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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

SAN DIEGO NWR: Oak Trees Planted by Volunteers

Region 8, December 10, 2011
Refuge Wildlife Biologist John A. Martin demonstrates how to plant the acorns then coaches Boy Scout Sterling Lopez how to mark each future tree with the GPS unit.
Refuge Wildlife Biologist John A. Martin demonstrates how to plant the acorns then coaches Boy Scout Sterling Lopez how to mark each future tree with the GPS unit. - Photo Credit: n/a
Volunteers and staff at planting site.
Volunteers and staff at planting site. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Lisa Cox, San Diego NWR

It doesn’t have to be Arbor Day to plant trees!

Twenty community volunteers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) staff and California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) staff recently spent a beautiful Saturday working hard to restore native oak woodland habitat in Jamul by planting over 170 Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) and Engelmann Oaks (Quercus engelmannii). Each future “tree” started out from an acorn, planted by the caring hands of the volunteers.

In November, volunteers collected hundreds of acorns from the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve. After collection, the acorns were rinsed in a mild bleach solution to reduce infections on the seeds, and then they were chilled for about a month. At planting time, three acorns were placed together to ensure that at least one would germinate and sprout during the winter and spring season. The volunteers staked plastic cone protectors into the ground to shield the planted acorns from animals that might feed on them. Oak tree leaf litter, called duff, was also placed on top of the acorns to add nourishment to the soil.

Volunteers and staff planted at two locations, beginning at DFG’s Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve. Over 100 trees were planted there by the volunteers, including Boy Scout Troop #355, the “Black Dragon Patrol” from Casa de Oro (San Diego-Imperial Council). Scout Sterling Lopez was especially talented at marking GPS points for every tree planted, using a Garmin GPS unit after only a short training by Service  Biologist John Martin. That site was planted in less than two hours, so the remaining six adult volunteers moved to Proctor Valley on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. There, approximately 70 trees were planted on east and south-facing slopes of the valley, just below Mount San Miguel. The volunteers also picked up trash and other debris hidden in the grass.

Wildfires, historic agricultural and commercial use, urban development, illegal off-road vehicle use, and plant pests and diseases all have had detrimental effects on local native habitats such as coastal sage scrub, chaparral, grasslands, and oak woodlands. Some of these remaining native habitats are now located on conserved lands managed by Service and DFG as part of San Diego’s Multiple Species Conservation Program. In restoring these rare habitats, stewardship projects such as planting native trees will allow wildlife to flourish there into the future.

The volunteers were very proud of what they accomplished, and look forward to returning in years to come to see how big the trees have grown, and to enjoy their shade.

Contact Info: Lisa Cox, 619.476.9150 ext. 106, lisa_cox@fws.gov