California Oak Report

State Predicts Significant Forest LossesThe California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) recently released its Forest and Range 2003 Assessment. According to CDF California has a total of approximately 5 million acres of oak woodlands, with about 4.2 million acres in private ownership (80 percent). Private oak woodland acreage includes Blue Oak-Foothill Pine (754,000), Blue Oak Woodland (2,457,000), Coastal Oak Woodland (832,000) and Valley Oak Woodland (126,000). This total is substantially less than previous acreage estimates and demonstrates the immediate need for new statewide oak woodlands conservation regulation, which CDF and the Board of Forestry (BOF) have neglected to endorse. Other CDF findings include:“Over the past 15 years, 933,000 acres of non-federal forests and rangelands have been converted to urban or other uses. Over the next 40 years, approximately 10 percent of the current forest and rangeland base (2.6 million acres) are projected to be impacted by development (high density urbanization and low density parcelization). This loss is similar to the past 15 years and over this period will exceed projected loss to agricultural lands.Hardwood land cover has the lowest percentage of lands reserved from management activities compared to all other land cover types.…Seven out of nine hardwood habitats are projected to lose at least 10 percent of the base 2000 acreage to development at a density of at least one house per 20 acres by 2040.”Sierra Club Appeals Gallo Vineyard ExpansionThe Ventana Chapter Sierra Club is appealing the Monterey County Planning Commission’s approval of a 380 acre expansion of Gallo’s vineyard near Soledad. The appeal will be heard by the Board of Supervisors on January 13.In their statement of appeal Sierra Club cited the need to replace the approved Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) with an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Listed among significant EIR issues is the removal of 321 mature oaks and subsequent impacts to wildlife habitat. The oaks will be removed to make way for a reservoir and drainage ditch.In addition to challenging MND compliance with county tree ordinance standards, Sierra Club with COF’s full support, is disputing the sufficiency of planting 640 oak saplings as adequate compensation for the habitat lost when mature oak trees are removed. Particularly disturbing is the fact that state wildlife officials reviewed the MND without raising objections to its biologically insufficient oak habitat mitigation measures.The appeal also cites Gallo’s environmental record in Sonoma County. Last March it paid $500,000 to settle a multi-agency suit for damage to a Russian River tributary at its controversial McMurray Ranch vineyard development; in 2001 a Gallo subsidiary working on the same property was ordered to pay $95,000 to settle a Clean Water Act suit for dumping fill in a wetland and improper creek drainage excavation; in recent public hearings Gallo’s Sonoma neighbors complained of many similar incidents that have happened without consequences.Voters to Decide Fate of San Diego County OaksThe San Diego County Registrar of Voters recently announced that the Rural Lands Initiative has qualified for the March 2004 ballot. The Initiative would protect rural land around rivers, lakes, and streams that are sources of drinking water, and slow down the unplanned growth that has led to increased loss of oak woodlands. A broad-based coalition of local community groups turned in over 100,000 signatures in support of the Initiative.COF strongly supports the Rural Lands Initiative, viewing it as the only means to protect local oak woodlands from the majority of San Diego County officials and development interests. For additional information contact: Duncan McFetridge (619) 230-1963 or Marco Gonzales (619) 985-9751.Military Drops Bomb on Tejon Development PlansTop military officials have sent a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger asking him to intervene in the massive Centennial City development proposed for Tejon Ranch by moving it from Los Angeles County to a northern section of the ranch in Kern County. Tejon is home to approximately 65,000 acres of unsurpassed Blue and Valley oak woodlands.According to the Defense Department (DOD) letter, Centennial development would interfere with the training of Navy, Marine and Air Force combat pilots and would likely have “severe impacts” on the nation’s military readiness due to the convergence of “a number of military training routes crucial to maintaining highly perishable pilot skills.”The DOD requested that the Governor’s statewide planning office devise a regional strategy to consider Centennial and two other Tejon projects. Recent law gives the state office expanded powers in resolving development disputes related to the services. In a period of continued base closings DOD pointedly noted that the U.S. military contributes $30 billion and 263,000 jobs to the California economy.Obviously shell shocked, Tejon president and chief executive Bob Stine responded to the letter by accusing the top brass of having been brainwashed by environmentalists. “My first reaction is that this is a political letter and has nothing to do with land planning” said Stine. “It’s probably being induced by some environmental groups that are trying to stop projects at Tejon Ranch.”Boxer Procures More SOD FundsSenator Barbara Boxer’s office has announced that the United States Senate has approved the Senator’s request for a total of $5.7 million for research to stop the spread of Sudden Oak Death. The funding comes from both the Agriculture Appropriations bill and the Interior Appropriations bill.Senator Boxer stated that, “For a decade, the majestic oak trees of California have been under attack by a disease known as Sudden Oak Death. For almost as long, I have been working in the U.S. Senate to provide funding so that we may better understand this disease, fight its spread and protect this wonderful symbol of California.\\"

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