Wildfires

What all those dead trees mean for the Sierra Nevada

What all those dead trees mean for the Sierra Nevada

The ponderosa pine had taken root decades before the Revolutionary War, making a stately stand on this western Sierra Nevada slope for some 300 years, Nate Stephenson figures. 

Then came the beetle blitzkrieg. Now the tree is a dab in the gray and rusty death stain smeared across the mountain range.

At the base of its massive trunk, a piece of bark has been cut off, revealing an etched swirl of insect trails. Higher up, naked branches reach out, as if from a many-armed scarecrow.

“This was alive until the drought killed it,” Stephenson says mournfully. 

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that since 2010, more than

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