News / USA

Central Texas Forest Struggles to Recover from Fires

Related Articles

Greg Flakus

Rain has come to parts of central Texas devastated last year by a record drought and a series of wildfires.  One of the worst-hit areas was around Bastrop, Texas near the state capital, Austin.  Fires there destroyed more than 1,600 homes and thousands of trees.  

The clean up continues in the forested areas near Bastrop, where fire debris is still in abundance.

The raging fires left little evidence that there had once been homes nestled among the pines, cedars and oaks.

People escaped from this area next to state Highway 21, with only the clothes on their backs, leaving even some vehicles behind.

This woman's house survived, but she mourns the loss of so many trees. “I cried the first day I came out here because this to me is one of the prettiest drives through Bastrop.  So to come up [Highway] 21 and see it is just heart-wrenching, all the trees they are going to take away," said a fire victim named Laura.

Daniel Lewis with the Texas Forest Service is one of the people determining which trees might survive and which need to be cut down and removed.  “I think the cedars are dead and most of the pine trees.  There is one right there that is probably going to survive, but it has been pretty severely scorched," he said.

Lewis says a tree needs only a little green to recover. “We have been using a figure of 25 percent.  If they have 25 percent of the green canopy there, then it is probably going to do fine, probably going to survive," he said.

Last year's fires came at a time of record drought.  Lewis says what they need more than anything else is rain. “Nicely spaced, periodic rain is what we need," said Lewis.

Although there have been some good showers recently, weather experts say the coming spring and summer will likely be dry.

Damaged trees also face other threats, like the fungus that Lewis says took hold after this oak tree was weakened by drought.

“This tree was most likely killed by drought and then the fire came along and burned it as well," said Lewis.

In the bark of this dead tree, Lewis finds evidence of an even more worrisome threat, wood-boring beetles that infest the tree from inside. "This could be the predicament for trees that are marginal that have some green foliage, but not enough to sustain themselves," he said.

He says damaged trees infested by the insects will not survive.

But when it finally does rain, Lewis sees another problem.

With no plant roots to hold the soil, a heavy rain could do more damage. “The fire has burned all the organic material out so we will start to see erosion and sedimentation in the streams and drainages," he said.

Some people who lost homes here and received insurance settlements are already rebuilding.

But if this year's drought is anything like last year's, the sickened and scorched trees near Bastrop could burn again, further damaging a forest that many people consider a central Texas treasure.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid