Bark beetles invade Balboa Park trees

SAN DIEGO - The bark beetle crisis that has killed millions of trees around California has struck at Balboa Park.

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency because of the beetle. Local efforts are also picking up to save the trees.

Jordan White is part of the force that's taking on the killers eating their way down the pine trees in Balboa Park.

"I just feel like if we lose any of our trees, any of our nature, we need to do something," he said.

The drought has helped the infestation kill 22 million trees in California, including five to 10 percent of the trees at Balboa Park. Dead trees also raise the risk of wildfire.

"If it gets this disease, this issue, these bark beetles, when one's gone, they're all affected," White said.

White was one of dozens of volunteers at Balboa Park on Tuesday planting about 50 drought-resistant trees. They'll plant another 50 later this year, bringing the total to 100. The trees were donated by the San Diego Foundation in honor of this year's Balboa Park centennial.

The new trees, from Torrey pine to cypress to oak, are in the shadows of the dying trees. However, they have a built-in defense so the beetle doesn't jump across -- mulch, which traps moisture, helping the tree protect itself against the bark beetle.

Tomas Herrera-Mishler, who heads the Balboa Park Conservancy, said the best defense against the beetle is a healthy tree.

"The ones that are at risk are the ones that have been weakened by the drought," he said.

White, a lifelong San Diegan, said he hopes the trees planted today continue to grow for generations.

"I feel like there's a little part of me involved," he said.

He hopes that little part of him means no part of the bark beetle.


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