In Defense of Oak Trees…

We have arrived at the one-year anniversary of the devastating Woolsey fire. There is a lot of talk about vegetation management going forward.

The Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority (MRCA) has put out a questionnaire to all residents asking whether a $52 tax per household is acceptable. They explained how they would likely use the funds. I wish to add one simple note to the long years of discussion. Consider the fire-resistant properties of our resilient coast live oaks (quercus agrifolia). How about more oak trees?! 

Topanga was once a continuous forest of coast live oaks before settlers began removing them. They saw only wood, fuel and tannins. Oak trees compete with home building in the foothills throughout California, a favorite location for development and the place where oaks prefer to grow. We are losing them very rapidly.

My family and I are lucky enough to have some 30 oak trees surrounding our backyard. I am thankful every day for the mature vegetation which has evolved to resist fire. Our trees are so dear to me that I have names for many of them. I visit them daily to check on their health. I plant and encourage young trees because a healthy forest has different-aged trees. I figure that even when I’m gone, the older trees will succumb to new pests, draught, and old age. Younger trees fare better, except during wildfire. 

Some residents indiscriminately destroy oak saplings, sometimes to preserve a mountain view. Hogwash, I say. The real view is among the trees and under their canopy. On a hot day, it’s the place I prefer to be. Live oaks are weed-whacked, scalped, and mutilated. Line-clearing crews haul away valuable oak mulch to the dump. These valuable trees are not appreciated in the way they should be, especially by newcomers who find their sharp leaves and falling acorns irritating. 

I am very much in favor of the MRCA acquiring more wildland for preservation. It is our only hope for wildlife, including wild trees, in these overcrowded mountains. Along with vegetation management the MRCA also has firefighting crews which all require funding.


How can we be sensible about managing native vegetation instead of denuding and altering the beautiful and rare biodiversity?

Manage the wild land gently.

Leave those manicured gardens back in Brentwood. Plant Oak Acorns. Nourish these trees and they will reward us a thousand generations over.

Several groups, including SkyValley volunteers in Chatsworth, along with local efforts by the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM), have developed programs to “promote healthy stewardship” of the local mountains, principally parkland. That means promoting and preserving more oak stands.


John Lukor and Wendi Gladstone have orchestrated the planting of thousands of oaks near the Santa Susana parkland (

It’s a privilege to witness the vigorous work and teaching of Rosi Dagit, Sr. Biologist of the RCDSMM. Trained as a marine biologist, she has taken up the cause of oak preservation for many years and volunteers are needed (


By Megan Williams


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