Oak Habitat Restoration Program
Lomakatsi is a leader in the field of oak restoration. Since our inception in 1995, through a collaborative, holistic approach, we have worked to restore oak ecosystems throughout southern Oregon and northern California.
Oak Habitats at Risk
One of the most biologically diverse habitats in our region, oak environments are richer in wildlife than any other local terrestrial ecosystems. More than 300 wildlife species are known to use oaks, including dozens of resident and migratory birds. Oak habitats are important contributors to biodiversity in the Pacific Northwest, supporting communities of plants and animals that are remarkably different from adjacent agricultural fields and conifer forests. They are also among the most threatened ecological communities in the Pacific Northwest, with current estimates indicating that less than 10% of the historic oak habitats remain in Oregon. Oak habitats face a variety of stressors, and under such conditions, without changes being made to their current management, are at risk of disappearing.
Threats to Oak Habitats
- Encroachment: Frequent, low-intensity fires help shape and maintain the health and diversity of oak ecosystems. Fire suppression has removed this natural disturbance process, allowing conifers, woody shrubs, and younger oaks to become established. As a result, oak stands are becoming extremely dense, creating stress on larger oak trees and degrading overall woodland health. This has led to a reduction in habitat quality, the build-up of fuel loads, and an increased risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire.
- Loss of Habitat Structure: Large, old oak trees that provide the limb structure, cavities, and acorn production required by many wildlife species have been lost. Due to overcrowding, remaining oaks are not developing the same structural traits.
- Exotic Invasive Species: Non-native plants like Scotch broom, English hawthorn, and Yellow starthistle have invaded the understory communities, increasing fuel loads and degrading habitat.
- Impacts to Watershed Health: Upland habitats affect aquatic systems by influencing the hydrologic function of watersheds, slope stability and erosion. Encroaching vegetation in oak systems affects watershed function by reducing water yield and increasing the potential for high-severity fire and subsequent erosion and sediment delivery to streams.
- Land Use Conversion: Oak habitats continue to be converted to other uses, such as cropland, vineyards, and residential development.
Oak Habitat Restoration Program Objectives
- Protect and promote the development of habitat for oak associated wildlife
- Curtail the decline of oak associated plant communities by reducing existing threats
- Improve watershed health and function
Oak Habitat Restoration Strategies and Priorities
- Identify, map and inventory priority oak habitat sites
- Develop restoration funding sources
- Work collaboratively with state and federal agencies, Native American tribes, private landowners and other nonprofit organizations
- Restoration project planning including developing stewardship plans, treatment prescriptions, prescribed fire burn plans and operational strategies
- On-the-ground restoration through an innovative ecological adaptive management approach
- Reintroduction of low intensity prescribed fire applications
- Utilize restoration by-products
- Ecological monitoring for long-term evaluation and research
- Eco-cultural restoration through partnerships with Native American tribes and incorporating traditional ecological knowledge in the design of oak restoration treatments.
- Community engagement and education
- Student and youth education
- Workforce training and job creation