Protect Our Oaks

It has been recently discovered that Justin Vineyards and Winery, a subsidiary of the Wonderful Company, has illegally removed hundreds of old oak trees and graded hundreds of acres of land.  It is believed that the grading of this land was done in order to expand its water reservoir capacity primarily for its wine growing operation in Paso Robles, in North County San Luis Obispo.

The Wonderful Company’s tree removal has sparked outrage and calls for a county-wide oak tree protection.  There has been a rekindled love of San Luis Obispo’s native plant community and specifically its oak trees.  Oak tree protections exist in numerous cities and counties throughout the State.  The Valley Oak and the Coast Live Oak are native to California and must be protected as part of a healthy and native plant community.

In 2003, the Native Tree Committee of San Luis Obispo County completed its management plan regarding Oak woodland.  In its opening statement, the committee finds that, “farming, ranching, and grazing operations can be compatible with oak woodland conservation.”

As of 2010, the City of San Luis Obispo has had an ordinance in place which describes that purpose and process of tree-removal.  Dead trees pose a hazard to people and the environment in terms its potential to fall and its potential as fuel for fires.  While the city of San Luis Obispo has this ordinance in place (as does Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, and Paso Robles), the county of San Luis Obispo does not have an ordinance in place.

Pro-active protection and management of oak trees is crucial to their prosperity.  Monterey County is just one example of an oak tree management plan that could be used as a model for San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo County is home to a number of plant and animal species.  Among these species are its oak trees:

  1. Coast Live Oak (Quercus Agrifolia)                  left
  2. Valley Oak; or “Roble” (Quercus Lobata)       right

Recent news:

  • In July of 2016, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a provisional emergency oak protection ordinance, valid for 45 days. See the ordinance here.
  • In August of 2016, the Board of Supervisors voted to extend Ordinance No. 3325 for eight months, until April of 2017. The Board will reconvene on April 11th, 2017 to determine if they will make the ordinance permanent.
  • This article from Paso Robles Daily News shows the difference in the land from 2015 to today. It also details the stop-work order that was issued by the local Water District.
  • The corporate interests of the Wonderful Company do not end in Paso Robles.  The Resnick Family is a majority stakeholder in the Kern Water Bank.
  • The Resnick Family has recently donated the land that they clear-cut and graded.  This donation comes after the damage has been done and after a couple weeks of bad press.