VTF awarded ReLeaf capacity-building grant
Where did all the acorns go?
Damage control: trying to keep plantings from being destroyed by people
Grazing vs. restoration - cows win, trees lose
Take a hike
VTF applied for and received a 2002 California ReLeaf capacity-building grant. This grant will fund a tree-planting and care workshop, planting demonstrations, and development of tree planting handout materials in connection with the City of Vacaville Trees 2000 residential tree giveaway program. The city encouraged VTF to apply for this grant and provided services of its grant writing contractor to assist in grant preparation. Because VTF is not organized as a non-profit and has no paid staff, the City will serve as the sponsor for the grant and all grant-related activities will be contracted out.
The Trees 2000 residential tree giveaway program is really the first significant urban forestry project that the city has undertaken. Experience from other locations with similar programs has shown that unless a significant educational component is included with the program, the success rate for the distributed trees is typically low. We hope that VTF's involvement with the Trees 2000 giveaway will serve to encourage the City with its fledgling urban forestry efforts and to help increase the chances that the trees will survive. Hopefully, a side benefit is that the exposure associated with the events will help attract additional VTF membership and help us "build capacity". The number and types of projects that VTF has undertaken has been limited by the lack of volunteers who are willing and able to take on organizational responsibilities. If we could attract some motivated folks with time and energy to devote to VTF, the Foundation could consider becoming a nonprofit and would be able to secure grant funding for projects on a more regular basis.
VTF will sponsor two tree planting and care workshops on February 13 and 28 in conjunction with the Trees 2000 program. Both workshops will beheld at the Ulatis Community Center, 1000 Ulatis Drive, Vacaville, from 7 to 8:30 pm. VTF will also produce educational materials to be distributed to the public. We are also looking to provide some people to help answer planting questions at the tree pick up days in March. Contact Ted Swiecki (448-0230) if you want to get involved with this program. We will post more information about the activities, dates, and times on the website as details become available.
No, you didn't just miss it - there was no VTF-sponsored oak planting in the winter of 2001-2002. The Vacaville area experienced a pretty complete failure in acorn production this past fall (2001). Because we only use locally-collected acorns in our oak woodland restoration plantings, we had no material to plant.
A number of different factors can affect acorn set, especially weather during the time that pollen is being dispersed. As a result, acorn crops tend to vary widely from year to year. While back to back years with no acorns can occur, they don't happen very often. So, we'll keep an eye out for acorn production this year and schedule our usual fall planting if the acorns show up.
If you were in Lagoon Valley in late summer/fall 2001 you may have noticed that a sizeable portion of the area above the bladed cross-country trail that we planted in fall of 1999 was mowed to the ground. Over half of the plot that we had set up to monitor survival was mowed in this event. We contacted City Parks Staff after seeing this, and eventually learned that the disc golf players had apparently mowed the area without authorization of knowledge of the Vacaville parks superintendent.
This is not the first time that plantings have been damaged by either authorized or unauthorized parks maintenance activities. Many of you who participated in the first phase of the Southside bikeway planting (fall 1999) may know that over half of the new oak seedlings were mowed down in spring 2000 by inmate work crews working for the City. We knew from the outset of this project that city maintenance crews posed the greatest threat to the planting, and we did everything we could to keep city maintenance staff informed about the project. Nonetheless, an internal communication breakdown within Public Works resulted in the mowing fiasco. After that unfortunate incident, we redoubled our efforts to make sure that city work crews understood the project and even made a presentation to the inmate crew. Fortunately, these efforts seem to have prevented damage to the seedlings in the 2001 mowing. Even so, a fire associated with a residence along the bikeway managed to burn a number of planting sites from the phase 2 (fall 2000) planting. Life is tough for trees in the city.
On the bright side, a single event like mowing or fire doesn't necessarily kill an oak seedling, since they resprout readily from the base. Most of the mowed and burned planting sites along the bike trail have survived. We haven't assessed the Lagoon Valley planting yet, but we'll hopeful get an idea this coming spring about how it fared. Another bright spot is that a number of small young valley oaks growing near the mowed are were protected with small wire baskets by a City Parks worker that we know only as Fred. And as they say in sports, there's always next season - this will be a good area for more planting in the next good acorn year, but we may need to get some signage also to try to keep the mowers at bay.
Grazing vs. restoration - cows win, trees lose
The subject of grazing on City of Vacaville open space lands was addressed at several planning commission meetings and before the city council during the latter half of 2001. Ted Swiecki led an effort to educate these bodies about the detrimental effects of the city's grazing practices on these lands (see the Feb 2000 newsletter for a related story). In the end, the city did not make any decision to substantially improve its grazing practices. A majority of the council and at least some planning commissioners did seem to be getting the point that current grazing practices were destructive, but seemed to be too cowed to take any major corrective action. A very telling point in the hearings came when the city's grazing lessee said at a planning commission hearing," What are oaks good for anyway? Firewood?". It's no wonder that grazing practices have been poor if that is the level of understanding that the grazer has about protection of critical resources.
Although the trees, hillsides, and citizens of Vacaville were the losers in this particular battle, the cause is not lost. It may take some time to change attitudes toward open space management and raise awareness of natural resource values to the point that something significant is done to improve the situation. Cattle are kept on the open space lands for almost entirely political reasons. Fire hazard reduction is used as a smokescreen to justify the currently excessive grazing pressure. Thus, it will take continued political pressure to get any serious changes in city grazing policies. If you'd like to see the city help rather than hinder the process of restoring oak woodlands and native habitats on open space lands, contact your city council members early and often and let them know.