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Plant Focus

Quercus peninsularis
A Red Oak (Section Lobatae) endemic to inland ranges of northern Baja California, Mexico

Using California’s Legislation to Keep Oaks Standing

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Angela Moskow

Published May 2019 in International Oaks No. 30: 239–246


Oak woodlands and oak-forested lands are California’s primary old-growth resource, integral to the ecological and cultural fabric of the state, and covering approximately one tenth of its landmass. These oak ecosystems are disappearing, especially those that grow at the interface of urban, agricultural, and wilderness environments. Oaks are threatened by urban sprawl, over-grazing, agricultural business expansion, systemic drought, invasive grasses, disease, and wildfire – pressures that are exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. California has lost more than a million acres of oak-related lands in recent decades, with an estimated 20 percent of the state’s oak landscapes facing development threats by 2040. These losses, combined with fire, which is causing net emissions from California’s natural areas, make it imperative that oak tree protections are strengthened. California’s statewide oak protections are limited, with county-level protections highly variable. Yet, the state’s climate laws, combined with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), are legal tools that provide an approach to keep oaks standing and to mitigate their loss. The California Oaks program – formerly, the California Oak Foundation (COF) – at the California Wildlife Foundation, and its California Oaks Coalition partners, are utilizing the state’s ambitious legislation and goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to challenge conversions of oak woodlands and forests.


California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), climate change, oaks, Quercus


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