Early Estimates Put State's Tree Loss From Drought At 500 Million

The agency surveyed forestry professionals statewide, analyzing trees where exceptional dought, high winds and record-setting temperatures left trees dead or struggling to survive. Dr. Chris Edgar with the Forest Service says Harris County is one of those hard-hit areas.

"Kinda beginning there in Harris County and working your way northward up to the counties immediately to the north. The second area was the area around Junction. And then the third area was western Bastrop County and Caldwell County."

Dr. Edgar says the estimate is made from observations made by foresters. Aerial imagery will be used later for a more in-depth analysis.

"This is a preliminary estimate really based upon what people are seeing. It's not neccesarily a scientific estimate. You know, we've identified some areas that are really, undoubtedly, hit very hard, and those will help us kind of prioritize when we do a more of a scientific assessment this spring."

During this time of year, it's difficult to tell in some cases if a tree is truly dead.

"Particularly when we get into our hardwoods — our broad-leafed trees — they have lost their leaves and maybe they've gone into early dormancy as a mechanism to survive the drought or maybe they have died. It can be quite difficult to tell without actually touching the tree and seeing if there's moisture in the twigs and branches and so forth."

The Texas Forest Service estimates the state has a canopy of some 4.9 billion trees, and the drought may have claimed as much as ten percent of them.

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