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SLO County passes oak ordinance to protect woodlands

Greta Mart/KCBX
An oak woodland near the Monterey/San Luis Obispo county line.

It’s been several months since the Wonderful Company and its Justin Vineyards clear cut an oak woodland forest on its land near Paso Robles. That clear-cutting touched off a furor of public outcry, and prompted San Luis Obispo County officials to enact a temporary ban on oak cutting.

On Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a permanent oak ordinance designed to prevent such large-scale oak felling in the future. 

San Luis Obispo County Planner Megan Martin said at Tuesday's hearing, the board made a few grammatical changes to the ordinance approved by the county’s planning commission in February.

The board also approved an extension of the interim ordinance in place since last summer. That interim ordinance will sunset when the permanent oak ordinance goes into effect on May 11. 

“The new oak ordinance is a kind-of a cleaned-up version of our urgency ordinance. So it prohibits cutting of oak woodlands on slopes greater than 30 percent,” San Luis Obispo County Planner Megan Martin said. “It is specific only to oak species, as defined by our ordinance. [And] it provides for a certain number of exemptions.”

It also lays out penalties should landowners violate the proposed law.

“There is a penalty up to $25,000 per violation. But that violation is defined by the courts; it’s not defined by the county,” Martin said. “And so it could be per tree, it could be per could be per acorn."

The complete ordinance and all relevant documents can be found on the county's website.

Martin says the county will be hosting several community outreach meetings in the coming weeks, planned to help landowners learn the details of the new oak ordinance and how it affects them.

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