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Event Details

Drought event report

Category: Drought
Observation: 09.11.2011
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State: State of Texas
Area: Texas-wide
Location:
Severity: Hight
Event details
It will be several more months before the true loss of Texas trees as a result of the drought is known. Trees that appear to have weathered the drought may start to wither next year. Timber experts are warning that the damage is not always immediately visible. “In spring we will continue to see trees succumb to mortality as the stresses from the drought continue to inflict damages on our forest resources,” said Todd Nightingale, district forester for the Texas Forest Service in Lufkin. Of the trees in East Texas, the ones that are showing early drought damage are pines. “If your pine trees are brown now, they are dead. Landowners need to go ahead and start making plans to get those trees removed because they are not going to come back,” said Nightingale. “For the hardwood trees that defoliated early, there is a 50-50 chance on whether they will come back next spring. So landowners need to keep a watch on those trees.” Once is is determined that a tree is dead, there is a very short window of time to harvest the tree before the timber becomes unusable. Rain, while sorely needed in drought-stricken Texas, shortens the harvest time as it encourages decay. For most property owners experiencing tree loss, harvesting is not even an option. Most timber harvesters, already dealing with a glut of available trees, are not interested in harvesting trees from small tracts of land or around homes. “A small acreage is very difficult. Even getting a logger to move in on a property with plenty of trees is hard right now because of the devaluation of timber and the distance to haul it to a mill,” said Nightingale. “There is no one out there who will come get 1-2 trees unless it is being used for firewood.” This means that most property owners will be out the expense for removing trees. Nightingale sale that the property owner should consider leaving trees in non-high hazard areas to be enjoyed by insects and other wildlife, such as woodpeckers who favor insects from decaying trees. If the dying trees are in a high hazard area, such as around homes, businesses, where cars are parked and where children play, they should be removed immediately to avoid a potential loss of life or property. For property owners who are considering hiring a tree removal service, Nightingale advises to check the company’s insurance and references. “That protects the homeowner. If someone fells a tree and doesn’t have insurance, it can very quickly become a legal matter if there are losses,” he said. With the drought expected to continue through next April as a result of the La Nina effect, trees that are healthy now will succumb. When asked about the total number of trees that have been lost in 2011 as a result of the drought and wildfires, Nightingale said they number in the millions, and the financial loss to Texas timber growers increases each day. According to a Sept. 21, 2011 report from Texas A&M, “Since wildfire season began on Nov. 15, 2010, firefighters have responded in East Texas to 2,151 wildfires that charred 207,763 acres and destroyed 175 million cubic feet of timber, according to Texas Forest Service economists and analysts. The value of all those trees as they stood in the forest — a figure also known as stumpage value — was $97 million. “The total volume of all that timber could have produced $1.6 billion worth of different forest products — such as homes, furniture and paper — and would have resulted in a $3.4 billion total economic impact in East Texas.”
Event map:
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