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Tag: Oak

Upper Rogue Oak Initiative in the Rogue Valley Times

Conifers encroach on an oak tree at Cascade Ranch near Lake Creek east of White City at a site slated for restoration as part of a project known as the Upper Rogue Oak Initiative. Several agencies and organizations are collaborating on a six-year, $13 million project to thin conifers and take other action to aid oak habitat and improve ecosystem health while reducing wildfire risk. Lomakatsi Restoration Project

On February 23rd, Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network was featured in the Rogue Valley Times. You can view the original article written by Shaun Hall here.

$13-million initiative seeks to restore 3,650 acres of oak habitat to aid ecosystem health, reduce wildfire risk

A $13-million effort to restore health to oak tree habitat in the Lake Creek area east of White City and near the Table Rocks north of Medford is in its second year.

So far, the thinning of conifers that were competing with oaks has taken place on about 200 acres near Lake Creek and on 100 acres near the Table Rocks. The community of Lake Creek is located about 12 miles east of White City, near the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

The work, known as the Upper Rogue Oak Initiative, is due to take place on 3,650 acres — nearly 6 square miles — of private and public land, all but 250 acres of it near Lake Creek. Partners include state and federal agencies, along with conservation organizations, functioning under an umbrella group known as the Klamath Siskiyou Oak Initiative.

The project is slated to take six years to complete.

An estimated 25% of historic oak habitat remains in the Pacific Northwest, according to Jaime Stephens, conservation director for the Ashland-based Klamath Bird Observatory, one of the project partners. The work is intended to restore degraded oak habitat, lessen wildfire danger and support wildlife, including birds whose populations are declining.

The work tasks include brush reduction and low-intensity ground fires, along with the reintroduction of native grasses and plants, in an effort to leave behind a landscape more resilient to fire, insects, disease and climate change.

“We’re looking to create a forest that would burn at low severity,” Stephens said Wednesday, after one of the project partners, the Lomakatsi Restoration Project of Ashland, posted updates about the work. Stephens said the project will benefit “wildlife and people.”

About half of the forest-dependent birds in the West are in decline, according to a news release from the observatory.

“This sobering statistic has sounded the alarm that landscape-level conservation actions are needed now more than ever,” according to the news release. “Restoration will remove conifers that are crowding oaks, use prescribed fire where feasible, reduce noxious weeds and reestablish a native understory.”

Indigenous people once used fire that benefited oaks, but the removal of those peoples, followed by encroaching farms, ranches and development and the advent of wildland fire suppression has led to conifers and non-native plants taking over some oak areas.

“Historically, regular burning as part of indigenous stewardship maintained cultural landscapes of oak conifer forests, woodlands and savanna in a more open state, enriching natural resources and biodiversity, and enhancing the structure and quality of critical food and fiber resources,” according to the observatory. “Following European settlement, many oak habitats were converted for agriculture or urban development. Decades of fire suppression during the latter half of the 1900s have allowed less fire-resistant yet faster-growing tree species, such as Douglas-fir, to encroach upon and displace oak trees.”

According to the organization, oak ecosystems support more than 300 vertebrate species.

Lomakatsi, an Ashland-based forest and watershed restoration organization, recently highlighted some of that work in a social media post.

“Restoration treatments will decrease the density of conifers and shrubs that have advanced from years of fire exclusion,” according to the organization. “Partners will also seed native species into treated areas, focused in the blackened footprints of burn piles to support the fresh growth of native plants and reduce the likelihood that non-native plants might establish and spread.”

The restoration work is expected to protect the oaks from unnaturally severe wildfires. Planned treatments include ecological thinning to reduce conifer encroachment and the density of surface and ladder fuels around large, legacy oak trees. That work sets the stage for the reintroduction of carefully applied low-intensity fire and controlled pile burns. Oak restoration also includes the removal of noxious weeds and seeding the understory to establish healthy populations of native forbs and grasses that provide habitat.

Funding for the work includes $7 million awarded two years ago from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board using Oregon Lottery revenue. It also includes $2.78 million from a U.S. Department of Agriculture program known as the America the Beautiful Challenge, plus $3 million in matching funds and donations.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is one of the partners. Oak habitat benefits birds, deer and elk, according to an agency statement.

“Oak habitat loss is a major threat to wildlife species in Oregon including Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-throated Gray Warbler and game animals such as deer and elk,” the agency said in a November 2022 news release announcing the America the Beautiful funding.

A Decade of Collaborative Oak Restoration Highlights 2011-2023

The Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion is a globally significant biodiversity hotspot and area of conservation concern, with some of the most extensive remaining oak ecosystems in the western United States. Oaks here are most threatened by conifer encroachment, fire suppression, agricultural development, incompatible grazing practices, non-native species, and severe fire. 

The Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network (KSON) is a regional collaboration between local agencies, tribes, and non-profit organizations that works to conserve oak ecosystems on private and public lands in southern Oregon and northern California. Since 2011, KSON partners have accomplished thousands of acres of strategic ecological restoration to enhance oak habitat, build climate resilience, bolster cultural resources, and reduce wildfire risk to the ecosystem and communities. This handout highlights the power of collaboration and a decade-plus of successful oak habitat restoration. 

KSON Oak Success Story PDF

NEWS RELEASE: Oak associated bird community benefits from restoration, new paper shows

NEWS RELEASE: December 2, 2020

CONTACT: Jaime Stephens, Science Director, Klamath Bird Observatory

Oak ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest are highly biodiverse and host more than 300 vertebrate species; yet a significant proportion of historic oak ecosystems in the region have been lost, and most remaining habitat is in a degraded state. Songbirds that are closely associated with oak ecosystems have experienced concerning declines, which is one of the reasons why research and restoration in oak habitats are priorities in our region.

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Free Publication Informs Oak Habitat Conservation on Private Lands


October 12, 2015

Contact: Jaime Stephens,, (541) 944-2890 or
John Alexander,, (541) 890-7076

Oak Guide on Private Lands Cover Image (72ppi 5x6)

A document authored by Klamath Bird Observatory and Lomakatsi Restoration Project provides guidance for private landowners interested in implementing oak habitat restoration on their land. The document, entitled Restoring Oak Habitats in Southern Oregon and Northern California: A Guide for Private Landowners, emerged from a collaborative project involving a suite of private and public conservation partners, including the Bureau of Land Management (Medford District), US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Klamath Basin Audubon Society, Oregon State University, American Bird Conservancy, and Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network.

Historically oaks were widespread throughout the valleys and foothills of Oregon and California. However, the arrival of Europeans to the region in the mid-1800s marked the beginning of a period of decline for oak habitats and their associated wildlife. Many oak woodlands were converted for agricultural uses or urban development, and decades of fire suppression during the latter half of the 20th century has allowed less fire-resistant yet faster growing tree species, such as Douglas-fir, to encroach upon and displace oaks. Now, the majority of remaining oak habitats occur on private lands. Private landowners are thus presented with an opportunity to restore healthy, wildlife-rich oak ecosystems to the landscape and thereby leave a valuable legacy for future generations.

The new landowner guide focuses on conservation practices for Oregon white oak and California black oak habitats. The document begins with an overview of the importance and history of oak habitats and then provides life history information for the oak species of the region. The guide next provides detailed oak restoration guidelines for achieving desired conditions in oak stands, such as diverse habitat structures, large oak trees, and the presence of snags, downed wood native shrubs and perennial grasses. The guide also includes supplemental resources for private landowners, including a list of organizations that will assist with private lands restoration as well as step-by-step instructions for monitoring birds to track the return of native wildlife following oak restoration activities.

This accessible, attractive, and informative guide is available for free download on the Klamath Bird Observatory website (click here). Funding for this project came from the Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management, a Toyota TogetherGreen grant managed by Klamath Basin Audubon Society, and the Rural Schools and Community Development Act.


Klamath Bird Observatory, based in Ashland, Oregon,  is a scientific non-profit organization that achieves bird conservation in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the migratory ranges of the birds of our region. We developed our award-winning conservation model in the ruggedly beautiful and wildlife-rich Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California, and we now apply this model more broadly to care for our shared birds throughout their annual cycles. Emphasizing high caliber science and the role of birds as indicators of the health of the land, we specialize in cost-effective bird monitoring and research projects that improve natural resource management. Also, recognizing that conservation occurs across many fronts, we nurture a conservation ethic in our communities through our outreach and educational programs.