State Lands Commission Reports Fire Season Nearly Over

Nearly a third of southern Sierra forests killed by drought and wildfire in last decade

Published: Tuesday, July 08, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.

Last Modified: Tuesday, July 08, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.

A drought caused by a Pacific Decadal Oscillation has killed tens of thousands of trees in western Sierra County, according to a state report released Monday afternoon.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a news conference that “a third of what was once an oak forest has burned or is still on fire” in the region where he’s lived for nearly a half-century.

He said it was a sobering report, particularly at a time when the state is trying to rebuild the economy and draw tourists to the region.

“This is going to be a long time coming,” Edwards said, adding he doesn’t think any of the damage is irreversible.

Last Wednesday, the State Lands Commission reported that the worst single fire season since the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s was nearly over, with more than 1,500 square miles or 2,400 acres burned.

It didn’t, however, get the state where it needed to be, to help rebuild, as much as one could over the course of a year or two, said Edwards.

“Our work is going to continue to be hard, but we think the best is yet to come. In fact, it’s likely to be much, much better,” Edwards said, citing new information about how climate is driving weather in the state.

The commission has reported that in this fire season, fire and drought have become the leading killer in the state, with a half million acres burned so far. That’s the highest total since fire season began in 1984.

On Tuesday, more than a week after the report was issued, Edwards said, “It took us a while to get this report out, but we got it out.”

The report found that in a decade, the percentage of the state forest that has suffered “significant” fire damage, or has lost 100,

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