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UC spurs oak woodland conservation momentum and policy changes

The Issue

The loss of deciduous oak woodlands to native conifer encroachment is a major conservation concern in California, resulting in associated losses of wildlife habitat, traditional uses, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services. These concerns – compounded by development pressures, evolving understanding of fire’s role in California landscapes, and health threats like sudden oak death – have drawn increasing attention in recent years, and conservation and restoration efforts have gained momentum. However, efforts are complicated by a paucity of information on the rate and extent of conifer encroachment, successional dynamics, and trajectories of oak regeneration and conifer recruitment in a changing climate. Landowners, policymakers, conservation groups, and agencies have looked to UCCE for scientific guidance and landowner cooperation.

What Has ANR Done?

UC ANR funded an interdisciplinary research team of UC and California State University scientists to address fundamental gaps in knowledge about oak woodland ecology in the north coast. The team brought in collaborators from several agencies and has channeled the support of private and public landowners in the region. Research has addressed stand and age structures in North Coast oak woodlands, and plant biodiversity changes following encroachment. The team held a multi-state symposium on oak woodland conservation and management issues that attracted attendees from across the Pacific Northwest. Information was provided to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and CAL FIRE to inform restoration programs. The team shared a published policy analysis with the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection and the State Legislature. The team further helped sponsor the policy and subsequent bill (AB 1958) by testifying, hosting workshops and field days for policy makers and working with them to resolve technical issues in the draft bill.

The Payoff

A new law and regulations will help California landowners restore Oregon white oak and California black oak woodlands

Research findings have contributed directly to policy development and new funding opportunities that support oak woodland restoration and conservation throughout northern California. The California Board of Forestry has adopted the "Oak Woodland Management Exemption, 2017" that enables Assembly Bill 1958 that was developed with UC’s research and support. The form is available here: http://calfire.ca.gov/resource_mgt/downloads/Oak%20Woodland%20Management_1-26-18_fillable.pdf. Additionally, the Board also developed a new Timber Harvest Plan option known as a “special prescription” to help California landowners with their oak restoration projects. UCCE hosted workshops and developed educational materials to help landowners, registered professional foresters, and others understand the new policies. Additionally, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has funded UC and their partners $ 2.68 million from its Regional Conservation Partnership Program to support restoration and conservation activities on private lands in northwestern California, and an additional $75,000 to this UC team to evaluate the effectiveness of previously implemented oak woodland restoration strategies using a case study approach. UC ANR will continue to provide information that is critical for oak conservation and restoration into the future.

Clientele Testimonial

“Information collected and distributed through UCCE has played a critical role in forest policy and regulation affecting the future of California’s oak woodlands. I have seen the value and appreciation of the UC’s involvement in oak woodland research and education play out in an array of different scenarios, ranging from public and landowner education at the local level to Board of Forestry and Legislative deliberation in the state’s capital.” Mike Miles, California Board of Forestry


Yana Valchovic, Forest Advisor, County Director, Humboldt/Del-Norte, yvala@ucanr.edu