Published February 9, 2023

As part of the Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network’s Upper Rogue Oak Initiative, Lomakatsi Restoration Project and The Understory Initiative are partnering to collect data on oak ecosystems before and after restoration activities. Most oak ecosystems in the Upper Rogue Basin are overly dense due to fire exclusion. In particular, conifers such as Douglas-fir and incense cedar, as well as some species of shrubs, have expanded into or increased density in oak stands. This threatens oak trees and oak habitats through direct competition for resources, impacts cultural resources important to tribal communities, and also increases the risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire to this ecological system that is primarily adapted to low-severity, mild fire. Higher severity fire has a propensity to convert stands of large oak trees and their distinct habitat values to brushy oak-shrub chaparral, which is also valuable habitat, but is more readily maintained, less at risk for loss.
Furthermore, many oak habitats have been invaded by non-native annual grasses and herbs that are highly flammable. This influx of invasive species promotes simplified plant communities, diminishes diverse native bunchgrasses and wildflowers, and reduces the structural diversity essential for wildlife habitat, like bee burrows in soil openings and structure for ground nesting birds.
Restoration treatments will decrease the density of conifers and shrubs that have advanced from years of fire exclusion. Partners will also seed native species into treated areas, focused in the blackened footprints of burn piles to support the fresh growth of native plants and reduce the likelihood that non-native plants might establish and spread. Data collected through monitoring will allow us to determine if our treatments have met our ecological objectives, and have reduced the primary threats to oak ecosystems. Using adaptive management, results can be used to adjust future restoration actions if needed.

The Upper Rogue Oak Initiative, a collaboration between federal and state agencies with tribes and nonprofits, will restore over 3,000 acres of oak habitat within three watersheds east and northeast of White City and Medford, Oregon. Learn more at…/upper-rogue-oak-initiative/.

Thank you to Understory Initiative and other KSON partners for contributing to this post! And our gratitude to Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Bureau of Land Management Medford District (BLM Oregon & Washington) for providing primary funding for this important work as part of the Upper Rogue Oak Initiative!

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