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June 2009

California Oak Report

Rogue State Foresters
The California Air Resources Boardís Forest Protocols mandate that only a state registered professional forester (RPF) certified by the California Climate Action Registry is authorized to analyze carbon dioxide biological emissions associated with the conversion of native forests to non-forest use. Therefore, for the purposes of Public Resources Code Section 21083.4 (SB 1334) and the Forest Protocols an RPF must participate in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review where potential significant oak woodland effects may occur.

Unfortunately, COF has recently encountered three separate instances where RPFs have used the color of authority granted by a state license in a manner that attempts to circumvent California oak woodlands law on behalf of their developer clients. Such unprofessional practices are unacceptable. For CEQA review, RPFs are limited to characterizing and inventorying project oak woodlands; RPFs are not authorized or qualified to make biological mitigation assessments and are required to comply fully with state forestry law.

RPFs must be "qualified" in the area of forestry they are practicing but most RPFs know little about oak woodlands or CEQA because they operate under the Forest Practice Act on conifer timberlands. This distinction represents a world of legal and process difference. In order to participate in CEQA review, RPFs should be required to demonstrate their oak woodland qualifications. Oak Foundation suggests local jurisdictions consider adopting the following passage which complies with relevant state oak woodlands law and will separate the professional woodland foresters from the rest:

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review shall employ the services of a state registered professional forester (RPF) where it is determined potential significant oak woodland effects may occur. The RPF shall demonstrate professional competence in the science, art and practice of analyzing oak woodlands for CEQA purposes, including certification by the California Climate Action Registry to analyze carbon dioxide biological emissions associated with the conversion of oak woodlands to non-forest use.

Oak Woodlands Carbon Legislation Moves Forward
The Climate Change and Forest Conversion Act of 2009 (SB 144, Pavley) has been passed by the Senate and forwarded to the Assembly. This bill would add another layer of oak woodlands conversion oversight to the existing CEQA wildlife habitat and carbon biological emission regulations. SB 144 requires the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to develop, in consultation with the State Air Resources Board and the Department of Fish and Game, regulations that establish a full mitigation requirement for the carbon stock and sequestration losses due to forest land conversions.

In order to further the goals of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 and to enhance the capability of forest lands to sequester carbon, SB 144 would require Cal Fire to impose a fee on an applicant for native forest conversion that fully offsets the departmentís costs for implementing the prescribed requirements as they relate to conversion.

Trinitas Golf Resort Rejected
On a 3-2 vote the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors has denied approval of amenities for the Trinitas golf course, illegally built on 116 acres of oak woodlands. Calaveras County followed this action with a cease-and-desist letter warning golf course developer Mike Nemee that the county's decision means that use of the property for any form of golf is now illegal.

California Oak Foundation will continue to vigorously support the endeavors of local groups to restore the property to pre-golf course conditions. Then the Trinitas golf course will become only a bad memory of the project that thought it could scam the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Placer County Re Dux
Below is a University of California article first reprinted in the October 2007 Oak Report. Placer Countyís oak woodland resource measures continue to be the most direct and easily understood in the state, plus they are consistent with current CEQA habitat/carbon biological mitigation requirements. Although other local jurisdictions have crafted excellent individual oak conservation standards that would enhance the Placer County model, Placer continues to set the overall woodland standard for simplicity and effectiveness.

Placer County Guidelines for Evaluating Development Impacts on Oak Woodlands By Richard Harris, IHRMP Natural Resources Specialist

Placer County is the fastest growing county in California's Hardwood Rangelands, with over 47,000 homes (35% of county housing-stock) constructed over the past 12 years. The passage of Senate Bill 1334, prompted county planning staff to re-evaluate their procedures for CEQA analysis of development projects in oak woodlands. New guidelines for impact assessment have been formulated and are now used in processing applications for land development.

Prior to the development of these new evaluation procedures, impacts to oak woodland were assessed using Placer County's tree preservation ordinance. Project proponents were required to map and measure all oak trees larger than six inches diameter occurring on parcels proposed for development. Mitigation requirements were quantified by summing the total number of "inches" of oak trees lost to development. Planting or in lieu payments were considered acceptable mitigation measures. The new procedures make a distinction between oak woodlands (as ecosystems) and oak trees (as individual resources). Any site with two acres or more of oak woodland is subject to the new procedure. An oak woodland is defined as a vegetation community with at least 10 percent canopy cover that is dominated by an oak species. Oak woodland types in Placer County include blue oak woodland, montane hardwood, riparian woodland and valley oak woodland.

If a project meets the threshold for application of the new procedure, the amount of impacted woodland is determined by superimposing the "development footprint" onto a vegetation type map (see figure, below). The area of oak woodland within the development footprint is calculated and considered "lost" i.e., woodland functions are irretrievably impaired. The footprint includes all structures, infrastructure, grading, landscaping and pavement plus a buffer circumscribing the entire area.

Mitigation for lost oak woodlands can occur through off-site, permanent protection of equivalent oak woodlands or through payment of an in-lieu fee to be used by the county to acquire equivalent habitat. Within the development footprint, provisions of the tree preservation ordinance apply to trees designated as significant and worthy of protection.

On parcels with less than two acres of oak woodland, the tree preservation ordinance continues to apply. More information on Placer County's approach can be obtained by contacting Richard Harris, retired Cooperative Extension Forestry Specialist and RPF at rrharis@nature.berkeley.edu or Loren Clark, Assistant Planning Director at lclark@placer.ca.gov.

Announcements
Quotes regarding the gold-spotted oak borer, Agrilus coxalis. These statements were forwarded from COF member Barbara Booth of Studio City in response to her inquiries on this subject:

"As you may know, the Invasive Species Council of California (ISCC) was established February 10, 2009, and is chaired by the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. As Secretary for Natural Resources, I am the vice-chair and serve alongside my colleagues at the California Environmental Protection Agency, the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, the California Health and Human Services Agency, and California Emergency Management Agency. Together these state agencies and an advisory committee will work to keep invasive species out of California, find invasions before permanent establishment occurs and take steps to eradicate incipient populations of undesirable invasive species."
Mike Chrisman, Secretary, State of California Resources Agency.

"Oak borer larvae feed under the bark of oaks which can lead to thinning of the crown and can be followed by tree death." "The gold-spotted oak borer was first confirmed in the state in 2004, although oak mortality has occurred in the area since 2002, thereby indicating the possibility of an earlier introduction date. In order to slow the spread of gold-spotted oak borer, the United States Forest Service (USFS) has restricted the movement of oak firewood from two Cleveland Forest Ranger Districts in San Diego County and initiated a public awareness campaign. The Department has suggested that county departments of agriculture be allowed to restrict the oak borer spread on nursery stock into un-infested areas."
Robert Leavitt, Ph.D., Acting Exec. Director, California Invasive Species Advisory Council.

Merchandise (click for image - center candle)
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