For many decades, the University of California has conducted research and education focused on conserving the state's native California oaks. In 1986, it embarked on a collaborative program called the the Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program (IHRMP). Its purpose was to "develop alternative land use planning and range management strategies to ensure multiple use of hardwood rangelands; improve oak regeneration; and maintain diverse wildlife habitat". While the IHRMP formally ended in 2009, the overall purpose of those within the University working on hardwood rangeland issues remains the same, as does the original Mission and Objectives
To maintain, and where possible, increase acreage of California's hardwood range resources to provide wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, wood and livestock products, high quality water supply, and aesthetic value.
- Develop methods to sustain oak woodland and hardwood rangeland ecosystems and landscapes;
- Maintain wildlife habitat on oak woodlands;
- Restore degraded hardwood rangelands;
- Ensure land use planning utilizing available information to conserve hardwood rangeland ecosystems;
- Maintain economically viable private oak woodland enterprises;
- Maintain statewide information base about trend, condition, and extent of hardwood rangelands; and
- Help focus public awareness about the importance of oak woodland habitats
Regional cooperative extension specialists are located throughout the State to develop applied research and outreach programs addressing conservation of oak woodlands with local Cooperative Extension offices and various agencies and interest groups. The Extension program also develops newsletters and educational materials.
Projects conducted by UC academics include:
Workshops on Guidelines for Managing Hardwood Rangelands
We regularly hosts workshops throughout California to extend the concepts in the handbook Guidelines for Managing California's Hardwood Rangelands. These are presented in collaboration with local county Cooperative Extension offices and are targeted to ranchers, homeowners, local conservation groups, and resource management professionals.
Development of Local-Based Oak Woodland Conservation Policies
The State Board of Forestry has adopted a hardwood rangeland policy to encourage local or regionally-based conservation strategies, rather than statewide regulations. Hardwood specialists and county CE staff helped facilitate the development of local policies and contacted all counties to determine what policies are currently in place.
Monitoring of Hardwood Rangeland Resources
We were a cooperator on the "Change Detection Program" -- a state-level monitoring carried out by USDA Forest Service (USFS) and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to identify changes in woodland cover throughout the state over 5-year intervals. Hardwood specialists assisted in identifying the causes of various changes in canopy cover. Such information is critical for local policy makers trying to determine what types and causes of changes in hardwoods are occurring in their jurisdiction.
Develop and Extend Restoration Efforts
Educational programs are regularly conducted to teach restoration professionals, native plant nursery operators and landowners the latest techniques for successfully restoring hardwood rangelands. In addition, a 62-page pamphlet was produced by the specialists titled Regenerating Rangeland Oaks in California. This document outlines recommended procedures for successful oak regeneration.
Vineyards in an Oak Landscape
Conversion of hardwood rangelands to vineyards was identified as key area that the IHRMP addressed. A publication titled Vineyards in an Oak Landscape was produced by the oak specialists that describes how to conserve hardwood rangeland values in areas being developed for new vineyards. IHRMP personnel also worked closely with local planners in wine-growing regions of the state to provide research-based information in this policy debate. Educational workshops for both vineyard operators and policy makers were also been held and GIS mapping technologies were tested and reported on.
Economic Value of Hardwood Rangelands
UC research about the Williamson Act appraisal process in the Southern Sierras has helped identify defensible appraisals for hardwood rangelands. Other UC work has helped quantify amenity and conservation values of hardwood rangelands. This information is extremely useful for land trusts that are seeking to conserve habitat values on these properties through conservation easements.