A nationwide tree shortage has resulted in severe cutbacks to employees of the US Forest Service.
“With fewer trees, we require fewer personnel,” said Charles Conifer, Forest Service Ranger. “I never thought things would come to this. We were never really affected by the bad economy, but this is something else, this is Mother Nature’s doing, we think.”
Changing weather patterns affect growth cycles. Some varieties of trees adapt better to changing environmental conditions, while other trees have a built-in “time clock.” Could the answer be tied in with the devastation that bee colonies have recently suffered?
Tree pollination expert Dr. Ahthea Thoone spoke at a US Forest Service luncheon last week and presented her ideas on bee colony decline and how it relates to the tree shortage crisis. “The ratio of bee colony failure coincides with the loss of trees across the northern hemisphere,” said Thoone. “I also wouldn’t rule out hoarding; that is, squirrels and other forest inhabitants securing pine cones and seeds, in reaction to their environment being taken over by land development. The data is fascinating,” she added.
The destructive force of nature also plays a part. During 2014 in California alone, over 1,400 forest fires broke out, with some wildfires larger than 50,000 acres in size. The Santa Ana Winds, nicknamed “devil winds,” fan wildfires along California’s coast, mostly during autumn and winter. When those resulting fires burn out or are extinguished, what’s left is a barren landscape, and fewer trees to take care of.
It takes about 6 years to grow a tree 8 feet tall,” said Conifer, “and during that time there’s not a lot to do but sit around and wait. We had to let people go. I couldn’t keep people on the payroll idly waiting for a forest to be repopulated,” he said.
Ironically, some of the forest personnel who lost their jobs became homeless and resorted to living in the same woods they once patrolled. “Hopefully, the cycle soon will be broken, and tree growth will return to acceptable levels. I know I certainly hope so,” said Conifer. “It’s a real tragedy. And I hate living out in the woods. They’re a nice place to patrol, but I really don’t want to live here.”