From East Bay Regional Park District:
Ten Million Dedicated to Addressing Sudden Tree Die-Off in Regional Parks
July 14, 2021 – To address wildfire prevention and fuels reduction needs in the East Bay hills, the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) received a direct appropriation of $13.5 million in the California State budget which was signed by the Governor this past Monday.
Ten million dollars of EBRPD’s State budget appropriation was proposed by Senators Nancy Skinner (D-9, Berkeley) and Bob Wieckowski (D-10, Fremont) and specifically to remove dead and dying trees in Regional Parks, a new tree mortality phenomenon occurring in several parklands. Three and a half million dollars of the State appropriation was proposed by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-16, Orinda) to provide for fire equipment that will improve the Park District’s ability to fight fires, including the replacement of its aging helicopter which is relied upon as a primary tool to drop water on fires burning in inaccessible terrain.
“California is facing potentially its worst fire season in history due to the extreme heat, drought, and very dry conditions throughout our state,” Senator Wieckowski said. “The East Bay Regional Park District is a wonderful local resource for all of us who love the outdoors. But it is not immune from these dangerous conditions. By removing dead trees and other sources that fuel wildfires, the District is proactively working to reduce risks and improve safety, and these funds will help accelerate the process,” he added.
“We are so thankful for the support and leadership of our legislators in the East Bay, particularly Senators Nancy Skinner and Bob Wieckowski as well as Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan for recognizing the severity of the sudden tree die-off issue and providing funding to address it,” said EBRPD Board President Dee Rosario.
“EBRPD has more than 1,500 acres of dead or dying trees affected by drought and climate change conditions that need immediate attention,” EBRPD Fire Chief Aileen Theile said, adding “these State funds couldn’t come at a better time as we are shovel ready” with designated projects to remove dangerous fuels in District parks while helping to keep forests healthy.
First noticed in the East Bay in October 2020, sudden tree die-off is affecting many different species of trees throughout California, including eucalyptus, acacia, bay, and pine. The estimated cost to remove the dead or dying trees in the 1,500 acres already identified is $30 million based on current tree removal contracts.
EBRPD locations most significantly impacted by tree mortality are Anthony Chabot and Reinhardt Redwood Regional Parks in Oakland, Miller Knox Regional Shoreline in Richmond, and Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley/Orinda.
Dead trees burn hotter, faster and are more likely to cast embers downwind – igniting potentially dangerous new fires. Additionally, many of the parkland areas impacted are in old eucalyptus plantations, which have a very high tree density.
Wildfire protection is a year-round effort for the Park District that includes regular fuels reduction, professionally trained full-time and on-call wildland firefighters, and remote automatic weather stations that help monitor fire monitor wildfire risks and deploy fire staff and resources efficiently. The Park District is one of few agencies that have in place an environmentally approved wildfire vegetation management plan and is a statewide example of how the drought emergency and vegetation management needs of a changing climate can be addressed to protect the community from the threat of wildfire.
In the past ten years, EBRPD has invested $20.5 million in its fuel reduction efforts to keep the East Bay hills safer from wildfire threats.