FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Officials say the number of trees in California’s Sierra Nevada forests killed by drought and a bark beetle epidemic has dramatically increased since last year.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday its newest figures. It found 66 million dead trees, up 65 percent from the last count in the central and southern Sierra hardest hit by the epidemic.

Gov. Jerry Brown last year declared California’s tree die-off an emergency.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the unprecedented epidemic creates a high risk of catastrophic wildfires, endangering lives.

He calls on Congress to increase spending to manage forests in California and nation-wide.

The Sierra Club California’s Kathryn Phillips says the die-off from drought signals the urgency to curb pollution.

She says policy makers must do more to stop climate change.


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