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October 2007

California Oak Report

Oaks & Climate Change Update

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has reached a $10 million settlement with oil-giant ConocoPhillips regarding mitigation offsets for greenhouse gas emissions caused by an expansion of its refinery in Rodeo, 25 miles north of San Francisco. To avoid a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit, Conoco will provide $7 million to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for local offset projects, $2.8 million to the California Wildfire ReLeaf Fund for reforestation to sequester an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases and $200,000 for Audubon to restore San Pablo Bay wetlands.

The Conoco accord affirms California Oak Foundationís position that CEQA reviews by cities and counties must consider long-term impacts due to emissions attributable to a change in land use, including significant impacts to oak resources. The state views the cutting and the burning of oak trees as separate carbon emissions, therefore both must be addressed in CEQA where significant impacts to oak resources occur. CEQA air quality questions include how much potential carbon sequestration will be lost due to oak seedling, sapling and tree impacts and how much sequestered carbon will be released if the impacted oaks are burned?

Under the emissions reduction timeline established by Assembly Bill 32, the most important changes in land use affecting carbon dioxide transfers to and from the atmosphere are those that reduce or increase forest land. California is in the process of establishing a carbon credit market system with offset mitigation measures. These offsets will include credits for off-site forest restoration and conservation, further enhancing economic opportunities for local landowners interested in the benefits of oak woodlands mitigation banking. These banks would serve project applicants seeking emissions mitigation through restoration planting of oaks or the purchase of existing oak woodland easements.

Itís About Time
Below is an article from the University of California Integrated Hardwood Range Management Programís August 2007 Oaks' n' folks regarding Placer County's adoption of proportional oak woodland mitigation measures:

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 Cooperative Extension Specialist or Loren Clark, Assistant Planning Director.

Announcements
Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership is seeking enthusiastic conservation minded people to devote a year to serve for the protection of Sierra natural resources and sustainable communities. For this year of service Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership members will gain skills and technical training, mentor with outstanding environmental leaders and receive an education award at the end of service. Applications are now being accepted for positions starting January 7, 2008. For more information please contact: Do Lee, Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership Regional Coordinator: 530-542-4546 x 302 or visit our website.

2007 Urban Forestry Conference
November 1 - 3, 2007, Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco.

Merchandise
Native Oaks Note Cards
From Good Nature Publishingís Native Oaks of California Poster, Michael Lee Illustrator.
Eight notes and envelopes, 4ľ" x 5Ĺ" ivory linen card stock. Full color illustrations of leaf and acorn of Blue oak (Quercus douglasii), coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) and valley oak (Quercus lobata). $12.00, members $10.80, plus sales tax, shipping and handling.
 
 
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