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Survey shows unprecedented fir tree die-off in the Pacific Northwest

Fir trees showing a die-off. Mountain in background.
Danny DePinte
/
U.S. Forest Service
Federal forest officials say this photo shows a white fir die-off on Fremont-Winema National Forest in south central Oregon.

True fir trees were found to be dying off in unprecedented numbers in the Pacific Northwest after the U.S. Forest Service led a survey over 1,900 square miles.

Oregon’s forests have been the most severely affected, with dead fir trees appearing on more than 1.1 million acres in the state. That’s nearly twice the numbers recorded during previous die-offs.

“The main, primary cause is climate change manifested as higher temperatures and lower precipitation," said Christine Buhl, an entomologist for the Oregon Department of Forestry. "But then there are some other complicating factors on top of those impacts. And that can include root disease, insect damage can opportunistically finish off trees that are already stressed.”

The ODF plans to adapt by shifting the geographical location of where it plants fir trees, and reducing density. The agency hopes these measures will reduce the number of fir die-offs in the future.

Jasmine Lewin joined KLCC as a freelance reporter in 2022. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Lewin wrote for the University of Oregon quarterly magazine Ethos before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She likes to spend her free time birdwatching, doing crossword puzzles, and watching scary movies.
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