We had a wonderful Goldspotted oak borer  kick-off lunch this past Friday. The Fire Safe Council, with fantastic (and delicious) help from the Pine Cove Water District, sponsored a beautiful outdoor lunch behind the Mountain Resource Center to thank the volunteers who search the community for trees the Goldspotted oak borer infects. 

In addition to thanking the volunteers, it also was a time to update our knowledge, and UC Riverside experts Kevin Turner and Tom Scott spoke to the group and led a very helpful discussion of current knowledge and experience regarding the pest.

For those of you unfamiliar with the GSOB, it is a non-native beetle that showed up in San Diego County a decade ago and has devastated its oak population. Since the beetle cannot cross deserts on its own, the consensus is that it traveled to San Diego on trucks carrying infected firewood.

It was identified in a dead oak in Idyllwild in November, 2012, and the community — UC Riverside, Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service, FSC and Garden Club — was quick to act. Thus far, 32 black oak trees have been identified and confirmed as infested and have been removed.

Our community is in the frontline concerning this destructive beetle. We are all hoping that early detection of infested trees and their removal will contain the spread and save our black oaks. (Black oaks are its principal target up here; live oaks are targets at lower elevations.)

Losing our black oaks would be a catastrophe for the mountain communities, since they are such an important part of the biological community and provide shade and beauty to many homes.

Stopping the spread up here has two components: keeping infected firewood off the Hill and identifying infected trees before the beetles can mature and fly to other trees. Our success will depend to a large extent on public awareness and involvement. Not buying oak firewood from off the Hill, and helping to spot infected trees, are essential public actions to protect the oaks.

Not buying oak has been a theme for a while, especially aided by Garden Club signs. But everyone also can help by simply paying attention to the black oaks around you and notice any that did not produce leaves this spring. If you do see an oak without leaves, please call the GSOB hotline at 951-659-8328 and someone will come out to check the tree.

Given the early identification of GSOB up here, both Turner and Scott believe we have a good chance of limiting the spread. Scott told us he brags around the state about our volunteers and overall community support in fighting the bug. He believes we are the model to stop the pest. Let’s prove him right.

On a happier note, I am pleased to announce that the Town Hall meeting I had hoped for is going to happen at 6 p.m., Thursday, June 26, at Town Hall.

And we are very pleased that key fire chiefs will be present to speak and answer questions from the public. We will have Chief John Hawkins from Riverside County Fire, Chief Dan Felix from our district Forest Service, and Chief Patrick Reitz from Idyllwild Fire. This is a great opportunity to meet and engage these important public officials on all fire-related issues.