Standing dead trees a concern following drought

Published 2:34 pm Thursday, February 1, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — Drought conditions persisted in Lincoln County from August into January increasing the risks standing dead trees pose. Heavy rainfall last week might have brought most of the county out of a drought but the true impact on trees is just beginning. 

Bugs, disease and stress may have taken a toll on trees in our area following the prolonged drought and it could cause safety concerns moving forward. Steven Williams, Lincoln County forester with the Mississippi Forestry Commission, said the dead trees are high risk for anyone trying to cut them down. 

“You have dead timber and it will rot which could cause the top to break out and fall on you if you are cutting the tree,” Williams said. “You will have widowmakers. They could come down on you even walkin in the woods. We will face risks as these trees rot. They could fall across roads and may cause wildfires by downing powerlines.” 

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Williams recommends anyone who has dead trees around their home to have them professionally removed by a licensed tree service. The service should be bonded as well in case they accidentally cause damage to your property. 

Out in the woods, it is best to leave the trees standing if you are unable to safely get a chainsaw to it. Pileated woodpeckers and squirrels will use dead trees for dens but typically pine trees come down quickly once they die. 

“The top will start and the rest will come down,” Williams said. 

It might be smart to keep an eye out for dead pine trees over the next year as those could come down with strong winds or storms. 

Williams said currently 16th section land in Lincoln County has some bad spots where timber was killed and they will have to take a loss, turn around and replant those stands. School districts use 16th section land to generate revenue typically through hunting leases and timber sales. 

Bugs do not discriminate when it comes to pine trees. Both southern pine beetles and Epps beetles will target stressed out pine trees. 

“Loblolly and shortleaf have been hit hard but I’ve seen the bugs in longleaf pines too. They are even in spruce pines,” Williams said. “All the pines are at risk. The bugs don’t discriminate.”