Greenspace monitors the health of the threatened native Monterey pines and the coastal live oaks on our several forested properties. The Cambria forest faces challenges as climate-change-driven drought and consequent disease and infestations take a toll, particularly on Monterey pines.
The Cambria Forest Management Plan provides steps to improve the forest’s health, but to date has not been funded for forest-wide implementation. As part of a Cal Fire-funded partnership with SLO County Fire Safe Council, Greenspace has just completed a major fuel hazard removal and healthy tree planting project in our 21-acre Strawberry Canyon, to improve the safety and sustainability of our local forest. We also are conducting defensible space and native plant protection workshops for our neighbors and for professional vegetation workers to identify native forest plants and avoid their removal when clearing lots for fire protection.
While local real estate values might plummet if Cambria’s forest were lost to development, disease or fire, there is an even larger economic impact. Monterey pines are used for lumber in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and South Africa. Stock for these far-flung plantations was initially imported from California. The industry uses clones and hybrids to produce suitable trees for lumber production, but these are susceptible to disease. Replacement seed stock must come from healthy native forests. Just five such stands remain in the world—on two small islands off Baja California, Mexico, and Santa Cruz, Pacific Grove and Cambria, California. These are the critical source for a sustainable lumber industry around the world.
Recognizing that some Monterey pines seem to be resistant to pitch canker, Greenspace has collected seed from local asymptomatic trees. We propagate pine seedlings from these seeds and the resulting seedlings are available for purchase to businesses, agencies and the general public. For example, PG&E has purchased seedlings to mitigate for trees that needed to be removed during power line maintenance. Private landowners buy seedlings to mitigate tree removal of trees as a condition for County building permits. Many people purchase them for their beauty and to help restore our forest. See our Shop for details.
Organizations from the local to international level are concerned about preserving Monterey pines. The United Nations has named them a ‘world genetic resource’ and the species is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s definitive Red List. Greenspace’s own preservation efforts have included, among others:
· 1994: Co-founding the statewide Pitch Canker Task Force to formulate solutions for this introduced pathogen.
· 1996: A comprehensive survey of pitch canker in the urban forest of Cambria by 40 trained Greenspace volunteers.
· 1997: A survey in partnership with the California Dept. of Forestry and the California Native Plant Society of the forest lands surrounding Cambria.
· 1997: Pitch Canker Task Force Report released.
· 1998: Development of a program for capture, handling, utilization and disposal of infected pine material
· 2003 to present: Periodic workshops for property owners and vegetation managers to reduce spread of pitch canker and to protect native plants when clearing lots for fire prevention
· 2005 to present: Harvesting, processing and raising native Monterey pines to replant into the forest and replenish stock of trees that show no signs of pitch canker.
· Ongoing monitoring of the spread of Sudden Oak Death Syndrome—another pathogen affecting madrones, tan oak and several oak species, which may now be present in our county.
One of our major preservation efforts is Strawberry Canyon, a 21-acre woodland in Cambria’s Lodge Hill neighborhood. Purchased by a coalition of neighbors, supporters and the California Resources Agency over several years, the canyon includes a loop trail that is an easy and popular walk in the woods. Greenspace uses the preserve as a vast teaching tool for our public school environmental science field program. Our aim is to connect young people to their local forest and build awareness of its value and need of protection. Our other preserves around the community also protect forest habitat and connectivity and provide places for the public to enjoy our unique Monterey pines.
Through collaborations with SLO County’s Fire Safe Council and Cal Fire, the Cambria Forest Committee, California ReLeaf, The Nature Conservancy, California Department of Forestry and the Cambria Community Services District, Greenspace will continue its dynamic history of protecting our rare and extraordinary coastal forest. We continue to work for policies which will lessen the impact of residential and commercial development on the forest ecosystem.