The Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council received the 2013 Greenwood Award for outstanding contributions to our regional environment. Karen and Richard Greenwood presented the award to us at the Idyllwild Earth Fair on May 23. We are very grateful for this recognition.

In line with the spirit of the award, we continue to cope with the threat to our oaks posed by the Goldspotted oak borer.

Executive Director Edwina Scott organized a “Training of Trainers” program to enable local volunteers to train others in identifying infected trees, which took place last Thursday at the Mountain Resource Center. The well-known team of Tom Scott and Kevin Turner of the University of California Cooperative Extension from UC Riverside conducted the training.

The in-depth training covered signs of GSOB in oaks. Infection symptoms discussed were smaller and fewer leaves, a reduced canopy and fading color, as well as stains and exit holes.

Jim Taylor, a participant, said afterward that the most valuable aspect of the training was the encouragement to step back from a focus on GSOB exit holes and look at the general health of the tree, since diminished vitality is the first indication of the borer.

Participants were MCFSC volunteers Doris Lombard, Ron Perry and Taylor, along with MCFSC staff Pat Boss and Don Patterson; Erin O’Neill, Garden Club; Ron Krull, U.S. Forest Service volunteers; and Jonathan Fengler, local CAL FIRE office, which is managing the GSOB tree data base and can remove trees if needed.

Lombard wrote in a thoughtful email that she was “impressed with the enduring passion both Tom Scott and Kevin continue to bring to the campaign to bring GSOB into control.” She also pointed out that “a cutting-edge study is unfolding in our community”, and Scott and Turner “are providing up-to-the-minute publications, postings on the website — information designed both for the layman as well as for those who want a more comprehensive scientific treatise on the GSOB.”

Lombard also wrote that the UCR team “have taken it upon themselves to train an ever-expanding network of involved citizens, who in turn effectively reach out to other interested citizens.” It is this network of informed citizens we all hope will be a key to stopping the spread of the oak borer.

A final note on the shock of losing a good friend and colleague, Tom McCullough, who died after elective neck surgery Monday, May 27, in an LA Hospital. McCullough was an early Woodie volunteer who soon became a board member, and then our treasurer. It was also my good fortune to work with hm on the Pine Cove Water District Board, where he served as president.

I am sure my thoughts about McCullough are shared by others who knew or worked with him. He was exceptionally smart, as you would expect from a former mathematics professor, but he had the character to match his wits. He was reliable, diligent and unshakably honest. He had the rare skill of being able to ask the tough questions in a supportive and collegial manner. He was also a delight to work with, partly because of his great sense of humor, and partly because he believed you could work with people to get good things done.

We will cherish his memory.