Why oak woodlands matter

Apr 2, 2021

April 1, 2021 — Spring is here, and new growth is everywhere. But unlike the fields of yellow mustard that signal the beginning of the  short season, some of that growth is old and slow. Like an 18-inch diameter, breast-height scrub oak, which could have been on the landscape since your great-great-great grandmother was born.

Jennifer Riddell and Andrea Davis, fellow co-presidents of the Sanhedrin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, recently encouraged the Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance to protect oak woodlands, which was originally supposed to be part of the Phase III cannabis ordinance. 

Their letter to the board cites a study estimating that Mendocino County oak forests store more than 28 and half million tons of carbon. They asked for strong protections for rangelands, because those areas contain the bulk of our oak woodlands and upland watersheds.

But now, with Phase III coming before the board next month with recommendations from the Planning Commission, the oak woodlands ordinance has been sent to committee and is waiting on an inventory of the trees. 

That inventory isn’t likely to include a lot of young trees, which are out-competed by fast-growing non-native grasses and devoured by other non-native species like turkeys and pigs.

Riddell believes that, with all the complicated pressures oak woodlands already face, they need as much protection as they can get. 

We’ll hear why oak trees matter, some of the pressures they face, and some ideas for protecting them.