$10M from state budget to address ‘sudden tree die-off’ in East Bay parks

$10M from state budget to address 'sudden tree die-off' in East Bay parks
Image courtesy of the East Bay Regional Park District

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) received $13.5 million from the California State budget to prevent wildfires, including $10 million to specifically remove dead and dying trees.

The $10 million appropriation, proposed by Senators Nancy Skinner (D-9, Berkeley) and Bob Wieckowski (D-10, Fremont), aims to address a new tree mortality phenomenon occurring in several parklands. First noticed in the East Bay in October 2020, EBRPD has more than 1,500 acres of dead or dying trees affected by drought and climate change conditions that need immediate attention, according to EBRPD Fire Chief Aileen Theile.

Miller Knox Regional Shoreline in Richmond, Anthony Chabot and Reinhardt Redwood Regional Parks in Oakland, and Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley/Orinda are locations most significantly impacted, according to EBRPD.

The dead trees burn hotter and faster, casting wind-swept embers that can ignite new fires. The sudden tree die-off is “affecting many different species of trees throughout California, including eucalyptus, acacia, bay, and pine,” said EBRPD. To remove existing dead trees, the district estimates needing $30 million based on current tree removal contracts.

“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,” EBRPD Board President Dee Rosario said in a statement.

The other $3.5 million appropriated from the state budget for EBRPD, proposed by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-16, Orinda), will provide firefighting equipment, including replacement of an aging helicopter used to drop water on inaccessible fires, the district said.

“California is facing potentially its worst fire season in history due to the extreme heat, drought, and very dry conditions throughout our state,” Sen. Wieckowski said.

EBRPD has invested $20.5 million over the last decade in its fuel reduction efforts to prevent wildfires.