The following letter was submitted as a Letter to the Editor to the Sierra Club Yodeler in response to an article which appeared in that newsletter about the Natural Areas Program (NAP) in San Francisco.
The Sierra Club rejected it for publication — they are clearly unwilling to present an opposing point of view. Please also take a look at Sierra Club cranks up the smoke machine for further discussion of the subject.
I wish to challenge the accuracy of some of the information presented in Steven Chapman’s article “San Francisco Natural Areas Plan in peril” in the October-November issue of the Yodeler. Mr. Chapman states: “Most of the trees in the designated natural areas will remain where they are… In certain critical areas (such as small patches of Mount Davidson), the plan calls for limited tree removal.”
These statements are not accurate.
According to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), fully one-third of the urban forest on Mt. Davidson is slated for conversion to a “Pacific reed grass prairie scrub mosaic.” Since “coastal scrub and reed grass communities require additional light to reach the forest floor in order to persist” approximately 1,000 out of 1221 small and medium-sized “invasive” trees will be removed from Management Area (MA) 1c. That’s 82% of the trees in that area. Approximately two hundred out of 644 “invasive trees” (31%) will be removed from MA-2c. Approximately 300 small to medium-sized and 100 large “invasive” trees out of 1726 (23%) will be removed from MA-2e. That’s a total of 1600 healthy, mature trees in the 10.2 acres that form the heart of the Mt. Davidson Forest. (See attached map)
Steven Chapman accuses a “small but vocal group of tree advocates” (i.e. the San Francisco Forest Alliance) of “campaigning loudly against any tree removal in any park, anywhere in the city.” This is not true. I have attended several community meetings organized by the SF Forest Alliance. They advocate the immediate removal of all hazardous trees and fault the Recreation and Park Department for not acting sooner in some cases.
Every meeting of the SF Forest Alliance has been attended by a large number of concerned citizens, usually numbering in the hundreds. Over 3,000 San Francisco residents have signed their petitions. At one neighborhood meeting a petition asking the Sierra Club to reconsider their support of the Natural Areas Program was signed by 28 Sierra Club members. The West of Twin Peaks Central Council, an organization representing 20 neighborhood associations in the Mt. Davidson area, also submitted a letter to the Environmental Review Officer of the SF Planning Commission, opposing the implementation of the 2005 Significant Natural Resources Plan Project.
Mr. Chapman states that this “small but vocal group” has “exaggerated the envisioned amounts of tree-removal, and promulgated disinformation about the scope and objectives of the plan, wildly accusing advocates of ecological restoration of wanting to revert the entire park system to its former “wasteland” of dunes and scrub.” The Natural Areas encompass 870 acres, approximately one-fourth of the city parkland in San Francisco. The SNRAMP plan proposes to cut 3500 healthy, mature trees in San Francisco city limits, plus 15,000 trees in Sharp Park. The SF Forest Alliance opposes the SNRAMP proposal to convert 70 of the 185 acres of existing forest in the Natural Areas to grassland or scrub in the name of “habitat restoration.” These forests are not remnant areas but are critical to forest dwelling wildlife, air quality, carbon sequestration, buffering of wind, rain, and sun, and the health and well-being of urban dwellers. Trees are the “lungs” of a city and necessary to make cities livable for people and wildlife.
Mr. Chapman states that there are “some people who object to the use of any herbicide.” He does not mention the increased use of Tier I (Most Hazardous) and Tier II (More Hazardous) herbicides to prevent “invasive” plants from re-establishing themselves: Garlon, Roundup, Imazapyr, Aminopyralid. (See the Herbicides section of the sfforest.net website for statistics.) All of these chemicals have been associated with serious health problems in animal and human populations. The DEIR does not specify how much pesticide will be used to maintain any of the “Natural Areas.”
Finally Mr. Chapman speaks of the “countless public meetings’ that preceded the issuance and approval of the management plan. Not one of those meetings took place on Mount Davidson, even though, if the DEIR is approved, Mt. Davidson will be more impacted than any other ‘Natural Area’ in San Francisco. In fact the Miraloma / Mt. Davidson neighborhood association was not informed about the SNRAMP plan until the Planning Department sent them the Initial Study Notice for the SNRAMP in 2009.
I have been an active member and strong supporter of the Sierra Club for more than 40 years. This is the first article I have seen in the Yodeler about the effect of the Natural Areas Program within San Francisco city limits. (There have been many articles written about Sharp Park, where the Sierra Club supports the elimination of 15,000 ‘invasive’ trees to save an endangered frog and snake.) It’s time to open up this issue to debate within the entire Bay Area Sierra Club membership.Jane Risk Sierra Club National Outings leader