Drought could cause Christmas tree shortage on Vancouver Island

WatchThe extreme heat and dry weather has taken a major toll on Vancouver Island Christmas trees. Some tree farms have lost all of this year's saplings, and even mature trees that would be sold this December are beginning to die from the drought. Skye Ryan has more.

Christmas tree farmer Bob Russell walked through fields of brown sunburnt branches and dying saplings Tuesday.

The 83-year-old Sahtlam man said he’s never seen anything like this summer’s drought, that’s killed off his young trees by the thousands.

“This is by and far the worst conditions,” said Russell, owner of Sahtlam Tree Farm.

According to Russell, half of the 40,000 trees on his property are showing signs of damage from the intense heat dome that baked Vancouver Island at the end of June and grilled his fields in record 40 C temperatures.

Now, the record-breaking drought that’s turned soil into dust is killing any chance the trees might have had.

“Drought is something we cannot control. Pure and simple. Mother nature rules,” said Russell.

He’s not alone.

“I’ve got a lot more damage this year than I’ve ever had. We’re gonna all have some losses. You can’t claim losses so you just suck it up,” said Stan Wheat, Wheat’s U-Pick Tree Farm in Nanaimo.

Wheat expects a shortage of trees come Christmas as the losses add up.

“We’re going to have fewer Christmas trees on the Island. I think so anyhow,” said Wheat.

“In about two or three years’ time, in my case, there will be a shortage,” said Russell.

For Mike Gogo, one of the largest tree farmers on Vancouver Island, this summer’s extreme conditions has hit him twice. A wildfire that spread on his farm at the end of July consumed an estimated 1,000 trees that would have been headed to market this Christmas, and the drought has killed nearly all of his young plantings.

“It’s really really a concern,” said Gogo.

It’s a scenario facing farms across southwest B.C. and into Washington as well as Oregon. The question now many are asking now is how much more damage they will have to endure before the drought is over.

“It’s ongoing because we have got a continuing drought and there’s no real evidence of a good rain happening,” said Russell.

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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