- Posted By: Jaime Adler
- Written by: Greg Giusti, UCCE Forest Advisor
Understanding the Role of History on California’s Oak Forests
In his book The Destruction of California, Ray Dassmann (1965) chronicled the dramatic impact land-use practices have had on wildlife populations throughout California during the past 150 years. He articulates the impacts from the loss of wetlands, forest conversion and urban expansion on a number of economically important wildlife species. In his book, he quotes an early California pioneer, A. B. Clark (1852) who recorded the abundance of vertebrate diversity that was so apparent in the early days of exploration. Mr. Clark wrote, “ I have no where seen game as plenty as in the (central) valley. We killed an antelope in the morning. We could frequently see herds of deer and elk in different directions around us, as well as wild horses”. Today, concentrations of deer, elk and waterfowl populations can be found in remnant habitats distributed in small, isolated patches throughout the valley.
More recently, Walter (1998) provides a complete overview of how past land-use practices have changed the landscape of California so dramatically that in some cases counties “have lost their natural heritage” and are mere remnants of their past biological richness. Brown et. al. (1994) and Marchetti and Moyle (1995) have outlined the once abundant numbers of salmon and how historical land-use practices directly impacted anadromous fisheries and how the legacy of these practices continues to impact these species. They specifically identify water diversions and related watershed degradation caused by past and on-going human activities as the direct cause of these declines. Moyle et. al. (1994) has identified as many as 10 anadromous species (including salmon, steelhead trout, lamprey, sturgeon, smelt) that meet the scientific criteria necessary for special protective status.
The common thread binding the terrestrial and aquatic inhabitants of pre-settlement California is the fact that many of these species were found in areas that we commonly referred to as oak (Quercus) woodlands. In many cases, the abundance that has been chronicled illustrates the importance of oak habitats to many of the species which spent a significant portion of their life history living in, or migrating through, oak woodlands. Because of their ubiquitous distribution oaks have been impacted throughout California during the past century. An early account written by Willis Linn Jepson (1909) states; “In some regions where the horticultural development has been rapid or the needs of an increasing population urgent, extensive areas have been cleared to make room for orchards or gardens, and scarcely a [valley oak] tree remains to tell the story of the old time monarchs of the soil, in other regions the destruction has not been so complete” (Pavlik et. al. 1991). Modern day land-use impacts on oak woodlands continue through urbanization and the conversion of oak woodlands to intensive agriculture.
California’s History of Forest Policy toward Oaks
In 1885, the Governor of California approved an act that authorized the appointment of a three-man State Board of Forestry, the first such body in the nation. Because of a lack of clear statutory authority and minimal budgeting, the original Board was only able to act in an educational and advisory capacity. By 1905, the Board of Forestry was supplemented by creation of the post of State Forester and in 1927 the Division of Forestry was organized.
In 1947, the original Forest Practice Act was passed by the State Legislature. Although the responsibilities and powers of the Board under the old act were less than they are today, the 1947 Act laid important foundations of experience and procedure which led to further development for the Board.
Throughout the period of the 1950s and 1960s, the Board of Forestry functioned under the mandate of the 1947 Act by formulating forest policy for the state. When the Division of Forestry was elevated to departmental status in 1977, the organizational relationship between the Department and the Board was retained. This reorganization of the Department had no effect upon the Board's mandated duties and responsibilities. With the passage of the Z'berg-Nejedly Forestry Practice Act of 1973, the Legislature reorganized the Board and concomitantly expanded its powers and responsibilities. To achieve a balanced approach to forest land policy, the Public Resources Code delineates the character of the Board by designating that five members will be from the general public, three are chosen from the forest products industry, and one member is from the range-livestock industry.
The Board is recognized as having the legislative authority to regulate both privately owned conifer and oak woodland forest types. Historically, the Board has focused its regulatory authority on those lands capable of producing commercial lumber products choosing to support an educationally based program for oak woodlands. The educational path was established with the creation of the University of California’s Integrated Hardwood Management Program (IHRMP) in the mid-1980s. In 1993 the Board delegated to the IHRMP the responsibility of assisting counties in the development of locally based conservation strategies for oak woodlands. In response to this directive, counties have developed a wide array of resolutions, ordinances and monitoring efforts through a variety of committees, Board of Supervisor actions and local initiatives.
Current Forest Policy and Oaks
Under the direction of the Z'berg-Nejedly Forestry Practice Act of 1973 the Legislature identified the timberlands of the State to be “among the most valuable of natural resources….are of great concern ….relating to their utilization, restoration and protection”. The legislature further recognized the need to “encourage prudent and responsible forest resource management while giving consideration to the public’s need for watershed protection, fisheries and wildlife, and recreational opportunities…”. The Act further defined timberlands as, “[non-federal] lands available for, and capable of, growing a crop of trees of any commercial species…..”. The Board further defined “commercial species” to include most economically important conifers and some hardwood species, when growing on timberland.
The impact of the Z'berg-Nejedly Act has continually evolved, since its inception. The Act, through a separate set of Forest Practice Rules, recognizes the need for the protection of watershed elements by establishing minimum standards for streams zone protective widths (by stream class), archaeological sites, soil stability and cumulative effects. These requirements are mandatory for any landowner who wishes to engage in timber harvesting. The Act in combination with the Rules is designed to identify and mitigate any potential negative impacts from the harvesting of timber as a requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). As a result of the Act, a landowner is required to secure the services of a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) to submit a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) for review and approval by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) prior to the harvesting of commercial tree species. The THP, only one of several vehicles used by CDF and RPFs, is viewed by the State as serving as the functional equivalent of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under CEQA..
By definition, most species of Quercus are currently not recognized as commercial species. Only under specific circumstances are pre-determined oak species (Q. Kelloggi and Q. Garryana) recognized by the Forest Practice Rules. In all other situations, if any oak species, including the two identified, occur on lands not designated as timberlands they are not afforded protection under the Forest Practice Act, thereby, not given statewide considerations under CEQA. However, many of these oak woodland species occur as a continuum of forest canopy in many watersheds of California. In many situations throughout the State a common vegetative pattern exists with conifer dominated coastal and mountainous forests transforming into oak dominated types in drier or lower elevation sites.
Inconsistency is in the Policy not the Forests
An obvious inherent conflict with current land-use forest policy is the recognition of tree species (and thereby habitats) afforded protections under CEQA relative to their economic values and not their ecological values thereby creating an artificial delineation of forest types. A glaring example of the inherent inconsistency with this current policy situation is best exemplified by the State’s role in providing protection to salmonid species in northwestern California under CEQA. Under the current Forest Practice Rules, salmon and steelhead, are afforded some level of protection (though a recent independent scientific panel determined the level of protection was inadequate to protect salmonid resources: Ligon et. al. 1999) when they enter freshwater habitat located in a conifer forest setting. However, in many cases, those same fish will continue their upstream migration passing through the conifer belt and ultimately complete their journey in a predominately, oak woodland habitat type. This scenario is true for fish in the Russian, Navarro, Eel, Klamath, Smith and Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems. Under these scenarios, the stream and the forest cover represent an ecological continuum for the fish as it moves through the system from the marine environment to its natal spawning grounds in order to complete its life history. Furthermore, once spawned and hatched, many of the juvenile fish will spend a significant portion of their early life stages in the oak dominated portions of the watershed. However, as the fish move from one forest type to another, the level of protection is not contiguous thereby providing only a minimal level of protection for a small portion of the overall habitat.
This inconsistent application of standardized protective measures is most apparent in those counties with the absence of local requirements to mitigate land-use impacts on streams i.e. grading ordinance, stream zone buffers, etc. Under the existing statewide forest management policies the current statewide mechanism to protect forest streams (Forest Practice Rules) do not provide a continuous level of protection throughout a watershed based on the definition of commercial vs. non-commercial tree species.
The lack of a standardize statewide approach to oak conservation has promoted a variety of measures to be developed, modified and implemented throughout the oak region of California in an attempt to address both riparian and upland issues. A collection of resolutions (Tehema, Shasta, Madera Counties), ordinances (Sonoma, Napa, Santa Barbara), evaluation committees (Lake, Madera), monitoring efforts (El Dorado) and ballot measures (Santa Barbara) targeting an equally wide array of issues. In many instances, the adopted mechanisms have focused on a single resource issue such as water quality (Napa and Sonoma Counties) or heritage tree preservation (various county tree ordinances) and have not produced comprehensive measures with adequate monitoring mechanisms capable of evaluating their effectiveness or large landscapes or watersheds.
The current inconsistencies in oak management policies and strategies will certainly continue to fuel the intense debates currently underway throughout the oak region of California as land-use practices increase in scope and magnitude. A need exists to evaluate current local policies and develop comprehensive strategies that promote, protect and enhance oak woodlands and all of their inherent resources.
Brown, L. R., P. B. Moyle and R. M. Yoshiyama. 1994. Historical Decline and Current Status of Coho Salmon in California. No. Am. J. of Fisheries Mngt. 14: 237-261.
Dassman, R. F. 1965. The Destruction of California. MacMillan Co. New York. 247pp.
Marchetti, M. P. and P. B. Moyle. The decline of sea-run fishes in California: An ongoing tragedy. Cal Ag. 49 (6): 74.
Moyle. P. B. 1994. The Decline of Anadromous Fishes in California. Consv. Biol. 8 (3) 869-867.
Walter, H.S. 1998. Land Use Conflicts in California. Eco. Studies 136:108-125./h3>/h2>/h2>/h1>/h1>
To Register Click Here by June 24th!
When: Thursday, June 30, 2011 9:00am-2:30pm. Please register by Friday, June 24th.
Where: Avenales Ranch Road, Pozo, CA 93453, San Luis Obispo County . We will meet at the American Canyon Forest Service Campground
Who: Anyone interested in research, education, management and conservation of oak woodland ecosystems. This includes landowners and managers, consulting range managers and registered professional foresters, community and conservation groups, land trusts and policy makers.
What: Agenda for the day
9:00 am - Arrive for coffee and registration
10:00 am - Brief Introduction to Avenales Ranch
10:15 am - Oak woodland management concerns
10:30 am - Oak regeneration, seeding, stump-sprouting
11:15 am - Oak thinning, measuring, management
12:00 pm - Lunch*
12:45 pm - Forest production and management
1:15 pm - Wildlife in Oak woodlands
1:45 pm -Sycamore regeneration study
2:15 pm - Alternative Review Program
2:30 pm - Adjourn
*Please remember to bring your own bag lunch.
In addition, appropriate clothing and footwear are recommended. There will be some off-trail hiking.
Please register by June 24th by Clicking Here!
For more detailed information, including directions, please Click Here! Please note: you do not need to be an Oak Webinar participant to attend this field trip.
Questions? Email Rick Standiford: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictures from one of our field trips to the Sierra Foothills Research and Extension Center:
- Posted By: Jaime Adler
- Written by: Bill Tietje and Royce Larsen, UC Cooperative Extension
California residents who want to plant an oak tree or two on their property, often find it challenging, given our climate with irregular winter rains and no summer rainfall, to keep the newly-planted trees green and growing. A devise that has come onto the market recently is dubbed the “Groasis Waterboxx”. According to the website (Groasis.com) the Waterboxx has proven effective at “self-watering” new plantings, even in a truly desert climate.
Recently, we started a trial to test the Waterboxx by planting some oak seedlings and elderberry plants in a remote area. The Waterboxx is a round plastic “box” that fits around the tree trunk. The inward-slanting corrugated top cools during the night and channels condensed dew and heavy fog that collects on the top to the base of the tree. The Waterboxx also provides some protection for the newly planted tree and reduces the evaporation of water from the soil around the base of the tree, important additional benefits for new plantings. Once the tree is established, the Waterboxx can be removed and reused for another plant. Placing a collar around a tree that collects moisture and at the same time provides some protection can be a big incentive and a boost to getting that tree started.
As you can understand, the Waterboxx can be a big help as an alternative to carrying water to distant areas or setting up a drip system. For more information about the Waterboxx, contact your local UC Cooperative Extension Office or go to the Groasis Waterboxx website: Groasis.com. On the website you will notice that the inventor of the Waterboxx is providing users the opportunity to provide information on the growth and survival of their plantings. You may want to check it out.
A special offer for you!
Oaks in the Urban Landscape: Selection, Care, and Preservation
Written by: Larry Costello, UCCE; Bruce Hagen, CAL FIRE;
Katherine Jones, Author
On Sale NOW through MAY 31st on the ANR Catalog
This publication offers a comprehensive look at the management of oaks in urban areas. As development moves into oak woodland areas, more and more oaks are becoming “urban” oaks.
Oaks are highly valued in urban areas for their aesthetic, environmental, economic and cultural benefits. However, significant impacts to the health and structural stability of oaks have resulted from urban encroachment. Changes in environment, incompatible cultural practices, and pest problems can all lead to the early demise of our stately oaks.
Using this book you’ll learn how to effectively manage and protect oaks in urban areas – existing oaks as well as the planting of new oaks. Three key areas are addressed: selection, care, and preservation. You’ll learn how cultural practices, pest management, risk management, preservation during development, and genetic diversity can all play a role in preserving urban oaks.
Arborists, urban foresters, landscape architects, planners and designers, golf course superintendents, academics, and Master Gardeners alike will find this to be an invaluable reference guide.
Working together we can help assure that oaks will be a robust and integral component of the urban landscape for years to come.
Health, Growth, Aging and Decline
Roots and Soils
Biotic and Abiotic Disorders
Structural Failures, Defects, and Risk Assessment
Oak Preservation during Development
Ordinances for Tree Protection
Using Genomic Tools to Manage Healthy North
American Oak Populations
Symposium and Workshop
June 24, 2011, Davis, CA 1-5 PM
Venue: Alpha Gamma Rho Room, Buehler Alumni and Visitor Center, UC
Victoria Sork, University of California, Los Angeles. Genomics as a
conservation tool for oak management
Susan Frankel, USDA- Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.
Overview of current threats to Oaks in the West
Richard Dodd, University of California, Berkeley. Potential use of
genomic tools for hybridization studies of oaks
Jessica Wright, USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.
Using transcriptomics to study oak pathogens
Sally Aitken, University of British Columbia. Using genomics to
understand forest responses to climate change.
Panel Discussion with resource managers from State, Federal, and Non-governmental organizations
No registration fee, but please RSVP by June 1, 2011.
A no-host picnic dinner will follow the discussion.
Organized by the North American Oak Genomics Working Group in collaboration
with the Conifer Translational Genomics Network and the International Symposium on Genomics-Based Breeding in Forest Trees