The Cambrian

Cambria Forest Committee to hold meeting stressing importance of planting Monterey pines

Rick Hawley demonstrates how to plant a Monterey pine tree during a middle school field trip to Strawberry Canyon.
Rick Hawley demonstrates how to plant a Monterey pine tree during a middle school field trip to Strawberry Canyon.

Plant, baby plant!

Greenspace founder Rick Hawley says Cambria needs to “plant, baby plant” to keep its Monterey pine forest healthy. He’ll speak at the Jan. 9 meeting of the Cambria Forest Committee, 6:30 p.m. at Rabobank.

A healthy forest stabilizes the ecosystem and allows the entire watershed to filter and retain water naturally. The Monterey pine forest is a natural way to sequester carbon. Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere, moderating greenhouse gases and fighting climate change. Research on human health finds that spending time in the forest lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.

Monterey pine is a rare species, with only a few natural sites left. Cambria can keep its forest healthy by replacing trees that die or are taken down for other reasons.

Hundreds of trees have been planted in Strawberry Canyon, Fern Canyon and the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, but the need to plant trees is ongoing. Hawley, currently property manager for Greenspace’s 15 properties in Cambria, says not enough Cambrians are doing that.

“Hardly anyone is calling Greenspace to buy replacement trees,” he said.

Greenspace grows Monterey pine seedlings and can provide them to the property owner. Greenspace can also plant the trees for the property owner on one of its protected properties.

He will address the complex issues that affect forest health, including soil health and mycorrhizae, the symbiotic relationships that form between fungi and plants. The fungi colonize the root system of a host plant, providing increased water and nutrient absorption capabilities while the plant provides the fungus with carbohydrates formed from photosynthesis.

“What goes on under the soil is as important as what we see growing on top,” he said.

Greenspace also leads an Environmental Education Field Program at Santa Lucia Middle School.

Hawley takes sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders out into the Monterey Pine forest for enriched education.

He served as a founding member of the statewide Pitch Canker Task Force, which included scientists and public policy experts from universities, agencies and the private sector, in addition to being a past member of the California Oak Mortality Task Force. He helped organize the fight against pitch canker and sudden oak death (SOD) and their devastating effects in California.

He is a founding board member of the San Luis Obispo Fire Safe Council and the Cambria Forest Committee. He also served on the boards of the Planning and Conservation League and the Land Ethic Action Foundation and has been a member of the San Luis Obispo County Water Resources Advisory Council.

Cambria Forest Committee meets the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Rabobank. Meetings are free and open to the public. Visit the Cambria Forest Committee, at and Greenspace at for more information.