Reporting Drought Related Tree Damage – Why and How?

Drought damage to hemlock tree.
Drought damage to hemlock tree. Photo by DNR

In the November 2016 issue of the Small Forest Landowner Newsletter, DNR forest entomologist Glenn Kohler reported on the impacts to conifers following the 2015 drought. The drought was the most severe in Washington in several decades and had significant influence on the availability of water, especially the water available for growing trees. This lack of water caused stress and damage in conifers of various ages, sizes and species. Branch and top dieback, foliage loss, entire tree mortality and an increased level of damage caused by secondary bark beetles were observed in both 2015, 2016 and, likely, 2017.

Recently, the State Agency Climate Adaptation Forum held in Lacey, Wash., provided representatives from state agencies and other organizations an opportunity to talk about their experiences and responses associated with the 2015 drought. Representatives from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Department of Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Agriculture and several smaller organizations attended. Many resource professionals agreed that the unusually hot and dry weather conditions observed in 2015 are likely to occur with increasing frequency in coming decades.

By documenting the damage observed in our trees during the 2015 drought, we can better learn how to prepare for and guide management fore the future events. If you are interested in reporting drought damage observed on your property, please include as much of the following information as you can:

Minimum information
  • Host/species affected
  • Damage symptoms (branch flagging, top dieback, entire tree mortality, low needle retention, etc.)
  • Location information: GPS reading or address
Additional information
  • Approximate age of tree affected
  • Size of trees affected (diameter and/or height estimate)
  • Other damage agents present (none, Douglas-fir bark beetle, root disease, unknown)
  • How many trees affected (exact number if known, otherwise estimate, few, many)
  • How many acres affected
  • County where damage observed
  • Notes on site characteristics (be as specific as possible; residential property, highway roadside, adjacent to field, forested area, floodplain, forest edge, etc.)
  • Soil characteristics (rocky, well-draining, deep, shallow, poor, etc.)

Please send this information to Amy Ramsey at or Washington DNR, 4th Floor, Wildfire Division, PO Box 47037, Olympia, WA, 98501