Students must act against East Bay tree removal

coloredited_Pan_hills
William Pan/Staff

UC Berkeley, in partnership with Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks District, or EBRPD, is embarking on an environmentally catastrophic plan to cut down nearly half a million healthy trees. This plan — with a goal of eradicating many Monterey pine, Monterey cypress, eucalyptus and acacia forests to replace them with grassland with islands of shrub — will radically transform the appearance of the Oakland and Berkeley hills, including 284 acres of the Berkeley campus, where more than 50,000 trees will be removed.

Not only will this plan eliminate trees responsible for the iconic character and stunning beauty of the East Bay hills and Berkeley campus, but their loss will decrease biodiversity, destroy animal habitats, release 17,495 metric tons of greenhouse gasses, and repeatedly expose wildlife, students and nearby residents to several thousand gallons of toxic herbicides. This includes Monsanto’s herbicide, glyphosate, now being banned by governments worldwide in light of the World Health Organization’s recent warning that it is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Gone will be many of our most visited, shaded hiking trails made so idyllic by soaring trees planted and beloved by the region’s early settlers, including 19th century naturalist Joaquin Miller — famed “poet of the Sierras” and friend of legendary conservationist and fellow admirer of eucalyptus trees John Muir. Trees that were a favorite motif of 20th century California Impressionist painters and that served as inspiration for renowned Bay Area architects Julia Morgan and Bernard Maybeck are to be decimated by the hundreds of thousands, forever eliminating living embodiments of the region’s rich cultural history.

Given the many threats this plan poses to the environment, wildlife, public safety and the East Bay’s historical heritage, why would our public officials and UC administrators undertake such a reckless, self-sabotaging agenda?

If you believe plan proponents, we must assume these harms in order to abate the risk of wildfire. Unfortunately, their plan could exacerbate rather than reduce that risk. David Maloney, former chief of fire prevention at the Oakland Army base, stated in a 2009 letter to Brian Weise, chief of planning and stewardship of the EBRPD, that “Fire Science has proven that every living tree — regardless of its species — due to its moisture content and canopy coverage of ground fuels, contributes to wildfire hazard mitigation.” Therefore, a plan to replace trees with grasses, which the EBRPD admits are “one of the most dangerous vegetation types for firefighter safety,” will not protect but threaten us. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service noted that removing all eucalyptus trees would “increase the probability of (fire) ignition over current conditions,” while, in a 2007 statement to the U.S. Senate, Jon Keeley of the U.S. Geological Survey noted that only about 3 percent of the 2007 fires in Southern California occurred in forests; the remainder, 97 percent, burned mostly in shrublands and grasslands (and urban areas) — the exact type of vegetation in which the 1991 Firestorm is theorized to have been ignited and will be replicated throughout the hills. According to the U.S. Fire Administration Technical Report on the 1991 fire, brush fuel types made up “a large portion of the available fuel.” Far from causing fires, some claim that trees abate it. One alumna attests, “I was a student at Cal during the 1991 fires. I lived in the Berkeley hills above campus near Strawberry Canyon. The eucalyptus and other trees saved the houses on my street by serving as a barrier between us and the fire.” Yet the campus is now planning to destroy that very forest by chopping down 12,000 trees in Strawberry Canyon, 10,000 in Claremont Canyon and 25,000 at Frowning Ridge. Oakland and the EBRPD will chop down hundreds of thousands more, including many in Tilden Park.

Incited by the intolerant, xenophobic view that trees — ones that have blanketed our hills for well more than a century — are “non-native” and must be ethnically cleansed, “native” plant idealogues have gained the cooperation of our public officials to turn our collectively owned lands into environmental war zones.

Working to stop this deforestation agenda are various grassroots organizations composed of environmentalists, animal lovers, anti-herbicide activists, Firestorm survivors and residents.

Conspicuously absent from this roster of dissent, however, are the students at UC Berkeley. Stop hibernating, Bears — your habitat is under siege. Rise up and speak out against this pending environmental atrocity in the great tradition of the legions of politically active, environmentally conscious UC students who have preceded you. Lend your voice to the voiceless. Be the Lorax, and speak for your trees.

Jennifer Winograd is a member of Save East Bay Hills.

Contact the Opinion Desk at [email protected] and follow us on Twitter at @dailycalopinion.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this op-ed may have implied that in a 2007 statement to the U.S. Senate, Jon Keeley of the U.S. Geological Survey noted that only about 3 percent of 2007 fires in California occurred in forests, while 97 percent burned mostly in shrublands and grasslands. In fact, Keeley was talking only about southern California fires.

A previous version of this op-ed may have also implied that wildfire in the Berkeley hills is a remote risk. In fact, while wildfire likelihood depends on the environment, there have been numerous damaging fires in the East Bay hills.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this op-ed incorrectly stated that trees abate fire, instead of causing it. In fact, only some experts believe that trees abate fire.

A previous version of this op-ed also incorrectly stated that the plan to cut down trees would exacerbate rather than reduce the risk of wildfire. In fact, because eucalyptus trees spread fire faster than the grasses that may replace them, the plan would not necessarily exacerbate the risk of wildfire.

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  • john pujol

    I haven’t finished reading the article, but i was drawn to it because I’ve noticed so many trees getting cut down in south berkeley. It makes me very upset. In particular, i hate that nobody accountable for this is ever standing by the trees as they’re cut. Eliminating 50,000 trees in Berkeley/Oakland, sounds pretty stupid but I venture that someone has made a good case for it. Either way, I prefer the trees.

  • Bev Jo

    Brilliant article. It’s nice to see the truth for a change in the media since so much money is being made by destroying our parks and the planned massive herbiciding.

    It’s very simple to figure out what is going on. The people who are benefiting from clear-cutting half a million of our trees and poisoning our parks with no vote are easy to identify and could care less about the fire danger that the FEMA plan will cause. Those of us who love our parks and the countless animals who will be killed and know that our parks as they are are least risk for fire have no hidden agenda.

    https://www.facebook.com/savetheeastbayhills/photos/a.896529253726891.1073741828.896100850436398/937746746271808/?type=1&theater

    http://milliontrees.me/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/biological-xenophobia-the_b_3385265.html

    https://www.facebook.com/savetheeastbayhills?fref=ts

    http://harpers.org/archive/2015/09/weed-whackers/

    http://www.hillsconservation.org/?recruiter_id=11786

    http://www.hillsconservationnetwork.org/Introduction.html

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/montclarion/ci_12946185

    http://www.hillsconservationnetwork.org/HillsConservation3/Blog/Blog.html

    https://www.facebook.com/HillsConservationNetwork

    http://www.saveeastbayhills.org/

  • John Coveney

    Once again we read about the pending apocalyptic destruction of the East Bay Hills without any sense of proportionality. The management by thinning trees and brush has been ongoing for years in the hills. Drive along Wildcat Canyon Road and hike the Selby Trail in Tilden and see for yourself what creating a fuelbreak al the wildland urban interface really looks like. Better yet, explore upper Claremont Canyon, comparing the south side which was cleared of eucalyptus several years ago. Its full of redwoods, laurels, oaks, and buckeyes.
    Compare that with the thicket of eucalyptus slated for clearing on the north side of the road and imagine a crown fire fed by the long strips of bark and dead branches that are how eucalyptus, a fire adapted species, grow. See for yourself the understory of laurels that are there now.
    The FEMA Vegetation Management plan encompasses a relatively long narrow strip stretching from Richmond to San Leandro. The claim of half a million trees is an extrapolation based on a tree count in one area that included everything from 6″ saplings to 36″ diameter trees. But numbers don’t mean much without acreage and an understanding of what trees will remain.
    If you do the research, and read the letter from the general manager of the East Bay Regional Parks District recently posted to answer inflamed fears, you’ll have a better understanding of the complexity.
    Instead we are fed a story about a cabal of xenophobic native plant ideologues stamping out foreign invaders, poisoning our land, and leaving baby squirrels homeless.
    Cal students should be urged to delve deeper into this issue. The Claremont Canyon Conservancy’s website is a good place to start. There will be no clear cutting of the East Bay Hills, no eradication of eucalyptus. Read up on the Oakland Hills Fire and consider what the risk to health a wildfire is.

  • Douglas L. Saunders

    This is the most irrational defense of keeping the dangerous non-native trees which threaten us with another massive Oakland Hills fire. Cal students are not so unaware of the history as to fall for this. And where do you get the idea the trees removed won’t be replaced? Just because this proposal doesn’t cover it (a different source of monies is used for replanting, not available in this grant), the trees could and should and I believe will be replaced by native redwoods (which used to cover the hills here) and oaks. Stop spreading lies.

    • Dano2

      Not a Cal student.

      One of the standard 9 activists who post the same thing, over and over and over.

      Best,

      D

      • Douglas L. Saunders

        Oh I know she’s not a Cal student – but publishing this in the Daily Cal means she wants to influence Cal students, many of whom weren’t even alive for the Berkely/Oakland Hills fire.

      • Nor are you a Cal student. Nor is Mr. Saunders a Cal student.

        I have never seen either of these people post a comment before and neither have you. You are pulling “facts” out of your ears as usual, Mr. Klatt. No one is more repetitive than you are.

        • Dano2

          Still waiting for you to address the points I made with empirical evidence or anything other than the empty rhetoric you have shown so far.

          Best,

          D

    • And those Redwoods are scheduled to be mature, when?

      • Douglas L. Saunders

        What does that matter? It’s not a race. Redwoods can take hundreds of years to fully mature, but they are relative fast at growing to what most people would consider a ‘tree’. Plus they’re fire resistant during their entire growth cycle, unlike eucalyptus which are dangerous fire bombs.

    • julierl

      There are no plans that I have read or heard of to plant native redwoods, nor any re-planting of any trees at all. Grasses and shrubs will be allowed to move into the cut areas – the same grasses and shrubs that dry out every summer and fueled the start, and re-start, of the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. If you have a statement from UC or City of Oakland or EB Regional Parks, re: re-planting of cut areas with redwoods, please provide a link. However, if acquisition and development of parks is the goal (and I believe it ultimately is – after all, it’s billion dollar real estate with world-class views), UC/COO/EBParks are not going to plant anything that will be too difficult to bulldoze later.

    • Keith McAllister

      Saunders lives in a fantasy world, longing for a past that never existed. Redwoods never covered the East Bay hills, and never will. Stop spreading lies.

      Redwoods require shelter and water that most of the East Bay hills don’t provide. Before European settlement redwoods grew in isolated canyon bottoms and on a few east facing slopes. The Oakland Museum of California has a nice interactive touch-screen video display of historical vegetation in the East Bay. You can see where the redwoods were if you set the time selector for (say) 1769.

      Cal students could also check out S.D. Burgess’s article in the California Historical Society Journal, Vol 30, no 1, pp 1-14 for a more detailed discussion of historical logging in the East Bay.

      A straight-forward way to see where redwoods used to be is to look at where they are now. The formerly logged redwood groves have grown back as redwood groves in places like Redwood Canyon, San Leandro Creek, Muir Woods, Armstrong Redwoods State Park, etc. They have not grown back on the dry East Bay hills, because they were never there.

  • Dano2

    This statement from the author:

    UC Berkeley, in partnership with Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks District, or EBRPD, is embarking on an environmentally catastrophic plan

    Cannot be supported by the ecological literature. If you want to say “it will take away my shade” or “the exotic species make people happy” or whatever, great, but AFAICT there is not a single empirical study that supports “environmentally catastrophic”.

    Removing exotic species (some highly flammable and a major contributer to the Oakland Hills disaster) to allow native species to revegetate is the opposite of an environmentally catastrophic plan.

    Readers suspicious of whether the author’s specious comments regarding fire can look to my comments downthread for verification that the arguments are specious. And familiar to anyone who follows the misinformation campaign by a small group of activists who use the same tactics of omission, misdirection, and red herrings to mislead.

    Best,

    D

  • Million Trees is just one of many organizations that have been working together for nearly 10 years to prevent the pointless destruction of our non-native trees, including eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and acacia. There is no question that the destruction of these trees will increase fire hazards and damage the environment. Please visit milliontrees.me for more information about this destructive project, which is native plant “restoration” masquerading as fire hazard mitigation.

    Tall trees in the East Bay Hills are known to precipitate over 10 inches of fog drip during our dry season. The increased moisture and the shade of the canopy suppresses fire ignition. The loss of the canopy will increase sunlight and encourage the growth of annual grasses in which most fires in California start and spread.

    Surely students at Cal are watching the news and know that all fires in the West are occurring in native vegetation. It is a fiction that native vegetation is less flammable than non-native vegetation. Vegetation in all Mediterranean climates is fire adapted and fire dependent. Winter rains encourage herbaceous growth which dries out during the long dry season.

    • Dano2

      There is no question that the destruction of these trees will increase fire hazards and damage the environment.

      Actually, there is a lot of question, since these are highly flammable blue gum eucalyptus that contributed greatly to the Oakland Hills fire due to their flammability and high fuel load. As everyone around the Bay Area knows but this commenter wants you to forget.

      These same 9 sockpuppets always, conveniently, “forget” to write that in their comments.

      Best,

      D

      • Estimated by whom? What is your reference for that claim? Such a statement is not made in the FEMA technical report regarding the 1991 fire.

        • Dano2

          Estimated by whom? What is your reference for that claim?

          Thank you for highlighting that reference. It is quite clearly a quote from the link that I footnoted with ( ** ), and evidenced by the page number at the end of the footnote. Here are more quotes from that document:

          Constant shedding of bark is part of what makes these trees a fire hazard. The bark catches fire readily, and the loose strips tend to carry fire up into the canopy, casting embers outward. It is the litter—the accumulation of dead, dry, oily leaves and debris—that is especially flammable. Carried by long swaying branches, fire spreads quickly in eucalyptus groves. When there is sufficient dead material in the canopy, fire moves easily through the tree tops. . In many cases, eucalyptus trees were adjacent to houses, with their canopy spreading over the roofs. The density of fuels immediately surrounding homes resulted in a continuous chain that spread the fire from structure to structure….Since 1991, there has been a growing consensus that wildfires are difficult to contain in the East Bay Hills due to the rugged topography and extensive wildland-urban interface. Firefighters also now realize that wildfires are almost impossible to contain in eucalyptus forests…The (2004 Mt Tam) fire quickly reached a 70 acre eucalyptus grove, where it burned rapidly and with great intensity, even though it was still spring. As the result of a highly successful initial attack, only 12 acres burned. No structures were lost, and no injuries were reported. [emphases added]

          Best,

          D

          • So, you are saying that you don’t live there? So what is your interest? Are you Tom Klatt? You credentials seem to fit his.

            Your quote originates from a publication of the GGNRA, one of the land managers in the Bay Area that has destroyed tens of thousands of non-native trees. I note that the article you quote was written by someone representing the “Student Conservation Association.” She provides no reference for her claim that “It was estimated that over 70% of the energy released through the combustion of vegetation was due to eucalyptus.” I still ask, “estimated by whom?”

            She mentions the freeze that caused exotic vegetation such as eucalyptus to die back in the 1970s, but she doesn’t mention the fact that there was a freeze in 1990, the winter before the 1991 fire which caused a similar die back and was considered a major source of the fuel by the FEMA Technical Report. Such a freeze has not occurred in 25 years and is unlikely in our warming climate.

            That article occurs on a page with a table that compares fuel loads in eucalyptus compared to native forests. If you remove logs from that table, eucalyptus does not produce more fuel load than California Bay forest. And since California Bay forest usually occurs with oak woodland, those fuel loads should be combined to accurately describe most native forest in the East Bay. Logs do not ignite, which is why this table says it takes 1,000 hours of drying to turn them into the fuel. Since the logs of the destroyed eucalyptus are left lying on the ground, how is it that fuel loads are reduced by cutting them down?

            Finally, you quote from this leaflet about the Mount Tam fire, but you fail to quote this from that leaflet: “The live foliage proved fire resistant, so a potentially catastrophic crown fire was avoided.” So, you insist on turning a fire-resistant living tree into dead wood. How does that reduce fire hazards?

          • Dano2

            One of my best friends lives in the area, & I have ridden my bike there many, many times.

            Feel free to refute any of my factual statements with empirical evidence. I notice you have not done so thus far.

            Best,

            D

          • Are you Tom Klatt? The empirical evidence I have provided is reported by the GGNRA, the same source you are trying to use to support your support for this destructive projects.

          • Dano2

            Your deflections are cute.

            Feel free to address the points I made with empirical evidence or anything other than the empty rhetoric you have shown so far.

            Best,

            D

          • My question is not a “deflection.” My question is central to this debate. IF you are Tom Klatt, you are solely responsible for UC Berkeley’s destruction of all non-native trees on UCB’s property. You have already destroyed at least 18,600 trees and sprayed over 141 gallons of herbicide on the treeless landscape you have created. You are just doing your job. You are being paid to wreck this ecosystem.

            Those who are opposed to this project are not earning one thin dime from our opposition. We are donating our time and effort for the sole purpose of preventing the needless destruction of our urban forest.

            Another reason why it matters is that Tom Klatt is on the public record as saying many inaccurate, even stupid things in defense of his project. Speaking to a classroom of undergraduates taking a class on Bay Area ecosystems, Tom Klatt said, “Carbon storage in non-native trees doesn’t count. Only carbon storage native trees counts.” That is a meaningless statement from every perspective, most notably from the standpoint of science.

            Yes, it matters very much if you are Tom Klatt. I note that you have not answered the question.

          • Dano2

            I Am Dano. That is all you need.

            Now. Awaiting your awesome refutation.

            Best

            D

          • Bev Jo

            Dano never responds with the truth. A typical troll, and obviously going to benefit from our trees being cut down and our parks poisoned. We don’t know how much money he’s getting, but he’s definitely biased and the truth doesn’t matter at all. Or our parks. And he clearly doesn’t care about the fire danger, which will dramatically increase when those massive trees that make windbreaks and precipitate 10 inches of water each year are killed.

          • Dano2

            Blatantly dishonest. Why?

            Why blatantly dishonest?

            Best,

            D

          • Bev Jo

            Only you can explain why you are blatantly dishonest, but as seems obvious, you’re monetarily invested in trolling and lying.

          • Dano2

            Feel free to provide evidence showing that I am dishonest. Anytime. Show some evidence. Demonstrate how I am dishonest. Anytime. Start now. Show us.

            Best,

            D

          • Bev Jo

            All anyone has to do is watch how you troll and lie and bully whenever anyone posts in defense of our trees and parks. You could care less about the killing of half a million trees and poisoning our parks. Actually, you do care. Who else would lie about and taunt and bully the people working to defend our parks, as well as lie about what the actual plan is, which is public? That’s what trolls do.

            Every time you post, it’s obvious.

          • Dano2

            You have no evidence for your cheap false assertions, I see. Just dull words and baseless accusations.

            Maybe you having a sads because you don’t like the fact that I point out the numerous flaws in your dully repetitive, cut-pasted arguments (it’s a myth that Blue Gum Eucalyptus are particularly flammable, or “heat” from “one tree ‘composting'” (sic)), so you resort to making up stuff to continue to post misleading information (false equivalency with Scripps Ranch, Less trees means more fires), or disease-resistant …Monterey Pines (sic)… Eucalyptus…are no fire risk at all., cherry-picking stories about when Angel Island erupted in flames in 2008, or spread of the fire was not due primarily to burning trees)?

            The 9 gasoline tree advocates all have the same tactics and the same rhetorical pattern in their comments. Every one.

            Best,

            D

          • Bev Jo

            You keep projecting and saying the same lies, knowing that lies said often enough can be believed. I guess you missed the 80 people supporting the trees who went to the demonstration at the Sierra Club?

            We’re not making anything up, but you know that. As I said, you are invested, and we can only guess why since you just keep lying.

            Trolls play games hoping to wear down those they target. Not going to work, but I’m also not going to answer what we’ve answered before.

            If those trees are killed and then there is another fire storm as a result, I’m guessing you’ll benefit from that too. Or maybe just kickbacks from Monsanto and Dow is enough compensation for you.

          • Dano2

            You have no integrity.

            You continue to show are making it up that I am lying. Your empty words are empty. You can’t show how I’ve told a single lie.

            Dishonest, dull empty words. It’s the best they can do.

            Best,

            D

          • julierl

            You are a funny troll. And you never answer questions about why you want to live in the eucalyptus forest that you want to cut down, instead of living further east where the landscape is already your ideal: dry, fire-prone, and unshaded.

          • Dano2

            Odd, rambling statement is odd. And remarkably off-topic.

            Best,

            D

          • julierl

            I knew I could count on your lightning response.

          • Dano2

            My “LoInfo is making up something inane about me” klaxon went off, what can I say?

            Best,

            D

          • Dano2

            Any evidence, or just empty words?

            Best,

            D

          • Dano2

            Still waiting for you to shed your dishonesty and provide some substance for your cheap claims that I’m dishonest. Have some integrity and courage.

            Best,

            D

          • Dano2

            Any evidence yet to back your empty, untrue claims?

            Any evidence whatsoever?

            Best,

            D

      • julierl

        Dano2, Dani – really, you should not have brought up “sockpuppets”. Too revealing.

        • Dano2

          What do you…erm… “think” that vague statement is supposed to mean?

          Best,

          D

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