As the five-year drought California suffered through finally came to an end last month, residents are discovering that the rain left far more than damage than just browning people's lawns. The sixty-plus months of little-to-no rain also left a legacy in California's forests - more than one-hundred million dead trees.
The US National Forest Service says the drought's toll on California forests left swaths of dead trees throughout California - with the greatest concentration in the southern Sierra Nevada area.
When trees die, they can become a huge fire risk that could be dangerous for nearby communities, animal habitats, and air quality according to UC Berkeley fire scientist Scott Stephens.
Stephens told Newsdeeply.com that the only way to effectively deal with this many dead trees is to begin an aggressive program of controlled burns. Controlled burns are the intentional use of fire to restore a more natural balance to forests that have evolved over time to cope with fire.
The idea is to burn out the smaller branches and needles that fall to the ground while the tree itself is still standing. Ten to fifteen years later, a second controlled burn is initiated effectively burning off all the extra fuel material in layers.
The Forest Service has requested additional funding from the USDA to do something about the legacy of dead trees in California's forests, but, with budget fights currently happening now in DC, it's unclear whether or not they will receive officials say they need.