MENDOCINO Co., 11/6/20 — In 2017, the Redwood Fire tore through Redwood Valley. The fire moved quickly and burned hot, resulting in a devastating human and ecological impact. Now, three environment-focused groups are collaborating to help regenerate oaks trees that suffered serious damage in the flames — and they need volunteers.
Oaks play a crucial role in preventing erosion and landslides, increasing water quality, and regulating water flow. Also, a wide variety of species from wood ducks, to rabbits, to wild turkey rely on acorns as a food source.
The Mendocino County Resource Conservation District (MCRCD), the Oak Granary, and the Hopland Research and Extension Center, which is part of the University of California, are working together to help regrowth in the area by planting oaks on 60 acres of oak woodlands that were damaged by the fire. To complete this project, the Resource Conservation District received a grant from the State Water Resource Control Board. Money from the same grant will be used to storm proof unpaved roads.
But to accomplish the reforestation section of the project, they need help from the community! In a press release sent out on Thursday, the Hannah Bird, the Hopland Research Extension Center’s community educator, said that they need more local acorns for their cache.
Bird is specifically on the hunt for acorns from blue oak, black oak, and Oregon white oak trees. There are 90 species of oak that are native to the U.S. They are on the hunt for acorns from these specific trees because they believe those oaks are best suited to the climate where they will be planting. “Those species will be well suited for the areas that are going to be planted,” said Bird over the phone. “We’re asking for people who can collect in Redwood Valley and Ukiah Valley because we’re using the genetics of those oaks that are as close to the oaks that probably burned.”
They need the acorns before the region experiences significant precipitation, so this week may be the last one for collection!
Oak trees are well adapted to fire, so usually, they survive just fine when faced with flames, largely due to their deep roots which can suck up water from far below the surface. Actually, some think fire helps oak trees regenerate. However, the 2017 fire was too hot for the trees.
“Many of the oaks burned down so completely we won’t see them regenerate,” Bird said.
Bird’s press release stated that the environmental groups hope to give the severely burned areas some extra help with reforestation by planting the acorns from their stash over the winter.
In terms of collecting, not just any acorn will do. Bird is looking for “quality of quantity,” asking for acorns with no holes or mold. It would also be ideal for volunteers to put leaves and acorn caps in the bags with the acorns, so that it is easier to identify what type of oak tree the acorn is from. There are acorn drop off locations in Potter Valley, Ukiah, Redwood Valley, and Ukiah.
If you are interested in participating, you can read the rest of the press release below, which has more details and directions, as well as Hannah Birds contact information!
Still Time to Collect and Donate Acorns
Volunteers are still needed to collect blue oak, black oak and Oregon white oak acorns to support the Acorn Bank before the rains begin. This collaborative project by the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District (MCRCD), The Oak Granary and UC The Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) creates a repository of local acorns, from Redwood Valley and the surrounding area, to plant over winter in areas that have been severely affected by wildfires.
“In response to the 2017 Redwood Complex Fire, MCRCD secured a grant from the State Water Resources Control Board to storm-proof unpaved roads to protect water quality, and to jumpstart reforestation of 60 acres of oak woodlands within the fire footprint,” said Joe Scriven, Assistant Executive Director at the MCRCD.
The project is encouraging local volunteers to find an oak tree nearby, identify it and collect acorns for delivery at drop off points in Ukiah, Redwood Valley, Potter Valley and Hopland. “It’s a great family activity, but it does take a little time to do it well,” said Hannah Bird, Community Educator at HREC, who is coordinating the volunteer effort.
Volunteers are asked to first identify their oak. “There are some great guides out there to help you identify your oak; for example, you can use an app on your phone like iNaturalist, or look out for the great one page guide created by Kate Marianchild in local book stores. We know it can be really hard to be sure which oak is which, so we encourage volunteers to add some acorn caps and leaves from the oak tree where they collect into each collection bag – these are really important to help us figure out any mystery oaks!” Bird said.
A brown paper bag and data sheet is all that is needed to join the collection effort. Paper bags are preferred over plastic to avoid molding of the acorns. Each bag of collected acorns should also include a completed data sheet, available for download from the project website, which describes where the acorns were collected from and any additional information the collector is able to offer. Only one kind of acorn should be collected in each bag.
The quality of acorns collected is important. Volunteers are asked to select acorns carefully, choosing only those with no signs of pests or mold. “We’re looking for quality over quantity this year, look carefully at each acorn and leave any with holes in them or other marks or signs of mold. These acorns may not be the best for planting and are an important food source for wildlife at the oak from which you are collecting. One bag of carefully selected acorns collected from each tree is enough,” concluded Bird.
Further details of drop off locations, data sheets and collection methods are available at http://bit.ly/MendoAcorns . Acorns from Redwood Valley and the surrounding area, including Ukiah Valley and Potter Valley, will be accepted until the first rains take place. Contact Hannah Bird at [email protected] or call (707) 744 1424 ext. 105 for further information or questions.