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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid