California Native Plant Society

Forestry Program

Oak Woodlands

The native oaks of California form a beautiful, unique and irreplaceable feature of our landscape. Oaks provide many ecosystem services, such as soil improvement, erosion control and shade for fish-bearing streams. Oaks support hundreds of life forms, including insects, lichens and bryophytes, fungi, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.

Blue oak (Quercus douglasii) woodland photo by Charles Webber

Oak habitats are being destroyed at unprecedented rates to make way for vineyards, housing tracts, golf courses and other development. In addition, regeneration of oaks is very low, due to such factors as poor livestock management, fire suppression, and imbalances in wildlife dynamics. For these reasons, the California Native Plant Society is deeply concerned about the future of native Quercus species and habitats.  CNPS local chapters have, in several cases, been active in developing local statutes to protect oak woodland from urban encroachment in cities and counties, including San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and others.

Most citizens, including decision-makers, remain unaware of the ecosystem values of oaks. In fact, for most native oak species, basic ecological information is incomplete; current management decisions are being based on in adequate understanding of their impacts on the California landscape.

Conservation measures for oaks - voluntary, regulatory or legislative - must be increased at the local, county and state levels. The goal of CNPS is to protect, maintain, and restore native oaks and their natural communities for present and future generations, while giving people the education needed to motivate them to conserve oaks.

CNPS policy is to educate ourselves and the public about the values of native oaks, and to promote research about the ecology and distribution of native oaks, to encourage voluntary conservation of oaks, and where necessary, to advocate regulation in order to prevent further loss of oak habitats in both rural and urban areas. The Society urges an accelerated program of data collection, census information and mapping of all oak species, particularly those that are rare or occur in rare habitat types.

CNPS supports land use decisions that permit uses of the land consistent with long-range preservation of healthy oak ecosystems. The Society should do everything it can to prevent further conversion of native oak habitat to agricultural, residential, commercial or other uses.

Since most of California's oaks are found on private land, CNPS must work with individuals, organizations and agencies to identify incentives for preservation, including conservation easements, tax break programs, transfers of development rights, acquisition and cooperative resource management plans. Where voluntary measures cannot achieve conservation of oak habitat, CNPS recognizes the need to advocate regulation, at the city, county or state level. Recent legislation (Senate Bill 1334) has been signed by the Governor which now requires specific oak woodlands mitigations wherever projects within county jurisdiction may result in significant impacts to oak woodlands. Unfortunately the changes to CEQA exempt land which is converted from oak woodlands for agricultural purposes. For more information see

CNPS also recognizes the need for a greater number of large public preserves containing high-quality oak habitat. Why not a state park featuring oaks? CNPS should work toward establishment of large oak preserves.

Oak Ordinance / Management Plan Resources


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