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Aerial surveys reveal swaths of dead trees in Southwest US

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Posted at 6:41 PM, Dec 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-24 20:41:03-05

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Forested land in Arizona and New Mexico is showing the effects of drought after an unusually dry winter opened the door to pests like bark beetles, resulting in a die-off on hundreds of thousands of acres in both states.

Aerial surveys indicate Arizona has experienced the largest uptick in tree mortality since the early 2000s. New Mexico saw a similar pattern.

The surveys done earlier this year don't account for an expected loss of pinon trees.

U.S. Forest Service officials will use maps of what they saw from above to produce a report on annual forest conditions next year.

The survey results don't come as a surprise as experts say the nation's forests are overly crowded with trees. Drought makes them weaker and susceptible to beetles and other pests.