Ancient Oak Shrub in California Faces Extinction Threat from Proposed Housing Development in Jurupa Valley

Ancient Oak Shrub in California Faces Extinction Threat from Proposed Housing Development in Jurupa Valley

When you think of California’s oldest living organisms, you might picture dinosaurs or the towering redwoods.

Surprisingly, it’s actually a small oak shrub that has been around since the Ice Age.

Known as the Jurupa Oak, this resilient plant is now facing threats from wildfires and a large-scale development project.

The proposed Rio Vista Specific plan aims to bring over 1,600 new housing units right into the Jurupa Oak’s natural habitat.

Environmentalists are alarmed, seeing this as the biggest threat to the tree since the last extinction event around 12,800 years ago.

With an estimated age between 13,000 and 18,000 years, this oak is a living relic from a time long past.

UC Riverside scientist Andrew Sanders described the Jurupa Oak as a living piece of the Ice Age.

Most of this ancient tree is hidden underground, with only its crown visible above.

This crown stretches 90 feet long and 30 feet wide, making it an impressive sight.

The shrub overlooks Jurupa Valley, close to where developers want to build.

Environmental Concerns

The Jurupa Valley Planning Commission, serving a city of 100,000 people, is considering approving the development.

The developer claims they will protect the tree, but environmentalists are skeptical.

Aaron Echols from the California Native Plant Society expressed concerns about the potential damage from increased wildfires and construction activities.

A Unique Organism

The Jurupa Oak is not like other trees.

It regenerates by sprouting new offshoots from burned stumps, creating genetically identical copies.

This raises philosophical questions about the identity of the tree. Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra from UC Davis explained that while new stems may appear, they don’t contain the original tree’s tissue.

Discovery and Age Calculation

Local botanist Mitch Provance first identified the shrub in the 1990s.

It took nearly two decades to determine its age, placing it among the oldest organisms in the world.

Today, the shrub overlooks warehouses and horse trails, frequented by off-road enthusiasts.

Community Voices

Residents, like Jenny Iyer, oppose the development due to the tree’s historical significance.

She described the Jurupa Oak as a global treasure right in their city.

Tim Krantz from the Wildlands Conservancy highlighted the importance of groundwater for the tree’s survival.

The development could disrupt this vital water source.

Developer’s Promises

Richland Communities, the developer, promises to protect the tree by not building within 200 feet of it and keeping construction equipment 259 feet away.

They also plan to donate the land around the tree to a nonprofit, along with $250,000 for its protection.

However, environmentalists remain cautious.

A Larger Crisis

Amidst these local concerns, California faces a growing insurance crisis due to climate change and wildfires.

State Farm recently requested higher home insurance rates or threatened to pull coverage from the state.

This highlights the broader challenges California faces with its increasing wildfire risks.

Endurance and Perseverance

Arleen Pruitt, chair of the Planning Commission, emphasized the importance of protecting the Jurupa Oak, calling it a symbol of endurance.

Tim Krantz added that the tree has survived numerous challenges and continues to stand strong, much like the people of Jurupa Valley, striving to survive in a changing world.


TDPel Media

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