In the picturesque Cienega Canyon Preserve in San Timoteo Canyon, squirrels and deer, and a variety of birds and insects, rely on the oaks in the area for food and shelter. But over the last 12 years, more than half of the oaks have died or are in poor health due to drought, pests and pathogens.
Now, it’s up to the community to help them survive.
Riverside Land Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of open space, habitats and agricultural lands, recently held an acorn planting event to help restore these lost oaks.
Candice Gantt, a senior project manager at Southern California Edison, was among nearly 75 volunteers who attended the event, which was funded in part by a $25,000 grant from Edison International, parent company of SCE.
“It was a treat to talk about the importance of trees with my little ones as we planted trees,” said Gantt, who volunteered with three of her children — ages 7, 9 and 17 — and a family friend. “It’s one thing to talk to them about the importance of trees at home and another to plant a tree with them.
“Regardless of who we are and where we live, we share the same earth,” she added. “It’s important for all of us to do our best to protect its resources.”
More than 100 acorn planting sites were planted across an acre of the preserve in one day. Each site consisted of weed mats and protective screens to give the oaks their best chance at survival. The conservancy estimates that about 30 to 40 percent will survive to grow into mature oak trees, giving animals their food and shelter back.
Nicole Stutzman, land steward at the Riverside Land Conservancy, believes it’s this hands-on experience in nature that is the most impactful.
“When the community is directly involved in a project in the reserve, it helps us tell the story of why conservation is important,” she said, “but more than that, they get to see it with their own eyes and directly be a part of it and see how their efforts have made an impact.”
Gantt noted that the acorn planting event continues Edison’s commitment to the environment and the communities it serves.
“Without the support from our corporate sponsors such as Edison, we would not be able to make the impact that we make both in the habitat we restore but also in our community,” said Stutzman.