GUEST POST: Death of a Million Trees
Jake Sigg is the most well known native plant advocate in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a gardener in San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department for decades. He was the leadership of the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society for years and is still active in it. He was equally active in the California Invasive Plant Council.
He published a blog called “Nature News” since 2011, in which he announced many nature-related events and expressed his opinion on a wide range of topics, some only tangentially related to his primary interest in the preservation of native plants. His October 30, 2013 edition of “Nature News” was the last he posted to his blog. He said, “This is the last posting to this blog, based on lack of feedback from it, and from the notices I have posted in last two weeks. Keeping it up takes too much work for me. I began it in hopes of making life easier for me, but it has had the opposite effect.” Back issues of his blog are still accessible here.
Jake Sigg continues to write his “Nature News” but now its distribution is to an email list of 2,400 people. His blog says that people can ask to be added to his email list.
Sorry to see it go
We were saddened by the loss of ‘Nature News’ as a source of information. We often try to engage native plant advocates in a dialogue, but they are rarely willing to speak with those with whom they disagree. Therefore, reading Jake Sigg’s “Nature News” was one of the few ways we could learn what was on the minds of native plant advocates. We often reported to our readers what we learned from the “Nature News” blog because it was available for anyone to read and verify what we were reporting. Here are a few examples of our articles about Jake Sigg’s viewpoint as expressed on “Nature News:”
- Jake Sigg’s opposition to all forms of immigration.
- Jake Sigg’s dire predictions of the impending apocalypse.
- Jake Sigg accuses critics of the Natural Areas Program of lying, but refuses to be specific.
- Jake Sigg defends the spraying of herbicides in public parks.
Bay Nature honors Jake Sigg
Bay Nature is a quarterly magazine about nature in the Bay Area, as its title implies. Perhaps to commemorate the end of Jake Sigg’s publically available “Nature News” they have published an interview with him about his publication. You can read the entire interview here.
We were primarily interested in Jake Sigg’s strange explanation for why he started “Nature News:”
Nature News started in 2002 by accident, when I started an email group to inform people about upcoming public meetings concerning San Francisco’s threatened Natural Areas Program.
In 1997 the National Park Service began to crack down on dogs running off-leash at Fort Funston, but evidently they did so too suddenly, which set off a backlash by the off-leash dog activists, who became an organized force. They attacked not only the National Park Service but the Recreation and Park Department’s infant Natural Areas Program (NAP) as well, telling community groups that the NAP was going to fence off their neighborhood park and people couldn’t use it anymore–and people actually believed this. By the time we found out about it the damage had been done, and we are still suffering from it”
We have heard Jake Sigg say many times that all criticism of the Natural Areas Program comes from dog owners who are concerned about the loss of their recreational access that has been the result of native plant “restorations” all over the Bay Area. Fort Funston is just one of many areas in which recreational access has been restricted by these “restorations.” However, we were flabbergasted that Jake Sigg continues to believe that this is the only issue.
We will let a commenter on the Bay Nature article about Jake Sigg’s interview speak for the critics of native plant “restorations” in the Bay Area. His list of the many reasons why these projects are controversial looks fairly complete to us:
“The contentious nature of the discussion of San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program seems intractable. Jake Sigg illustrates why it remains so contentious when he continues to say that opposition to the program comes solely from dog owners. Unfortunately, that demonstrates that he hasn’t been listening for ten years. Thousands of people have questioned the program for many reasons, including:
1. Loss of thousands of trees that people like in their neighborhood parks.
2. Use of toxic pesticides to kill non-native plants in public parks.
3. Lack of success. Repeatedly restored areas rapidly become weedy messes.
4. Green areas are deliberately turned into areas that are brown and dead-looking for more than half the year.
5. Loss of public access when fences are erected around native plant gardens and recreational access is restricted to trails in public parks.
6. Loss of habitat and food resources for wildlife.
7. Loss of thousands of tons of stored carbon. The carbon released when large trees are destroyed will never be reabsorbed by the grass and scrub that replace the trees.
8. The misrepresentations of the Natural Areas Program that its supporters offer to the public, e.g. that all destroyed non-native trees will be replaced by native trees. Nothing in the management plan says or implies that; in some areas the plan specifically calls for forest to be replaced by grassland and scrub. These misrepresentations are sometimes deliberate, sometimes because NAP supporters haven’t bothered to read the NAP management plan.
9. The un-scientific mythology offered by self-styled “ecologists” in support of the Natural Areas Program, e.g. that grasslands store more carbon than forests.
We can’t have fruitful discussions when we refuse to listen to what is said by people who disagree with us. We can’t even learn the many areas of agreement”.
Interior Greenbelt Natural Area, 2010. Courtesy SaveSuro