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.]
[Webmaster: Thanks, Caryl. The article you’ve linked, by Ted Williams, suggests that eucalyptus forests do not support birds (“In the eucalyptus grove to the west we met perfect silence, a scene from Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” in which the “sedge is wither’d from the lake and no birds sing”). It’s almost completely wrong… and perhaps reflects his own strong biases. Eucalyptus forests (such as Sutro Forest) are full of birds, and over 40 species have been seen in *one* season. We refer you several articles on SutroForest.com:
1. Eucalyptus myths
2. A forest full of birds
3. Another Eucalyptus Myth: Bird Death (via Audubon)
While Ted Williams may be a respected birder, we prefer to believe the evidence of our own eyes and ears. Eucalyptus trees in San Francisco are used by birds as small as Brown Creepers and Pygmy Nuthatches and western bluebirds, and as large as Great Horned Owls, Redtailed Hawks, and Double-crested Cormorants. The trees flower in winter and provide a crucial food source for bees, other insects, and birds.]
The EIS is a good one. It will lessen the risk of damage that happened in 1991 when about 25 people died and there was more than 2 billion dollars in damage. The opponents are exaggerating the environmental effects. The result of the work would make the area more beautiful than ever.
[Webmaster: Thanks for commenting! We’re concerned with saving lives, too, as are others. We just don’t believe these Plans will actually do that.
Among the opponents of the East Bay Plans are those who lost property and loved ones in the 1991 fire. They have been studying the issue for years, and have concluded that the Plans will add to fire danger, not mitigate it. They have clear recommendations for reducing fire hazard, and those don’t require cutting down hundreds of thousands of trees. They consider the EIS to have serious weaknesses. The Hills Conservation Network’s newsletters contain detailed recommendations for hazard reduction and removing the most flammable vegetation. (The Winter 2013 newsletter, for example is HERE as a PDF file.)]
You are not proposing a solution that will be funding. By delaying you are putting lives at risk. The plan might not be exactly what you want, but it is a good plan and will get things done. We need action before more humans are killed.
[Webmaster: It’s not a good plan, it’s a dangerous plan. Rushing in and doing the wrong thing because of fear will only make it more likely that humans get killed – because instead of doing those things that actually reduce the risk, funds get diverted to things like this Plan that increases the risk by substituting more flammable vegetation and fine fuels that carry the fire up to populated areas. In addition, there are the huge amounts of toxic pesticides that will be used for *years* on steep slopes. Getting this done is much worse than doing nothing.]
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Of course, eliminating non-native “gasoline trees” is a good idea. Who would oppose it if they had all the information? Best, D
[Webmaster: Because “gasoline trees” is an epithet that conveys prejudice and misinformation? Because eucalyptus isn’t more flammable than any other tree? Because the replacement vegetation will be *more* flammable than the forested areas? Who could *support* it if they had all the facts?
And in fact, they don’t support this dangerous and anti-environmental plan; as of now, its opponents have some 5750 signatures on their petition, while the petition in support has a tenth that number.]
Rushing in and doing the wrong thing because of fear will only make it more likely that humans get killed – because instead of doing those things that actually reduce the risk,
I actually haven’t seen anything credible on these advocacy sites that actually credibly – using empirical evidence – that shows in a reality-based way how this is “the wrong thing”. Just saying.
[Webmaster: We’re not sure what empirical evidence you need. Would it help to know that fires typically start in brush and grassland, and those fires move faster? Or that live eucalyptus isn’t particularly flammable? Or that Roundup is toxic and Garlon even more so?]
We’re not sure what empirical evidence you need. Would it help to know that fires typically start in brush and grassland, and those fires move faster? Or that live eucalyptus isn’t particularly flammable?
Any empirical evidence that shows grass fires are more severe than eucalypt fires, grass and brush have more fuel than eucalypt stands, and so on.
[Edited to remove flame-material and snips.]
[Webmaster: Right, but that wouldn’t be the point, would it? The objective of the fire mitigation is to prevent fires that will affect homes and other structures. The homes themselves are more flammable than trees, and so is grass and scrubland. We’re linking a New York Times picture that demonstrates this point. The danger is that there will be more frequent fires once the trees are removed, and that the fires will be a greater threat to homes.
“It is estimated that no more than 3 percent of the recent 2007 fires…occurred in forests…the remaining 97 percent occurred in lower elevation shrublands and urban areas, burning native shrublands such as chaparral and sage scrub, non-native grasslands and urban fuels…” (Statement by Jon E. Keeley, USGS, before agencies of the US Senate, 2007)”
We have to suspend this discussion owing to time constraints, but can return to it next month.]
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