Sonoma County Sudden Oak Death (SOD)-related tanoak and coast live oak mortality has dramatically increased over the last two years, with 23% of the County's at-risk forests currently infested. Of the 75,000 acres impacted by SOD, 39% is new die-off mapped in 2007.
Focusing on disease biology, spread, and treatment, as well as potential fire hazards associated with SOD mortality, Sonoma's two Sudden Oak Death Program coordinators facilitated 21 community meetings, reaching over 900 residents in the past year. Media coverage has also been extensive with 14 local print and radio stories since March 2007. Additionally, SOD funding issues have been incorporated into the Sonoma County 2008 Legislative Program, meaning the County will support SOD funding legislation at the state level.
In early January, the coordinators will present a Sudden Oak Death Strategic Response Plan to the County Board of Supervisors. This plan presents the current and possible future impacts of SOD on land management agencies within the County and lists estimated costs of mitigation activities over the next few years. Funding needs for the first year are estimated at $3.3 million: $2 million for fire fuel mitigation activities and $1.3 million for tree removals and treatment, education and outreach, developing a hardwood fuel model, mapping the infestation, and funds for fire departments. The strategic plan is intended to bring attention to the increase in pathogen spread, the expense of removing hazard trees, and the potential for increased fire risks associated with heavy mortality.
Fire Safe Sonoma's "Sudden Oak Death Mitigation and Defensible Space Project," funded by a grant from the Bureau of Land Management, has recently gotten underway and will be active until May 2008. Funds will be used to help homeowners in SOD-impacted areas with costs related to creating or maintaining 100 feet of defensible space. Fire Safe Sonoma anticipates that the program will remove a tremendous amount of fire fuels as well as provide a model for administration of SOD tree mitigation funds.
- reprinted from the California Oak Mortality Task Force December 2007 report.