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Tree would be the oakie dokie

A bill proposed Jan. 14 in the state Legislature would designate the Garry oak, quercus garryana, as the state's official oak tree.

Such recognition will support local efforts to protect Garry oak groves and to replant and restore them, the bill states.

Senate Bill 5105 was referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Ocean and Recreation, whose chairman is Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.

It was sponsored by Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, and co-sponsored by Sens. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, and Joe McDermott, D-West Seattle.

Jacobsen and Haugen also introduced the same bill during the 2007 Legislature.

The Garry oak is the only native oak tree in Washington and British Columbia, Canada, and the principal one in Oregon.

It also is called white oak, post oak, Oregon oak, Brewer oak or shin oak.

Its scientific name was chosen by David Douglas to honor Nicholas Garry, secretary and later deputy governor of the Hudson Bay Company.

The trees are identified as a "locally significant" biological species in Sequim's comprehensive plan.

A grove of 26 trees was studied by an arborist as part of the original Oak Grove Townhomes project along Fifth Avenue between

the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center and the Boys & Girls Club.

In March 2006, Sue Clary's fifth-grade class at Greywolf Elementary School gave a presentation to the Sequim City Council about the Garry oak seedlings they had planted the previous fall.

The tree is listed by the state as a "Priority 2 Plant Community," but that provides no legal or regulatory protection according to the Sequim comprehensive plan, which also states the tree is "significant and indigenous to Sequim's distinctive climate" and should be preserved where feasible and when it doesn't endanger city or county residents.

According to SB 5105, less than 5 percent of Garry oak ecosystems in Washington remain in a near-natural state.

The remaining areas are threatened due to habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation due to invasions of exotic species as well as agricultural, industrial and urban development.

Some of the massive trees may be more than 300 years old and have been important to people since the earliest habitation, the bill states.

It continues, "Aboriginal people tended the Garry oak ecosystems, using fire and cultivation as management tools. The edible bulbs of camas and other species were the focus of the plant harvest.

"European explorers and settlers were attracted to the aesthetic qualities of the oak landscape."

Brian Gawley can be reached at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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