Significant Change

Here are more pictures from forest stands that have completely succumbed to conifer encroachment. Prior to fire exclusion, these stands were dominated by California Black Oak. Now, all that is left are a few hold outs which are more or less walking dead in this forest. As you can see, many of the large oak stems left are in serious stages of decay and will likely be on the ground within the next 10 years.

MR 615

In Humboldt County, our true oak component is a relatively small portion of our vast forest resource (10-15%), however its value is much more than its spatial area. Most of these woodlands are old and support a diverse array of species such as big game, migrating tropical birds, and a host of small mammals and insects that all contribute to our forests food web.

MR 616

Much of the renaming oak woodlands are on a rapid trajectory to a similar fate as the stands pictured above. Sadly our forest regulation and policy is preventing widespread treatment of encroached woodlands. If I was to imagine something the Board of Forestry could do, it would be to create a special designation for oak woodlands in CA, allowing conditional permitting for management within woodlands. This means recognizing the private and public benefit of managing for forest resources that are not centered on forest products (MSP).



  1. So is this conifer encroachment due to long term fire suppression and limited harvest of conifer on federal lands?

    1. Yes…and no.

      This picture is from private lands (most of my pictures are). Fire suppression has allowed tree density to increase throughout the west. In many places, particularly conifer forests, these densities can be managed through timber harvest. However in the case of oak woodlands, timber harvesting was not an option in the past (Because there used to be only oak trees!). The way I see it, there are only two ways to prevent encroachment. You either allow fire to burn through these areas every ten years or so, or you manually cut/remove the tree when they are young.

      Federal lands do have some of this problem, but this is a huge issue on private lands in Humboldt County. Id say the vast majority of woodlands here are privately held. And unlike the USFS, most private land owners are not well equipped to deal with this problem.

  2. i appreciate your reply. I have read a small amount about oak savannas in the Willamette Valley and how they are using fire to create better habitat for grass and wildflowers which benefit everything from birds to butterflies. But I can see how private landownership creates an issue because there really isn’t any cost incentive for doing this. Should have asked this long ago but what’s your story?… Are you retired forester? A John Muir of the Mad River mountains? A Voice crying in the wilderness? Curiousity is getting me! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I am a *young* private consulting forester – who wont be retiring for a while… Now that phones have such good cameras, I can take snap shots while working – which is how I get 90% of the pictures I post. And sure, I like to consider my self a naturalist – and would be somewhere in between Muir and Pinchot.

      1. Dang… All these pictures of remote “wildnerness” settings and you are getting paid to wander! Heck.. I thought you were living off of roots and berries… ๐Ÿ™‚

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