Prescott National Forest officials say bark beetles have infested thousands of acres of ponderosa pines in the area.
There’s been a ten-fold increase in die-offs since last summer impacting more than 2,000 acres, mostly in the Bradshaw Mountains. Officials expect the ponderosa mortality to increase in the coming months especially if dry and warm conditions persist. Bark beetle populations grow during times of drought and stressed trees have less defense against the insects.
Forest officials are also blaming extreme drought for mass die-offs of junipers in the region. They say up to 100,000 acres of the trees between Paulden and Ash Fork have died in recent months. Areas near Wupatki National Monument have also suffered high juniper mortality.