Project overview: Collaborate with the park’s affiliated tribes to plant, prune and tend black oak trees in Yosemite Valley, simultaneously restoring habitat and traditional stewardship.

How your support helps: For generations, Native Americans planted and tended California black oaks in Yosemite Valley. Active stewardship, which included planting acorns and careful burning, helped reduce pests, promote seedling growth and keep the trees healthy. Black oaks hold significant ecological and cultural value, and their acorns provide nutritious food for people and wildlife.

When Yosemite’s first stewards were forced out of their homeland, however, their traditional practices went with them — and in the absence of their care, the health of black oaks in the park has declined.

Now, the seven tribes affiliated with Yosemite are working with the National Park Service to bring their knowledge and techniques back to the oak woodlands. This work is steeped in a sense of urgency: Past Conservancy-funded work found that most of the Valley’s remaining black oaks are older trees, and few saplings are taking root. For traditional oak-tending techniques to continue, they must be practiced and regenerated.

With your support, park crews will work with representatives from all affiliated tribes to gather and plant acorns, prune tree limbs, and reduce potential fire fuel, using traditional techniques whenever possible. Meanwhile, park educators will teach the public about tribal stewardship and the cultural value of black oaks. In addition to saving a biologically and culturally significant tree species, this project honors and restores the role of Yosemite-area tribes as leading stewards of the Valley’s oak groves, and ensures park staff and the public can learn about and from traditional ecological practices.

Project partners: Yosemite National Park, Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS), U.S. Geological Survey – Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, and Yosemite’s affiliated tribes: the American Indian Council of Mariposa County (aka Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation), Bishop Paiute Tribe, Bridgeport Indian Colony, Mono Lake Kutzadikaa, North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California, Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, and the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians.

Erin Dickman

Vegetation and Ecological Restoration, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

“California black oak is a cultural keystone species for associated American Indian tribes and its groves are a fundamental element of the landscape in Yosemite Valley.”