Lake County’s Pervasive Tree Mortality Crisis: Here’s How You Can Help

In the past two years, Lake County has lost a significant amount of trees. From Middletown to Upper Lake, brown branches fill the hillsides. Large sections of trees stand dead, serving as kindling to fuel Lake County’s already fire-prone environment. District 5 Supervisor Jessica Pyska recently flew over the affected areas. “I expected to see double mortality of trees,” she said. “And I can’t even quantify what I saw. But by the end of summer, it will be tenfold what it is now.”

That’s why immediate action is needed. “It’s a call for help,” Supervisor Pyska said. “We’re at a point right now where we can’t do this tree removal work that needs to be done with the resources we have in our county. Declaring it an emergency is necessary.” 

This is a dynamic situation,” Kathy Andre, President of the Riviera Heights Homeowners Association, said.  “You can look at a piece of property, and there’s nothing wrong with it. All the trees look healthy. And two weeks later, ten of them are dead, five of them are dead. And these are trees that are going to fall on homes, kill people, block evacuation routes when we’re trying to escape from a wildfire. This is a crisis and something that has to be done right now.”

“This is a spike in that emergency. We have built up a fuel load,” Magdalena Valderrama-Hurwitz, Program Director of the Siegler Springs Community Development Association, said. “It is an ecosystem. You have to have multiple strategies. You have to come at it with all the resources you have.” 

However, options still exist to mitigate this crisis. “There are areas in our county we can protect, and we can do forest management in those areas affected,” Pyska stated. “A big strategy needs to be developed, and we can’t just piecemeal it. We have a lot at stake. ”

“We’re in a time where in the past 150 years, a lot of policies, actions, and initiatives have been taken without foresight of the future,” District 3 Supervisor Eddie Crandell said. “That’s why we’re in a time where we have so many emergencies and situations we have to take care of. The best thing we can do is start taking care of them.”

Here’s how you can help. Write a letter to the board of supervisors expressing your wish to proclaim a local emergency so Lake County can get assistance with the tree mortality crisis. That will give the county access to resources to address this growing emergency. You can attend the next District Supervisor’s meeting May 10th at 9:00 am in the courthouse in Lakeport or via Zoom. Here’s the link to the agenda for more information.

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