An important piece of legislation that would protect the disappearing oaks of California has been rewritten, given a new bill number, and is now back in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 1334 (formerly SB 711), sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) would institute protections for California's remaining oak woodlands. The bill would establish stronger regulations governing the clearing of oaks. Kuehl's bill would bring conversion of oak woodlands under the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires environmental analysis before a given project can go forward.

Oak trees are such a familiar sight in California that it may not seem that they are in much danger, and few people realize that these beautiful and productive natural ecosystems are the fastest-disappearing woodlands in the state.

California's oak woodlands are vanishing at an average rate of 20,000 acres a year. More than 1 million acres of native oak forests have been wiped out since 1945- "converted" permanently to subdivisions, shopping centers, cropland, vineyards and freeways.

In addition to displacement by development and agriculture, numerous other threats confront these woodlands and the rich biodiversity they support. Grazing cattle eat acorns, browse seedlings, and trample younger trees, keeping oaks from propagating. Decades of fire suppression have allowed other tree species to invade oak habitat and displace oaks. Sudden Oak Death Syndrome is killing oaks statewide at an alarming rate; currently, there is no effective treatment for the disease.

"People have to know how important it is, after the cumulative impacts of urban sprawl and losses from disease, that we protect the living, healthy oaks," said Janet Cobb of the California Oak Foundation.

There are currently no strong and effective laws or regulations that protect California oaks outside of parks and preserves. SB 1334 would require the California Board of Forestry to establish such regulations. The bill would also require developers to offset the loss of any oaks they clear. And they would have to restore not just individual trees, but biologically functional oak woodlands.

SB 1334 has been rewritten slightly from last year's SB 711, but offers the same strong protections for oak woodlands. The new bill is now in the state Senate's Environmental Quality Committee.

Development interests are fighting to defeat the bill, so your support is essential. Please urge your state senator to support SB 1334. To find contact information for your senator, visit


Below is a sample letter to send to your senator to encourage him or her to vote in favor of the bill. Please feel free to put the letter in your own words.

Dear Senator _________________________________,

Please vote in favor of Sen. Sheila Kuehl's bill, SB 1334. This measure would give much-needed protection to our state's oak woodlands, which are disappearing at a rate of 20,000 acres a year.
More than 1 million acres of native oaks in California have been wiped out since 1945. The once-abundant oaks that formerly characterized the Sacramento Valley have been reduced to less than 2 percent of their original extent.

Our oak woodlands are not only beautiful but also provide important habitat for an astonishing array of plants and animals. These state treasures should not be casually removed for shopping malls and housing developments.

I am strongly in favor of SB 1334 because it would require the state Board of Forestry to establish reasonable regulations governing the removal of oak forests. The legislation would also require developers to pay for measures to mitigate the loss of the oaks displaced by their projects.

Californians frequently name oaks as the trees most representative of their state's natural ecosystems. California's legislature would be remiss if it did not act to protect these state treasures.


Your name
Your address

You might want to send a letter to Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford), chair of the Environmental Quality Committee. And be sure to send a copy of your letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger at:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-2841 (phone)
(916) 445-4633 (fax)

For more information on California's endangered oak woodlands, visit our website at: www.forestsforever.org/oaksalert.html

The California Oak Foundation website at www.californiaoaks.org/ has a great deal of information on the state's oaks and the fight to preserve them, including links to relevant legislation and lawmakers.


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places