With milder winters, overstocked forests and past forest management practices, Washington’s forests are increasingly becoming a smorgasbord for tree-devouring insects.
The 2014 annual insect and disease aerial survey found that insects and disease killed more than 4 million trees on over 540,000 acres in Washington state.
About 143,000 acres of forestlands east of the Cascade Mountain Range showed especially high levels of pine tree death caused by pine bark beetles, an increase from the 107,000 acres reported in 2013.
You can now explore the latest aerial survey maps on the Department of Natural Resources’ interactive, web-based mapping site: Fire Prevention and Fuels Management Mapping. Click on the Forest Disturbance folder.
Aerial observers this year also identified nearly 740,000 trees across 30,000 eastern Washington acres that died as a result of 2012 wildfire damage or from the bark beetles that subsequently attacked damaged trees. Those numbers are well higher than typical.
Though damage from forest pests was down from historical norms in 2013 and 2014, the number of trees destroyed by insects in the last decade is unprecedented.
Widespread mortality caused by bark beetles and damage from defoliating insects is setting the stage for more wildfires. In some places, critical wildlife habitat is being destroyed.