Another Draft Environmental Impact Report, another threat to trees. Now we’re no longer counting in thousands or tens of thousands. This time, it’s hundreds of thousands.
In the East Bay, there are three inter-related plans to cut down nearly
500 thousand eucalyptus and other trees on nearly 1500 acres of land.
Three owners/ land managers are involved:
- University of California at Berkeley (
54,000 trees on 284 acres)
- City of Oakland (23,000 trees on 126 acres);
- East Bay Regional Parks District (409,000 trees on 1,060 acres).
They would use Garlon to prevent resprouting (which would require thousands of gallons of this very toxic herbicide), and glyphosate (Aquamaster or Roundup) to discourage the growth of non-native plants. The first two projects plan to remove all the non-native trees in the project areas. The third plans to “thin” the trees to about 60 trees per acre, removing around 90% of the trees on the project area, and using prescribed burns in addition to pesticide.
You can read about this plan and the tree removal calculations HERE.
WHAT THEY HOPE AND WHY IT WILL FAIL
The plan is described as ‘fuel reduction’ to lessen the fire hazard. In fact, is likely to have the opposite effect.
- Wind speeds will rise since the wind breaks provided by the trees would be gone.
- With the trees and shade gone, finer fuels like grasses and shrubs will grow instead.
- The loss of shade and the moisture harvested from the fog will make for a drier, more fire-prone landscape.
- The felled trees will be left in place, contributing dead wood to the fuel load.
The plans intend to encourage the growth of native plants – but doesn’t provide for planting or tending them. They assume that the existing seed banks and seeds from adjacent areas will grow there. Actually, it’s more likely that blackberry and broom and other fast-growing non-native species will take over. If some of this acreage does become oak-bay woodlands, as the land managers hope, there’s another problem: Sudden oak death, which is spreading through California and could provide dead trees as fuel.
ENVIRONMENTAL BLIGHT AND WASTED MONEY
The Plan will be a blight on the environment.
- The trees will no longer store carbon; instead, they will be releasing thousands of tons of it into the atmosphere.
- Thousands of gallons of toxic herbicides will be spread over the East Bay.
- Prescribed burns will further affect air quality, and could get away and cause wildfires and serious damage.
- Erosion and landslides could occur on steep slopes when the tree roots no longer stabilize the slopes.
The plan is to fund the first two projects, and about a third of the East Bay RPD project, from FEMA grants. This takes money that’s needed to respond to or avert actual serious disasters and uses it for a doomed Native Plant conversion project.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Sign a Petition. The Hills Conservation Network has a petition up; the button will take you to the petition.
- Contribute. Hills Conservation Network are also raising funds for potential legal action. If you would like to contribute, their website is HERE and includes a Paypal button.
- Speak at public meetings. FEMA will host three public meetings in Oakland, and taking public comments. Two are on May 14, 2013 (at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.) at the Richard C. Trudeau Center, 11500 Skyline Boulevard Oakland, CA 94619. One is on May 18, 2013 (at 10 a.m.) at Claremont Middle School, 5750 College Avenue Oakland, CA 94618.
- Comment on the DEIR. FEMA has published the Draft Environmental Impact Report for these projects, and will accept comments until June 17th, 2013. That is available HERE; it’s a long document. The Executive Summary is quite short – and telling. It’s here as a 16-page PDF: Executive+Summary-East Bay You may submit written comments in several ways:
- Via the project website: http://ebheis.cdmims.com
- At the public meetings listed above
- By email to EBH-EIS-FEMA-RIX@fema.dhs.gov
- By mail: P.O. Box 72379, Oakland, CA 94612-8579
- By fax: 510-627-7147
[Edited to Add: Further analysis showed the number of threatened trees to be “only” about half a million instead of the 900,000 reported earlier. This article has been updated where needed to show the revised calculations.]