to at least 66 million dead trees. Four consecutive years of severe drought in California, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and warmer temperatures are leading to historic levels of tree die-off.

New Aerial Survey Identifies More Than 100 Million Dead Trees in California

usfs logoVALLEJO, Calif., Nov. 18, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the U.S. Forest Service has identified an additional 36 million dead trees across California since its last aerial survey in May 2016. This brings the total number of dead trees since 2010 to over 102 million on 7.7 million acres of California's drought stricken forests. In 2016 alone, 62 million trees have died, representing more than a 100 percent increase in dead trees across the state from 2015. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years.

Record Low Snowpack in Cascades, Sierra Nevada

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2015 – Warm temperatures in February contributed to further snowpack decline in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada, according to data from the third 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Snowpack in Nevada, Utah and Idaho also fell further behind normal.

Sierra Nevada forest health in rapid decline: drought adding fuel to the fire

A new report released this week shows that many Sierra Nevada forests are in critical condition and that natural benefits that these forests provide, such as clean air and water, are at risk from large, intense fire. Sierra watersheds are the origin of over 60% of the state’s developed water supply, and store significant amounts of carbon.  Unfortunately, the current drought and a changing climate are rapidly intensifying the situation in the Sierra.

THE STATE OF THE SIERRA NEVADA’S FORESTS: FROM BAD TO WORSE

snc reportAn update to the 2014 report, this version was released by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy on March 1, 2017.

When the first State of the Sierra Nevada’s Forests report was released in 2014, conditions in the Sierra Nevada appeared to be at their worst. The Region had just experienced its largest fire in recorded history, the 2013 Rim Fire, and the trend toward larger, more severe wildfires in Sierra Forests was already clear. Restoration efforts in the Sierra were grossly out of pace with what was needed, and overgrown forests were starting to show signs of stress from only two years of drought. When the 2014 report was released, tree mortality wasn’t even mentioned.
What came next poured fuel onto an already raging fire.

US Forest Service and conservation groups reach agreement

usfs-logoVALLEJO, Calif. -- The U.S. Forest Service and environmental plaintiffs signed a settlement agreement on Oct. 9, ending a decade-long legal battle over the 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework Forest Plan Amendment, which affects management of the Sierra Nevada national forests in California. A coalition of conservation organizations led by Sierra Forest Legacy and including the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society, filed suit in early 2005 claiming that the 2004 Framework plan failed to adequately protect old growth forests and associated wildlife species and was not consistent with national environmental laws. They were represented by legal teams from Earthjustice and the Sierra Club.

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