The Natural Areas Plan for Mt Davidson: a Walk with Jacquie Proctor

Most people have no idea that the Natural Areas Program calls for cutting down 1600 trees on Mt Davidson.

Jacquie Proctor, the historian of Mt Davidson (who quite literally wrote the book on it), led a tour there last Saturday, to show people what was planned and where. About 40-50 people attended.  The most frequent comments we heard were “Can they do that?” and “Why would they?” and “I live here and I had no idea!

She started with the history of the mountain – and then the map of NAP’s plan. It plans to clear-cut a huge swath through the forest, right down to the road. (Click here to link to an article with a video with the details, and here for an article from the West Portal Monthly.)

This would expose the remaining trees to the strong winds we get in this area, and more trees would be lost to wind-throw. Trees under 15 feet tall wouldn’t count as trees and would be removed at will. The number 1600 is large enough; the actual losses will be higher.

In fact, the native plant people have already been at work here. A number of trees have been killed by being “girdled” — bark is cut away all around the tree so it starves to death. The most visible one is the Murdered Tree of Dead Tree Point.

We walked up to the Cross, which Jacquie fought to save when there was a legal challenge against it. (The Atheists said it was mixing church and state. The City compromised by selling 1/3 acre under the cross to the Council of  Armenian-American Associations.) All the trees to the right of the cross in this picture would be felled.

As the group went down to the little plateau behind the cross, she explained that most of the trees they were looking at would be killed.

We continued on through a lush forest… and Jacquie pointed that many of the trees were slated for destruction. This was part of the planned clear-cut.

Further on, there was a broad gash through the forest. It’s nicknamed “the ski jump.” The PUC built a new pipeline there. Native plant interests prevailed on the PUC to move its pipeline away from the existing route (which ran through a patch of scrub) and instead run it through the forest. It reportedly doubled the cost of the pipeline from $300,000 to $600,000. It also cut down a whole lot of trees, which the Native Plant interests consider a bonus.

Further on, we encountered more girdled trees. The one at the center of this picture is dead, still reaching for the sky. This other one has been girdled near its base, and still clings to life. But it’s dying.

We emerged  into an area called The Boneyard. It’s lined with dead trees.
In addition to felling trees (or girdling them so they die, or driving in nails of poisonous metals to kill them), they also want to block many of the trails. And pesticides are being used, to kill non-native plants.

It’s not to kill poison oak as some had hoped – poison oak is native, so they’re fine with that. The only compromise is they’ll remove it from beside the trails… and too bad if you explore off-trail. You’re not allowed to do that.

And this tree was near the exit as we left… it had a pink ribbon tied to it. Will it be gone by the next time we visit? Maybe.

Most of the people who attended the walk signed the petition.Very few of them had any idea this was happening. Some had wondered about the forest growing thinner and sparser over time, but didn’t know why.

Jacquie knew. “Everything dead you see? Very little of that is natural. It’s the NAP or their volunteers killing things.”

If you’d like to stop this desecration of the mountain – please help spread the word.

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4 Responses to The Natural Areas Plan for Mt Davidson: a Walk with Jacquie Proctor

  1. Jim Thurston says:

    Excellent write up of the most informative walk. It is imprportant to remember that the Natural Area Protection folks already have almost the entire East side of the mountain to develop. The forest adds a beautiful diversity to the mountain. Thank you Jacquie for a terrific tour! Jim Thurston

  2. john kennedy says:

    I walk to Mt Davidson more than once a week. I understand that the trees are not native but this is shocking to me. I’d like to learn what their vision is for the alternative.

    Webmaster: The management plan for the Natural Areas Program provides the following explanation for destroying the trees on Mt. Davidson and the long-term vision of what will replace them: “In order to enhance the sensitive species habitat that persists in the urban forest understory and at the forest-grassland ecotone, invasive blue gum eucalyptus trees will be removed in select areas. Coastal scrub and reed grass communities require additional light to reach the forest floor in order to persist.“

    The hills of San Francisco had no trees on them prior to the arrival of Europeans. They were covered with grassland and dune scrub. That is, therefore, the goal of the Natural Areas Program.

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