A Half Billion Dead Trees Pose Safety Risk

As Texas emerges from last year's historic drought — the Texas Forest Service is getting more calls about dead trees falling on property.

The drought last year was one of the most devastating Texas has ever been through, rivaling the dust bowl era. This is Jim Rooni with the Texas Forest Service.

“We’ve been trying to come up with some official counts as to the results of drought and fire. And some of our foresters have done some analysis and estimate as many as 500 million in rural areas and another 5.6 million trees in populated urban areas were killed as a result of last year’s drought.”

Rooni says many of those dead trees now pose a safety and liability problem because they’re within falling distance of neighboring homes and property.

He’s been getting a lot of calls from property owners about how to address dead or fallen trees and says there’s one point he tries to get across.

“Heads up, if you own the property chances are you’re going to be liable. So being proactive in terms of mitigating these trees that may fall on private and public property is just money and time well spent.”

Rooni says if you aren’t sure whether your tree is dead or just badly damaged from the drought, you should consult a professional arborist for an assessment. He says if there are no green leaves on the tree at this point in the year, it’s most likely dead.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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