USA — The Texas Forest Service is estimating that more than $2 million worth of timber was destroyed last month in Jasper County, where thousands of acres were ravaged by just one wildfire.The Powerline Fire burned for more than a week in June, scorching nearly 4,200 acres, threatening 500 homes and forcing the evacuation of several subdivisions. The fire has since been contained, but the effects are far-reaching.According to Texas Forest Service economists and analysts, the wildfire destroyed between 3.3 million and 5.1 million cubic feet of timber. That’sthe equivalent of about a thousand 2,000-square-foot homes.The stumpage value of the timber was between $2 million and $3.1 million. Stumpage value represents how much the timber would bring to the landowner as it stands in the woods.Nestled deep in the East Texas Piney Woods, Jasper County depends heavily on the timber industry, according to the agency researchers. It ranks the highest among all counties in East Texas when it comes to reliance on forest industries.In 2007, forest industries funneled $958 million into Jasper County’s economy while employing 1,760 people with a payroll of $155 million.”Along with the heavy toll on people and property, the fire also caused significant damage to forestland,” said Chris Edgar, a forest resource analyst with Texas Forest Service. “It had profound impacts on the forest sector in the region.”The timber lost in last month’s fire could have been used to produce $39.3 million worth of forest products such as lumber, plywood, oriented strand board, paper and paperboard products. The creation of such products would have resulted in roughly $86.3 million in total economic activity in East Texas.Researchers noted the impacts weren’t just financial. The fire also had a negative impact on the environment in Jasper County.”Texas forests play an important role in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, providing clean water, preventing soil erosion and providing habitat for wildlife,” Edgar said. “This fire has the potential to alter the forest’s ability to perform these functions effectively.”A whopping 97 percent of the Lone Star State is in the midst of a drought, with almost three-quarters facing exceptionally bad conditions, according to a national report released Thursday.The National Drought Monitor shows that most of Texas is at the highest intensity level registered for drought. State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon has said this is one of the worst droughts Texas has seen since 1895, when the state first began keeping records.The drought has devastated land and forestry this year and aided in creating conditions that are ripe for wildfires. Since fire season began Nov. 15, 2010, almost 13,000 fires have burned 3.3 million acres in Texas.Typically Texas sees more wildfires in July than June, according to Texas Forest Service Predictive Services Department Head Tom Spencer. With a hot, dry summer forecast across the state, the number of wildfires isn’t likely to decrease.”We expect fire activity to continue,” Spencer said. “These are dangerous conditions.”Burning trash, gathering around a campfire, tossing out a lit cigarette and even driving a hot car through tall grass all can lead to an increase in wildfires when combined with vegetation that has been dried out by the summer sun.With 90 percent of wildfires caused by humans, Texas Forest Service continues to urge Texans to use caution when doing anything outdoors that could cause a spark.This week, Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples urging citizens to “stand strong for Texas,” and keep our state safe from wildfires.Approximately 90 percent of wildfires in Texas are caused by people. Seemingly-harmless things like outdoor grilling, dragging safety chains behind a trailer, welding and building campfires can accidentally start a dangerous wildfire.”If people are causing them – they can be prevented,” said Tom Boggus, Director of Texas Forest Service.With persistent dangerous wildfire conditions predicted throughout the summer and 97 percent of the state experiencing unprecedented drought, Texas Forest Service urges Texans to continue to exercise caution when it comes to any outdoor activity that could cause a spark.Also, on Friday, July 1, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration covering 45 Texas counties during the period of April 6 to May 3.”We’re grateful for the support of both the president and the governor, as well as all of our partners across the country that we’ve leaned on heavily throughout this devastating fire season. Since Nov. 15, 2010, more than 13,000 fires have burned 3.29 million acres of Texas land. The state remains under severe drought, and we expect to have active fires continue through the summer,” the statement read. “No matter what happens, our plan has always been the same: To continue fighting fires and protecting Texans and their property.”Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s approval of a portion of Texas’ request for a disaster declaration resulting from 11,940 wildfires that have consumed more than 3.2 million acres since December 2010:”President Obama’s decision to finally approve a portion of our disaster designation request is good for Texas and some of the communities impacted by this season’s wildfires. We will continue to work with FEMA to ensure all affected jurisdictions and entities receive the support they deserve after battling these massive fires since December. Our prayers continue to go out to those putting their lives on the line fighting these fires, as well as those whose property and livelihoods remain in danger.”This partial approval only applies to fires fought between April 6 and May 3, 2011, covering just a fraction of the fires fought in Texas so far this season.On April 15, Gov. Perry sent a letter to President Obama requesting a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas, which would make the state eligible for Direct Federal Assistance and Emergency Protective Measures from the federal government. The governor’s request was denied on May 3. Gov. Perry appealed the president’s decision on May 26.Counties qualifying for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, include: Andrews, Archer, Armstrong, Bailey, Baylor, Brewster, Callahan, Carson, Castro, Clay, Coleman, Concho, Cottle, Crockett, Dawson, Duval, Eastland, Garza, Glasscock, Hall, Hemphill, Hockley, Irion, Kent, King, Lynn, Martin, Mason, Mitchell, Moore, Motley, Pecos, Presidio, Scurry, Stephens, Sterling, Sutton, Terrell, Terry, Throckmorton, Tom Green, Trinity, Tyler, Val Verde, and Young.