SONOMA COUNTY’S PLAN FOR OAK TREES IS MORE SMOKE AND MIRRORS
ASSISTANT FIELD MANAGER,
SONOMA COUNTY CONSERVATION ACTION
Sonoma County’s native oak forests and woodlands are under attack and we have a great opportunity to make a real impact in our county’s future.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is currently formulating their 5-year strategic plan and they must include real oak and forest land protections. For decades Sonoma County’s iconic oak forests have been excessively cleared in the name of development and vineyards. Much of this county-permitted cutting is being done without rigorous regard for the ecological importance of native oak and forest lands.
Oak woodlands destruction is an attack on Sonoma County’s wildlife and scenic identity. Residents of Sonoma County can make their voices heard and urge the Board of Supervisors to enact a moratorium on tree cutting, immediately. While vineyards are a landmark of our scenery, so are the native oak forests.
A moratorium on tree cutting is imperative for our native habitats as well as our ecological footprint as a county. If we are to really become carbon neutral by 2050, we need a moratorium on cutting until we have a clearer picture of the situation and have developed a realistic climate-oriented tree ordinance to regulate cutting in the future.
On September 17, 2019, the Board of Supervisors of Sonoma County declared a Climate Change Emergency and pledged to support a county-wide framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to pursue local actions that support, among other goals, to protect and enhance the value of open and working lands and increasing carbon sequestration. We need to hold our elected officials to their word via an immediate moratorium. Yes, we need to plant trees to sequester carbon and replace the trees we have lost, but we also need to protect our existing mature forests.
Native woodlands fight climate change with carbon sequestration, storing atmospheric carbon that would otherwise warm the planet. It’s proven that mature forests store significantly more carbon than younger trees. Oak forests sequester carbon in the form of biomass, deadwood, litter and in forest soils. The sink of carbon sequestered in forests helps to offset other sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, such as deforestation, forest fires, and fossil fuel emissions. We have a powerful tool to fight climate change “right in our backyard,” and we are chopping it down without a careful study of the repercussions.
Oak trees are a keystone species with over 100 species dependent on them. Oaks are the backbone of many different forest communities and provide immeasurable ecosystem services. Oaks are already plagued by sudden oak death in our region so there is absolutely no reason for us to be cutting down healthy, mature carbon sequestering trees that perform so many ecosystem-wide essential services.
Larry Hansen photo
Oaks are already plagued by sudden oak death in our region so there is absolutely no reason for us to be cutting down healthy, mature carbon sequestering trees that perform so many ecosystem-wide essential services.
Aja Henry is a Humboldt State graduate and Assistant Field Manager with Sonoma County Conservation Action, she is taking the lead in Conservation Action’s efforts toward tree preservation and climate change resilience in Sonoma County.