Oak Woodland Wildlife Stewardship

What does stewardship mean to you?

To me, stewardship means protecting something that you love. I can be a good steward by looking, not touching or taking, when I’m in nature. 

                                —- Vineyard Elementary School 4th grade Oak Ambassador Emory

San Luis Obispo County’s oak woodlands are more than just a pretty view. Healthy oak ecosystems help clean the air and water, cycle nutrients, develop soils, prevent soil erosion and provide habitats for more than 300 vertebrate species + more than 600 invertebrate species. The rich diversity of animals that depend on oaks for food and shelter makes stewardship of our oak woodlands that much more important.

Whether you are a landowner or someone who lives among the oaks, you have a stake in the conservation and stewardship of oak habitats. Below, you’ll find resources to help you learn about oaks, land and wildlife. Oak woodlands are full of life and wonders to discover.

Get to know local oak woodlands

It’s easy to love oaks! They are magnificent trees, full of wonders. To be a good steward requires not only love for the oak woodlands but also knowledge and understanding of the oak ecosystem’s workings.

University of California Oaks is a great place to begin learning about local oak woodland wildlife.  You’ll find many fasinating and helpful resources there to help you become a good steward. San Luis Obispo County, especially the North County from Santa Margarita to Paso Robles, is where you’ll find some of California’s most beautiful and rich oak woodlands.

Caring for animal homes among the oaks

Habitat is the scientific word for an animal’s home. Habitat must provide food, shelter, water, and space to move around. The specific requirements for each of these habitat components are different for each species. To dig into oak woodland wildlife and habitat relationships, go to the University of California Oaks page (hyperlink above/see Oak Woodland Wildlife under Resources). Visit the LATO Wildlife Camera Project photo galleries to see local wildlife living among the oaks. The young mountain lion (R photo) is one example.

When people destroy oak woodlands, they destroy homes for countless animals. We hope that by getting to know more about these animals and their habitat needs, you’ll want to participate in and/or support oak woodland stewardship.

Helping mighty oaks grow

To address problems with oak regeneration, Learning Among the Oaks (LATO) volunteers are involved in planting and caring for oaks at each of the LATO field sites/nature trails. In 2019, we worked with US Fish and Wildlife, volunteers and partners (Templeton Heritage Tree Foundation, ONX Winery) to complete an oak understory restoration project at the Vineyard Elementary School Nature Trail (photo R). Girl Scouts of the Central Coast have helped with similar projects at the Santa Margarita Ranch LATO Trail. See the volunteer page if you’d like to help with future planting and care projects.

Featured oak woodlands tour

The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo works cooperatively with local landowners to conserve and care for oak woodlands. This is very important because more than 80% of California’s oak woodlands occur on privately owned land, mostly utilized for ranching.

The video shown here provides a look at the Fitzhugh Family’s Hill Ranch located along the Highway 46 West corridor. You will see some of the area’s most beautiful oak woodlands and get a glimpse of ranch life among the oaks. Through the use of a conservation easement, the Hill Ranch and its oak woodlands are permanently protected.

How can you support conservation of San Luis Obispo County’s oak woodlands?

Donations to The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County help support the conservation and stewardship of local oak woodlands. Through the use of conservation easements with private landowners and, in some cases, acquisition, The Land Conservancy permanently protects and cares for these lands for the benefit of people and wildlife now and into the future.