Union Democrat staff

Caltrans will remove dead or dying trees for the next couple weeks along Highway 108 between Twain Harte and the winter closure gate, about six miles past Strawberry.

Agency spokesman Rick Estrada said specialized Caltrans tree-removal crews have removed about 130 trees in the area over the past couple weeks that are dead or dying due to drought and bark beetle infestation. The trees are targeted for removal if they pose a threat to public safety because of their proximity to the road, Estrada said.

All of the work is part of Caltrans’ routine maintenance operations in the winter. However, the past four years of drought and related bark beetle infestation have led to higher rates of tree mortality in many rural areas throughout the state.

“Obviously, there’s work for them to do,” Estrada said.

Tuolumne County officials recently approved a budget through June for a countywide project to remove dead or dying trees threatening local public infrastructure. Foresters and arborists are expected to be on the ground by spring marking dead or dying trees for removal.