Twin Peaks – Plans for Extensive Trail Closures

Here we go again – the shrinking of our parks by the Natural Areas Program (NAP). Instead of allowing visitors to experience wide natural lands, these plans want to restrict access to a very limited trail system. From these trails, you can look at the natural areas – but not touch or explore them.

It’s happened in McLaren Park recently. Now, San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) is planning major changes on Twin Peaks. Extensive trail closures are planned for Twin Peaks. In the map below, the trails that will be gone are marked in red.

twin peaks trail closures in red

The project was positioned as one that would close half the Figure 8-shaped roadway to cars to make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists by making it a Figure 3-shape. What they didn’t publicize was plans to close most of the trails allowing access to the peaks from various points. They will make the entire south side of Twin Peaks inaccessible.

Instead, there will be only one trail going straight through, a sort of pedestrian roadway. (The solid yellow line.)

HIDING THE TRAIL CLOSURES

On June 25th 2015, SF Recreation and Park held an Open House on the Twin Peaks Figure 8 Redesign. Project Objectives were presented, stated as:

“We will share proposals that address the following project objectives:

• Reallocate a portion of the existing roadway from vehicle use to pedestrian and bicycle use;
• Locate pedestrian crossings to link with trail sections; and
• Recommend realignment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail to cross over Twin Peaks Blvd.”

Notice that there was no discussion on Trail closures as part of these Project Objectives now, in 2015.

However, at a September 24 2013 meeting RPD made a presentation that showed extensive trail closures, along the east guardrail and closure of the two southern lobes. See the third page of the presentation here:

http://sfrecpark.org/wp-content/uploads/Twin-Peaks-Trails-Improvement-Project_PORTOLA-TRAIL_Community-Meeting-Presentation_9-24-13.pdf

This trail closure plan was also part of a handout used at a small May 7, 2015 stakeholder meeting. We strongly suspect these closures remain part of the RPD plan, but they do not want to alert the public. The trail closures, along with the new “Stay on Designated Trails” signage, would effectively close off public access to the south side of Twin Peaks.

SF Forest Alliance feels that NAP is going above and beyond the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP) before the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is even released and approved. They are using the Draft EIR as a decision-making document to decide which alternative to approve. They are putting out the road lane closure as the focus of this and then sneaking in the trail/land closures as part of the deal.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

As usual, SFRPD is being disingenuous. Here is what you can do. Take this Project survey – put up by SFRPD – and let them know you oppose outright trail closures on Park lands.

Hurry, the Survey closes next Friday – July 17th, 2015. Survey link is here:
http://sfrecpark.org/deadline-extended-to-july-17-for-twin-peaks-online-survey/

There is a box near the bottom of the survey where you can write in your comments about trail closures.

Also, please call your supervisor and let them know as well.

 

Saving our Urban Forests – A Small Step Forward

mt davidson understoryThis article is republished from the Death of a Million Trees website with permission and minor edits.

The San Francisco Forest Alliance (SFFA) has announced (see below) the successful conclusion of a year-long process of developing a policy for the management of San Francisco’s urban forest by the city’s Urban Forestry Council (UFC). If you have not been closely following the development of this policy it may be difficult to appreciate the importance of this accomplishment.

Native plant advocates made every effort to prevent the UFC from adopting a policy that would make a commitment to the preservation of the urban forest. As our readers know, native plant advocates want the entire urban forest to be destroyed because it is non-native, so they can attempt to recreate native grassland and scrub that existed at the end of the 18th century, prior to the arrival of Europeans.

NATIVE PLANT ARGUMENTS AND WHY THEY’RE WRONG

Native plant advocates tried several different strategies to make the case to the UFC for the destruction of the forest. This is the sequence of the many bogus narratives they attempted to sell to the UFC:

  • They started with the claim that the forest is diseased and dying and must be destroyed. With the help of arborists and our usual independent research, we were able to disprove this particular story line.
  • Then they claimed that forest health would be improved by radical thinning of the forest. Again, our research was able to prove that mature forests do not benefit from thinning because mature trees are unable to respond positively to increased light and wind. The trees that remain are actually more vulnerable to windthrow because they are not adapted to increased wind.
  • Then they claimed that the forest is dying of drought and must be destroyed to prevent the dead trees from becoming a fire hazard. Again, our research was able to prove that our eucalyptus forest is drought-tolerant and is actually more likely to survive the drought than the native plants which will not precipitate as much fog drip as tall trees. However, the final document contains an erroneous claim that the drought has “serious negative effects to mature trees.” In fact, young trees require more water than mature trees.

In December 2014, after listening to six months of these horror stories, it seemed that the UFC was headed in the wrong direction. Their questions and comments, as well as the meetings we were able to arrange, seemed to indicate they were prepared to endorse the destruction of our urban forest. In January 2015, the first draft of the UFC policy confirmed our worst fears. They endorsed “land conversion” from forest to native grassland and scrub and the use of herbicides to prevent the resprouting of the forest.

PROTECTING THE URBAN FOREST

Having done everything we could to prevent this outcome, we despaired. And then the UFC produced a revised draft in April 2015 which was a 180-degree turn from the first draft. We will never know what turned the UFC around, but we surely had a hand in it. Even if there was some unseen influence operating in the background, our viewpoint was confirmed and vindicated by the final outcome.

The UFC then postponed approval of their document, saying they were waiting for public comments from one of the stakeholders. I presume this delay was requested by the Recreation and Park Department, because the final revision of the document accommodated its so-called Natural Areas Program by stating that “management priorities and decisions for some of the mature and historic tree stands [within the “natural areas”] may be different from management practices for other areas of the urban forest.” However, written comments from the Recreation and Park Department were not visible to us.

We are taking the time to tell you about this accomplishment because we hope you will be encouraged by it. Sometimes the odds seem overwhelmingly against our efforts to save our urban forest. But with tenacity and commitment, it is possible to prevent bad things from happening. We are deeply grateful to those who participated in this successful effort to prevent the development of an official city policy that could have endorsed the destruction of our urban forest.

Much remains to be done. Do not give up hope that we can save our urban forest. Please renew your commitment to our efforts.

————————————————————–

SF FOREST ALLIANCE’S LETTER TO SUPPORTERS

Greetings to SFFA Supporters and Members

This week the Urban Forestry Council of the Dept. of Environment accepted a document now called“Guidelines for Managing Mature and Historic Tree Stands,” which had originally been called “Best Management Practices for Urban Forests.” It was written largely by John Leffingwell of HORT Science who sits on the Council, with assistance from Mei Ling Hui, staff member from Dept. of Environment; John Flanagan, Chair of the Council; and Igor Lacan, who also sits on the Council and works for the San Mateo-San Francisco Cooperative Extension service.

[You can also read it here: draft_guiding_principles_for_mature_and_historic_tree_stands_6_16_15]

The document went through several iterations, starting back with its first draft in January 2015, which followed six months of meetings and presentations in 2014. By April 2015 it had been completely revised and had moved away from its earlier endorsement of restoration ecology and the native plant agenda of destroying blue gum eucalyptus forests. Unfortunately, it was passed including one section called “Competing Land Use Priorities” that provides a disclaimer for the Natural Areas Program to treat its trees differently than other urban forests in the name of “protecting San Francisco’s ‘remnant fragments’ of its original landscape.” That section could, at some later date, be used by Rec and Park as endorsement of their destructive plans in the Natural Areas.

However, there is much in the document that would mitigate against that destruction, including a section called “Protect and sustain iconic forest stands.” This section argues that our mature and historic tree stands “are character defining features of the city that provide unique experiences to those who enjoy them” and should be “protected and managed for their cultural and social benefits to residents and visitors.” Their importance is “evidenced by community groups formed around the protection and management of these sites” [Note: that would probably mean the SF Forest Alliance and Concerned Citizens for the Maintenance Alternative.] Although this document may not sound important, it is. It will be used as a guideline by the Urban Forestry Council whenever issues or plans related to the urban forests are brought before them. Potentially, the Board of Supervisors might refer to it as well when there is an appeal of the EIR for the Natural Areas Program’s management plan.

It took a year’s worth of volunteer hours from SF Forest Alliance leaders who attended meetings, made comments and presentations. Additionally, others, including Dr. Joe R. McBride and members of the Hills Conservation Network made presentations before the Council supporting our point of view.

We see it as a small step in the right direction.

Thanks for your continued support!

San Francisco Forest Alliance

STAYING IN TOUCH

1) We encourage you to visit our Blog at SFForest.net. Enter your email address as the top right (“sign me up”) in order to receive our updates directly to our email.

2) If you’re on Facebook, please “Like” our page www.facebook.com/Forest Alliance. We currently have 424 “likes.” Help us to take it over 450!

3) We can be reached at this email address: sfforestnews@gmail.com

We welcome your interest and support!

Roundup Reclassified as Tier I – SF Dept of Environment

A few weeks ago, we reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) had found that Roundup (glyphosate) was “probably carcinogenic.” It’s the herbicide the Natural Areas Program (NAP) uses most, either by the name Roundup or the name Aquamaster. The chart shows glyphosate use as olive green bars. (NAP is a program of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department – SFRPD)

We were interested in how San Francisco’s Department of the Environment (SFDoE) would respond to this finding. They regulate what pesticides may be used on city property, including the Natural Areas.

NAP Herbicide use by active ingredient 2014SFDoE called a public meeting in response. They have reclassified glyphosate from Tier II (more hazardous) to Tier I (most hazardous).  We received notes from someone who attended and found it encouraging. This is based on those notes, and is not a comprehensive report on this meeting.  It focuses on issues the observer considered important.

—————————–

NOTES FROM THE JUNE 2015 INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT MEETING

by a Concerned Citizen

This meeting drew a huge crowd.  I’d say there were 100 people in the room.  Chris Geiger [of the SFDoE] asked how many people were employees of public land agencies.  Most were.  When he asked how many people were “concerned citizens,” fewer than 10 people raised their hands.  I did not see Lisa Wayne [who heads NAP] nor any NAP gardener.

Chris Geiger said the meeting was organized in response to the recent categorization of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of WHO.  He said the purpose of the meeting was informational as well as to consider the question of how the city’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy should respond to the new classification.  In that regard, Geiger announced that the city has reclassified glyphosate as a Tier I pesticide (most toxic).

The presentation was made by Susan Kegley, Ph.D. Chemist and Executive Director of Pesticide Research Institute.  She is the author of the risk assessments of herbicides for Marin Municipal Water District and California Invasive Plant Council.

[Read the presentation HERE: sfe_th_kegley_sf_ipm_glyphosate_7-2-15 ]

Dr Kegley described the process used by IARC of WHO to classify pesticides.  Usually, they publish a monograph which details all of the studies they reviewed in making their decision.  In this case, they have yet to publish the monograph and so much of what Dr Kegley said was speculation about what studies they used to reach their decision.  Based on the studies she summarized, the evidence of glyphosate causing cancer in humans is “limited” but the evidence of glyphosate causing cancer in laboratory rats and mice is stronger.

The most significant thing that Dr Kegley said was one of her last slides when she expressed her opinion of an appropriate policy reaction to the WHO classification.  Basically, she said that landscape decisions should be re-evaluated with the goal of reducing the need for herbicide use.  Her final recommendation was one she uses in her own garden, that is, to create shade in the garden which suppresses weed growth.  (The obvious example of that strategy is TO QUIT DESTROYING THE TREES THAT CREATE SHADE.)

[Edited to Add: Another observer present at the meeting drew our attention to an important point in Dr Kegley’s presentation – that glyphosate was present in the urine of 44% of tested subjects in European Union countries where glyphosate-tolerant crops are not grown. In the US, the percentage would likely be considerably higher because of the greater use of glyphosate.]

An employee of SF’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) demanded that the IPM program tell the PUC they must continue to use glyphosate because he can’t deal with weeds without it.  He was disruptive and behaved inappropriately.  Mr Geiger asked him politely to “stand down.”  This employee illustrates how the use of pesticides is in the hands of irresponsible public employees.

Natural Areas Program pesticide notice - Roundup on fennelMr Geiger then asked employees of public lands to explain what they are using glyphosate for.  Kevin Woolen of SFRPD described his efforts to reduce herbicide use by SFRPD.  He sounded responsible and convincing.  Good public relations for SFRPD.

A concerned citizen asked an excellent question about climate change.  Basically she asked why herbicides are being used to kill non-native plants that are better adapted to the changed climate and asked if it is still realistic to try to re-establish native plants that may not be adapted to the changed climate.

Mr Geiger invited Peter Brastow [of the “Office of Biodiversity” in the SFDoE] to answer that question.  Mr Brastow said that there are many “microclimates” in San Francisco and that in some of those microclimates, it is still possible to maintain native plants.  He claimed the city is not trying to establish native plants everywhere, but he claimed that native plants will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future  because “evolution does not happen in our time frame.”

—————————–

OUR OBSERVATIONS

We thank the observer for that report.  We are pleased that glyphosate has been reclassified as Tier I; we have been asking for this for some years.

More importantly, we ask that NAP stops using herbicides in the Natural Areas.  Trying to kill off the plants that grow naturally in order to introduce others that have difficulty surviving in our city is a waste of resources and a poor reason to add toxins to our wild lands. We are pleased that Dr Kegley focuses on alternatives to using herbicides. We suggest that in Natural Areas, the best alternative is – let them be.

Incidentally, Mr Brastow is wrong; evolution happens all around us all the time. We’re reminded of the talk by Dr Scott Carroll at the Commonwealth Club last year. Evolution is visible in the bugs that develop resistance to antibiotics, in the weeds that develop resistance to herbicides, and even in creatures that evolve to adapt themselves to newly available natural resources.

Drought-Adapted Eucalyptus NOT Dying by the Thousand

This is a recent post from SutroForest.com, republished with permission and minor edits. We think it is important because the allegation that tens of thousands of eucalyptus trees are dying can be used as an excuse for forest destruction.

Jake Sigg, retired San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) gardener who is considered the doyen of the Native Plant movement in San Francisco, has a widely circulated email newsletter. In it, he has been pushing the argument that thousands of eucalyptus trees in San Francisco are dying of drought, as evidenced by epicormic growth on these trees: “2015 is the year of decision, forced upon us by 20,000 to 30,000 dead trees.” He is suggesting they will be a fire hazard and that SFRPD act, presumably by cutting down the trees. In a recent post, he published a picture of a tree covered in young blue-green leaves, and predicted it would be dead within a year.

But he’s mistaken.

Eucalyptus trees are drought-adapted, and the shedding of mature leaves followed by sprouting of juvenile leaves (epicormic sprouting) is one of their defense mechanisms. These trees survive in areas far drier than San Francisco, where fog-drip provides an important source of summer moisture.

2015-05-27 ab eucalyptus with epicormic growth wordEUCALYPTUS RESPONSE TO DROUGHT

Eucalyptus trees are adapted to drought. They shed mature leaves and twigs so they don’t lose water through transpiration (the tree version of breathing, which takes place mainly in the leaves.) Later, they can replace the lost branches and leaves through “epicormic sprouting.”

Blue gum eucalyptus trees have buds buried deep under their bark. When the tree is stressed, they may shed adult leaves and later sprout new leaves along their branches. When you see a eucalyptus tree that seems to have shaggy light bluish-green new leaves along its branches or trunk – that’s epicormic sprouting.

Here’s what Jake Sigg said in a recent newsletter: “According to arborists, the trees produce these abnormal shoots from epicormic buds when their lives are seriously threatened. In this case, the tree is expected to be dead by the end of 2015. On Bayview Hill, barring heavy unseasonal rain, hundreds of the trees will be dead this year. Yet the City continues to not see a problem.”

We asked UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus Joe McBride and California’s leading expert on eucalyptus for his opinion. He’s observed this condition in trees along the edge of the Presidio forest and explains, “This response is common in blue gum as a mechanism to reduce transpiration rates in order to survive drought years.”

He continues: “I am not convinced that the trees will die in large numbers.

bayview-hill-2010 smTwo girdled trees

THE GIRDLED TREES OF BAYVIEW HILL

As an aside, we find it ironic that Mr Sigg should be so concerned with dead trees on Bayview Hill, given that’s where nativists girdled hundreds of healthy eucalyptus trees to kill them.

(This is done by cutting around the tree, thus starving it of nutrients that are carried only in the outer layers of the tree-trunk.) It’s clearly visible in the two photographs here, both taken on Bayview Hill.

EUCALYPTUS ADAPTS

Eucalyptus globulus thrives in Southern California, Spain, Portugal, India – all places hotter and drier than San Francisco. In fact, one of the reasons eucalyptus is so widely planted – including in climates both hotter and drier than in San Francisco – is that it adapts to a wide range of conditions. Here’s a quote from R.G. Florence’s textbook, Ecology and Silviculture of Eucalyptus Forests:

florence quote

From p.121 of the same book: “… they regulate their water usage in hot dry summers by closing their stomata [breathing pores in the leaves] during the day and lowering their rates of gaseous exchange. They adapt by their elastic cell structure to water stress.”

EPICORMIC SPROUTING IS IMPORTANT IN EUCALYPTUS

Mr Sigg describes “how to identify a dying blue gum” as follows: “Look for trees with thinning foliage and copious juvenile leaves (called coppice shoots) hugging the main stems. These coppice shoots are easy to see because of their blue color and tight clustering, as opposed to the adult leaves, which are 6-8 inches-long, dull-olive-colored and sickle-shaped and which hang from the ends of long branches. These coppice shoots are the give-away that the tree is in trouble and is destined to die soon…” (He later corrected “coppice shoots” to epicormic growth.)

But again, this is not actually true.

In fact, epicormic sprouting allows eucalyptus to survive not only drought, as described above, but even fire. The epicormic sprouting grows into new branches to replace the ones that have been damaged in the fire. This is from Wikipedia: “As one of their responses to frequent bushfires which would destroy most other plants, many Eucalypt trees found widely throughout Australia have extensive epicormic buds which sprout following a fire, allowing the vegetative regeneration of branches from their trunks.[4][5] These epicormic buds are highly protected, set deeper beneath the thick bark than in other tree species, allowing both the buds and vascular cambium to be insulated from the intense heat.[4]”

(The references are: [4] “Effects of fire on plants and animals: individual level”. Fire ecology and management in northern Australia. Tropical Savannas CRC & Bushfire CRC. 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2010. [5] “Learn about eucalypts”. EUCLID – Eucalypts of Australia. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research. Retrieved 27 December 2010.)

And sometimes, dead branches and leaves and epicormic growth don’t even indicate stress – it’s part of the normal growth cycle. R.G. Florence’s book on eucalyptus says: the “mature crown of a eucalypt maintains itself by the continual production of new crown units, which die in turn. There will always be some dead branches in a healthy mature crown.” He goes on to say an “undue proportion of dead branches is an unhealthy sign” but a “reasonable proportion of death of crown units should be accepted as normal.” He also discusses the “epicormic shoots from dormant buds on the top and sides of the branch develop into leaf-bearing units of the mature crown.” (p.13) Eucalypts go through stages of development that include extensive self-thinning, particularly in younger trees. (p. 194)

Another reason for epicormic sprouts on eucalyptus is increased light. From Wikipedia, with references: “Epicormic buds lie beneath the bark, their growth suppressed by hormones from active shoots higher up the plant. Under certain conditions, they develop into active shoots, such as when damage occurs to higher parts of the plant or light levels are increased following removal of nearby plant. Epicormic buds and shoots occur in many woody species, but are absent from many others, such as most conifers.” [The Wikipedia article references the Encyclopedia Britannica.]

We have seen these epicormic sprouts in eucalyptus trees around the clubhouse in Glen Canyon after many trees were removed.

epicormic sprouts on eucalyptus when nearby trees removed

We also saw them on Mount Sutro near where 1,200 trees were removed for “fire safety.”

MISTAKING DEFENSES FOR DEATH THROES

In summary, then, epicormic sprouting does not indicate that the tree is near death. It may indicate that the tree is responding to drought (or even to other stresses like pesticide use or damage to its root systems) with defensive measures. It’s like declaring that everyone who has a fever is bound to die of it. The trees below are the same ones featured in the picture at the start of this article – one year later, they’re surviving, not dying.

Epicormic sprouting on eucapyptus 2014In some cases, epicormic sprouting may indicate nothing at all, except that the tree is going through a normal growth phase, or changed light conditions following removal of nearby trees.

LIVING WITH A FEW DEAD TREES

We asked Dr McBride if it made sense to cut down these trees. “I do not think the city would be justified in cutting trees down as a fire prevention action,” he says. “Cutting down drought-stressed trees at this point would be much more costly, sprouting would be difficult to control without herbicides, and the litter on the ground would have to be removed to decrease the fire hazard.”

“The problem as I see it is the accumulation of leaves, bark, and small branches on the ground. This material presents a serious fuel problem when it dries out sufficiently.” However, he points out that “In many eucalyptus stands in San Francisco the eucalyptus ground fuel (leaves, bark, and small branches) seldom dries to a point that it can be ignited because of summer fog and fog drip.” In dry areas, the best course is to “launch a program of ground fuel reduction by removing the litter from beneath eucalyptus stands.”

The eucalyptus-tree nest hole of the red-shafted flicker - San Francisco. Janet Kessler

Eucalyptus-tree nest hole of red-shafted flicker – San Francisco. Copyright Janet Kessler

A few trees may indeed die, with the drought or without it. If you think of a forest as a normal population, you expect to find some trees that are in thriving and some that are hanging on, and some that are dying – just like in any population. And dead and dying trees are very valuable to wildlife: They’re more likely to have cavities that are suitable for nesting (and are easier to excavate for woodpeckers and other cavity-building species). They also have bugs that come to feast on the decaying wood, and that’s bird-food.

A Rare Walk in Idyllic Threatened Forest – Sharp Park, Pacifica

Recently, the San Francisco Forest Alliance organized a walk in Sharp Park for a small group of supporters. Not on the familiar historic golf course; this was on the freeway’s other side, in the woods around the San Francisco Archery Range. Sharp Park is where the Natural Areas Program seeks to cut down 15,147 trees.

0 checking the map for the threatened trees

It was a rare opportunity. San Francisco Archery Range is an active range, open 365 days a year, dawn to dusk with bows and arrows in use. Safety can be an issue for walkers; no one wants to be punctured. It’s managed by an all-volunteer group, San Francisco Archers.  This walk coincided with a volunteer day, when no shooting was going on. (The Archers maintain the entire space through volunteer efforts.)

1 uphill trail in SF Archery range

In addition, Jim Robison, president of the group guided us through the trails – all of which have targets – and explained how to stay safe. For visitors, it’s critically important to sign in at the sign-in sheet beside the clubhouse, and then to follow the trails exactly as marked, with no back-tracking. No pets are allowed, even on leash. (The Archers are neutral on the issue of the trees, but have very strong views about range safety.)

2 Along the trail - lakeThe trail led uphill under the trees via a series of shallow wooden steps. Above us on the right, there was a steep forest hillside. On the left, we could see a small lake through the shrubs. It was a lovely sunny day, which was nice for a walk but yields some washed-out photographs…

3 Sharp Park Archery range trailAcross from the trail, another hillside was covered in trees. Further along, we got a clearer view of the lake. It’s made by damming a seasonal creek. On the left of the picture below, you can see the earthen dam covered with greenery.

All the water in the lake now comes from the watershed created by the hills and forest around. Before, it used to come from a cistern that has since been filled in, and formerly provided water to the golf course. Now the golf course gets water from other sources, and this lake is used by wildlife. It’s also, apparently, red-legged frog habitat.

4 Lake and trees in Sharp Park

We walked down past the lake on a little improvised bridge that crossed the creek, and up under the trees on the other side.

5 Target along trail - Sharp ParkAll along the trails, little markers indicated where archers should stand to aim at the targets backed by hay bales. The Archers do all the maintenance on the range, using volunteers and the funds raised from their members. They use no pesticides on the range. Recently, they called in arborists to trim tree branches that had become hazardous, as in the tree in the picture above.

This is the kind of maintenance that SF Forest Alliance strongly favors – dealing with hazardous trees where they could endanger people or property as a top priority.

5a Trees on opposite hillside

The beautiful green forest opposite climbed up the slope toward the ridge, a lovely sea of trees. There are no official trails into much of that forest, though some social trails do exist. Past the lake, the trail broadened into a shaded area with a picnic table, a green-painted wooden hut, an old outhouse with sun and moon tin appliques, and another target. Jim explained that the hut was used for refreshments during major tournaments, but the outhouse was an antique and nailed shut. They weren’t legal any more; instead, they had porta-potties.

antique outhouse Sharp Park

We turned onto a pathway that followed the old pipeline. It took us deeper into the forest, which was ever more idyllic. It was hard to believe that we were only minutes from the city, or that just over that ridge, there was Skyline College.

6 Along the old pipe trail in Sharp ParkThe ground was springy underfoot, and the whole place showed no signs of drought. Even the little lake, which depends on natural water, was quite full. Pacifica is foggy, and no doubt the trees had been harvesting the moisture from the fog and dripping it on the vegetation below.

7 Idyllic forest in Sharp Park archery range

8 forest wildlife habitat  in sharp park archery range

The area abounds in wildlife. We heard a lot of birds as we went through, hiding in the trees and bushes. On another visit, we saw rabbits and quail. Jim said the quail had raised two clutches of chicks this year. He also said there were deer, coyotes, and also bobcats. He described watching a mother bobcat teaching her kitten to hunt gophers, waiting for one to emerge and snagging it with a quick swipe of its paw. He knows of red-shouldered hawks and red-tailed hawks nesting in the area, as well as great horned owls. People think there may be mountain lions, too; they are known to range just over on the other side of the ridge, near Crystal Springs.

9 where the old tank was in Sharp Park Archery RangeThis is where the old cistern was filled in. It’s invisible now under wildflowers and shrubs.

10 meadow in the woods in Sharp park archery rangeWe ended our walk in a small meadow. Beyond, the trail was overgrown and we were running out of time; there was a meeting at the archery club-house at noon.  We hope that the trees will be saved; they are critical to the habitat and the ecology of the area. No herbicides are currently in use. There are large areas of undisturbed vegetation providing denning and nesting sites. We felt privileged to have had an opportunity to see this amazing place.

The San Francisco Forest Alliance plans more such walks in beautiful natural places, accompanied by people familiar with the area. If you would like to join us, please make sure we have your email address. (You can email us at SFForestNews@gmail.com ) We’ll be notifying our entire list.

WHAT TREE-CUTTING IS PLANNED?

Even though Sharp Park is in Pacifica, in San Mateo County, it is owned by SF Recreation and Parks Department, and has become part of the so-called “Natural Areas Program” (NAP). So converting this forested area into scrubland is part of their Plan – the “Significant Natural Resource Area Management Plan” (SNRAMP or “Sin-Ramp”). It calls for cutting down 15,147 trees.

In the idyllic areas we’ve described above,  they plan to remove three-quarters of the trees and encourage the rest to die out. It’s currently a deeply forested canyon east of the archery range, a true wild land and haven for wildlife. The long-term plan for it is “fewer trees and more scrub.”

Here’s the plan (based on a map from the SNRAMP – click on it to make it larger). The red numbers refer to tree removals – in most places, 75% of trees; in a few, 50%; and in some areas where there are few trees now, most of the existing trees.

snramp - sharp park- plan A

We strongly oppose this action. Aside from the beauty of the place, and the undisturbed wildlife habitat that would both be destroyed, we think it is environmentally irresponsible. Trees sequester carbon; eucalyptus, with its dense wood, its size, and its 400-500-year life-span, is particularly effective. In foggy areas, it captures moisture from the fog and drops it on the ground below, allowing for a dense damp understory that fights drought and resists fire. It cleans the air, especially fighting particulate pollution, by trapping particles on its leaves that eventually get washed onto the ground. It stabilizes hillsides with its intergrafted root system that functions like a living geotextile. And SNRAMP would require the use of large quantities of poisonous herbicides to prevent resprouting of the felled trees – herbicides that are likely get washed down the hillsides and into surface and ground water.

Pacifica actually has an ordinance prohibiting logging (removing more than 20 trees in a year). NAP’s answer to that is to see if the ordinance applies, and if it does, to try to get permission.

Signs of Annoyance – Natural Areas Program

Recently, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) spent an estimated half-million dollars on signage, most of which listed various Don’ts (though ironically, they start with “San Francisco Recreation & Parks Welcomes You”). All our parks and open spaces are peppered with them. Many park users, who earlier had no idea that the Natural Areas Program (NAP) was designed to restrict access and usage, are upset. They’ve started “fixing” the signs. Someone sent us these pictures:

Natural Areas Program fixed sign

The sign has been “edited” to warn people of toxic pesticide use and wryly note that most of the park is off-limits except to staff and supervised volunteers.

Of course, we have been talking about toxic pesticides, but here’s a recent picture. Roundup (glyphosate) has been identified as “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization.

Natural Areas Program pesticide notice

Here, it’s been used to destroy (non-native)  fennel, the pleasant-smelling feathery-leaved plant that is, incidentally, the host plant to the Anise Swallowtail, a beautiful butterfly that happens to be native.

Anise swallowtail butterfly breeds on fennel

In fact, as the altered sign below points out, nearly all the plants you see in San Francisco – including the grasslands NAP is ostensibly seeking to protect with its use of herbicides – are non-native. They still add to the beauty of the landscape, the greenery of our parks, and provide habitat for wildlife from insects to birds to mammals. The herbicides do nothing but poison these plants, leaving space for the next most aggressive plant to move in – most likely also non-native.

Fixed sign - whats wrong with Natural Areas Program

War on Nature in the SF Bay Area

Our readers are aware of the horrible plan to destroy up to 450,000 trees in the East Bay Hills, and use powerful pesticides in huge quantities to prevent regrowth. There’s an effort on to get the word out with this poster.

mini poster War on Nature -1This poster is available here and can be printed out (8.5 x 11) as a PDF file here: 450k trees in danger-e-print Please help spread the word!

[Edited to Add: Here’s the same poster without the trim marks: 450k trees in danger-e-1 – you can print out either one.]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 508 other followers