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Although we have preferences, we like all trees and we don’t like to see any healthy tree destroyed.  Unfortunately, others believe their preference for certain trees justifies the destruction of those they don’t like.

forest-and-fog

Eucalyptus forest in the fog. San Francisco. Courtesy San Francisco Forest Alliance

The purpose of this blog is to inform the San Francisco Bay Area of the destruction of trees and to confront the rationale for their destruction.

We will describe the projects in the San Francisco Bay Area that have destroyed or are planning to destroy over a half million trees.  There are probably many other projects of which we are unaware.  We invite you to tell us about the projects that you know about.

Tree Destruction Projects in the East Bay

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) approved the “Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan” and its Environmental Impact Review in 2009.  The implementation of this plan will remove most eucalypts,  Monterey pines, and acacia from 1,653 acres.  All eucalypts will be removed in some areas, thinned to a distance of 25 feet in some areas, and thinned to distances of 35 feet in other areas.  The average tree density after implementation would be approximately 60 trees per acre. The District’s response to comments on the EIR reports that the density of eucalypts is presently from 400 to 900 trees per acre, which averages to 650 trees per acre.  Using these before and after tree densities, we estimate that about 400,000 eucalypts would be removed.

Status:  After a lengthy attempt to negotiate a less destructive approach to fire hazard mitigation, Hills Conservation Network has announced that they have filed a lawsuit against EBRPD.  Update:  HCN announced in its October 2011 newsletter that it has settled with the East Bay Regional Park District and withdrawn its suit.  Details of that settlement are available in the HCN newsletter.

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UC  Berkeley has applied for FEMA grants in collaboration with the City of Oakland and East Bay Regional Park District which would remove approximately one-half million non-native trees from over 2,000 acres of public land. (This includes the EBRPD project described above.  FEMA’s analysis includes the portion of that project for which FEMA grant funding has not been requested, which prevents us from separating the funded and unfunded portions of the project.)

Thousands of gallons of herbicides will be needed to prevent the non-native trees from resprouting and eradicate non-native vegetation.  Twenty percent of the project area would be covered in as much as 2 feet of wood chips in addition to the trunks and limbs of the large trees that are destroyed.  Prescribed burns will be needed to burn excess wood and eradicate non-native vegetation.  These projects are described here.

[Update] Action Opportunity:   The Hills Conservation Network has created a petition to oppose these projects which is available here.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on proposed hazardous fire risk reduction activities in the East Bay Hills was published on April 25, 2013.   You can access the draft EIS on the project website (http://ebheis.cdmims.com).  The public comment period ended June 17, 2013.   We will inform our readers when the Final Environmental Impact Statement is published by FEMA.

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UC Berkeley describes on its website completed “vegetation management” projects since 2000.  Not all of the descriptions include acreage and number of trees.  Those projects that are quantified report the removal of nearly 18,000 non-native trees on over 150 acres.

UC Berkeley’s “Vegetation Management”

Status: Done.  These trees are gone.  Visit the Hills Conservation Network website to see photos of these projects.

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Tree Destruction Projects in San Francisco

The Natural Areas Program of the City of San Francisco has destroyed thousands of trees in the city’s parks since the program began in 1995.  The management plan for the Natural Areas Program was approved in 2006.  The plan proposes to destroy an additional 18,500 trees over 15 feet tall and untold numbers of smaller trees that the plan chooses not to define as trees.

The Draft Environmental Impact Review (EIR) of the Natural Areas Program (DEIR) was published on August 31, 2011.   The public comment period for the DEIR has closed.

Status:  The final Environmental Impact Report is expected to be published sometime after November 2012.   [Update:  San Francisco Planning Department now estimates that the final EIR will not be published until July 2014]

Action Opportunity: The San Francisco Planning Commission will hold a public hearing when the final Environmental Impact Report is published.  We will alert our readers when the EIR is published and when the hearing will be held.  Meanwhile, please visit the website of the San Francisco Forest Alliance for updates and sign their petition to the mayor of San Francisco which is available HERE.

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University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) intends to destroy most of the non-native trees on the 66 acres of Mount Sutro as they implement their management plan that was published in 2001.

A walk in the Sutro forest

Status: UCSF withdrew their application for a FEMA grant to fund their project in 2011.  They have announced their intention to proceed with their plans using their own funds.

UCSF published a Draft EIR for their project in February 2013.  Public comment period for the DEIR is closed.

Update:  On November 21, 2013, UCSF announced that they would scale back their plans for tree removals on Mount Sutro significantly and make a commitment not to use herbicides.  On March 5, 2014, they announced that they have put all plans on indefinite hold.  For the moment, they apparently will do nothing on Mount Sutro other than mitigate immediate hazards.  They provided no estimated time frame for announcing a new plan. Please visit Save Mount Sutro Forest for a more detailed description of that announcement.

  Tree Destruction Projects on Federal Lands

The federal government is one of the largest landowners in the Bay Area.  In addition to Golden Gate National Recreation Area (75,500 acres), Point Reyes National Seashore (28,800 acres), and Muir Woods National Monument, the Presidio in San Francisco is presently controlled by a non-profit trust.  These entities have engaged in extensive tree-removal on the public lands they control.  Information available on their websites does not enable us to quantify the acres or trees that have been removed or are planned for removal in the future.  Therefore, we will describe those projects in the broad terms available to us.

There are two main categories of tree-destruction projects on these federal lands.  There are large-scale restoration efforts that have required the removal of all non-native vegetation, including trees.  The restoration of Redwood Creek in Marin County is an example of such a project.  This project was intended to benefit several endangered species, such as Coho salmon.  Non-native vegetation was removed from the project area.  Some of the logs of the eucalypts that were cut down were used to create deep pools in the creek bed that were said to benefit the Coho salmon and potentially the Red-Legged frog which didn’t exist there prior to the project.

Redwood Creek, NPS Photo

As destructive as this picture looks, these restorations are usually successful because they are intensively planted.  Unlike most managers of public lands, the National Park Service has the resources to replant natives after non-native plants and trees are removed.  The projects are often fenced and sometimes they are irrigated long enough to establish the plants.  And NPS has the volunteer resources to weed these restorations when they are completed.  When restorations are successful they are usually less controversial, although recreational users sometimes react to access restrictions imposed by some restorations.

The other, larger category of tree-removal projects on these federal lands are the so-called “fuel management projects.”  We say, “so-called” because as we have said in “Fire!! The Cover Story“, we believe that the flammability of non-native plants and trees is exaggerated in order to justify their destruction.   The claim that native plants and trees are less flammable is also spurious.

These projects are more controversial because they are not usually replanted.  Therefore, unsightly, weedy messes are often the result.  The Marin Independent Journal reported the opposition to these projects in the Tamalpais Valley, “The lack of restoration in the area when eucalyptus trees were removed after a 12-acre fire in 2004 left the hillside ‘looking like hell,’…”  according to Peter Sorcher, a neighbor of the project.  Mr. Sorcher also  understands the function the eucalypts are performing for his community:  “’What people are not taking into account is how it’s going to affect the quality of life here.  They [eucalypts] act as a big wind buffer and the fog gets caught up in here.’”  Mr. Sorcher added in a private communication that the trees are also providing a privacy screen and a sound buffer from the busy highway through their neighborhood.

We count 8 of these “fuel management” projects on GGNRA property and 8 in the Pt Reyes National Seashore, but the acreage of these projects is not reported, so we can’t estimate the number of trees that will be removed.  The number of these projects has recently increased significantly because of the availability of federal stimulus funding, a dubious use of such funding in our opinion.

Projects along roads will apparently remove all trees within 30 feet of the roads.  Further from roads, all trees with trunks less than 18” in diameter will be removed.  The sole example  of such thinning we could find on the websites, says that the density of trees was reduced from 1,600 trees per acre to 256 trees per acre, a loss of over 1,300 trees per acre.

We were told by NPS staff in a telephone inquiry that most trees were chipped after being cut down and the chips then distributed on site.  As the chips decay, they will release the tons of carbon that were stored in the trees as they grew. thereby contributing to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. 

We were unable to determine which herbicides are used to kill the roots of the trees after they are cut down.  This information was not available on websites.  After repeated calls and referrals to many NPS staff, we were unable to find anyone who knew (or was willing to say) what herbicides are used for this purpose.   Unless we are told otherwise by the NPS, we will assume that Garlon is used, as it is by other land managers in the Bay Area.  We reported the toxicity of Garlon in our post about herbicides.

We have little first-hand knowledge of these projects.  Therefore, we invite comments from those with more information about them.

86 Comments leave one →
  1. Alicia Snow permalink
    May 5, 2010 10:42 pm

    This is beautifully done! Good work, and thank you for all your efforts.

    Alicia

  2. May 7, 2010 12:09 am

    Great website… It’s so good to see another voice against destruction of trees!

  3. Carolyn Blair permalink
    May 7, 2010 9:45 am

    Have you seen or heard about the total destruction of the Presidio’s El Polin Springs? They got lots of toxic waste money and this site has had toxins buried for many years with lots of large mature trees — they removed all and plan to flatten the sloping hill to remove the toxins.

    How do they do that so the people that live down from there don’t get exposed?

    PS: Thanks for doing this site!

    PS: My partner and I were exploring the East Bay redwoods yesterday — lovely. On the way home we stopped at Sparkey’s for burgers. Great — do you know this place with lots of eucalyptus surrounding it — not to mention the very nice people that run the place.

    Best to you
    Carolyn

    • May 7, 2010 4:36 pm

      I’ve seen photos of the area taken shortly after all the trees (and everything else) were removed. Totally barren ground remained. They were removed when there was a lot of rain so there was some concern about erosion. I’ve seen more recent photos of the site. Straw mats and logs are now covering the site in an effort to stabilize the soil. Not much more attractive than the bare ground, but hopefully less likely to slump.

      Good question about the neighbors being exposed to the toxic wastes they say are there. We hope they know what they’re doing.

      This is a tiny fraction of what is planned in that area. The entire creek system from the bay to the southern edge of the Presidio will eventually be “daylighted.” That will require more tree removal and even some building removal.

  4. May 14, 2010 9:19 pm

    Those of us who are immigrants or who are descended from immigrants (and who would not fit into either category?) have heard it all before:

    They are not neighborly.
    They look strange.
    They are diseased.
    They have bad reputations.
    They are unpredictable.
    They are aggressive.
    They are dangerous.
    They use up valuable resources.
    They take up places that others need.
    They come from a different country.
    They are poorly adapted to life here.
    They don’t belong.
    We prefer our own kind.
    We don’t want to be around them.
    We need to get rid of non-natives.
    We need to prevent them from ever coming back.
    And that goes for non-native plants and trees, too!

    • May 19, 2010 8:02 am

      Yes, Madeline, there does appear to be an element of xenophobia in the agenda of the native plant movement. While that probably doesn’t apply to every native plant advocate, there is clear evidence that it applies to some.

      Some native plant advocates call themselves “nativists.” This is a word that is also used to describe those who are opposed to immigration. One of the leaders of the native plant movement in the Bay Area publishes a frequent newsletter in which he engages in anti-immigration diatribes. This position is related to his belief in population control, which would reduce impacts on nature, in his view.

      We do not subscribe to that view. We think of the environment in global terms. Our air and water do not abruptly stop at our borders. While total population clearly has a negative effect on nature, prohibiting immigration does not reduce total population. In fact, immigration might reduce that pressure on the environment because the most effective method of reducing birth rates is the education of women. If the United States can provide a better education to women than the countries from which they immigrate, total global population can be reduced.

      Please visit our new post, “ALIEN INVADERS!!! Another Scary Story,” which explains why we are not afraid that non-native plants will overwhelm native plants, just as we are not afraid that immigrants will overwhelm us.

      • Peter Fearnley permalink
        July 24, 2013 8:09 pm

        As a member of the Native Plant Society of California I find it ludicrous that you seem to equate support for native plant habitats to xenophobia. Non native species of plants quite often overwhelm native Californian habitats. It’s nothing to do with hatred of “others” or hatred of anything, actually. I love non-native gardens – I have one myself – but I also like to see native Californian plants thrive in their native habitat, and they can’t do that under eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus trees are also an extreme fire danger, and if your site allowed other viewpoints to be expressed (such as evidence of the damage eucalyptus do to the Bay Area environment) you might find that in a healthy discussion of the issues that their removal was an extremely positive thing. The removal program of the East Bay Parks District has been a long-term, highly democratic, well-thought out process, not a rushed conspiracy.

        Webmaster: We do not equate support for native plant habitats to xenophobia; xenophobia is not mentioned in the post on which you are commenting. It is only one of many issues we discuss on MT. You seem to appreciate both native and non-native plants, as do we.

        We oppose destructive projects on our public land, projects which have no chance of returning Bay Area land to pre-European conditions. If you read a little of this website, you would see we post many comments with other viewpoints. But, like you, those commenters provide no evidence of “the damage eucalyptus do to the Bay Area environment.” We provide scientific evidence to the contrary.

        We are not going to repeat here the voluminous evidence that eucalyptus are not the extreme fire danger you allege. You can find that evidence on this website, as well as the comments of those who still believe the fire cover story.

    • Mike Marshall permalink
      May 29, 2013 5:23 pm

      This comparison is ridiculous. Non- native plant species that survive here are invasive and alter ecosystems in undesirable ways.

  5. Lynda Rader permalink
    May 20, 2010 7:07 am

    We are seeing similar actions in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, specifically Montecito and Ojai. Trees older than 100 years are being felled. Reason: fear of fire and non-native-invasive. Don’t people undertand these trees offer habitat for millions of birds and other wildlife? Where are they going to go? Fewer birds= more rodents and insects. Has anyone ever ducked under a tree to avoid the heat from the sun? Where will you go now, perhaps a local parking structure? WHAT ARE WE THINKING? If trees are invasive, then replace with native trees AFTER they die. To take them all down at the same time WILL result in loss of habitat and will increase the ambient temperature. THOSE IN POWER HAVE GONE CRAZY. This seems tied to federal funding. HELLO???? COMMON SENSE, ANYONE???????

    • Mike Marshall permalink
      May 29, 2013 5:25 pm

      This is silly. Every year you leave one of these untold thousands more seeds are produced. Native birds,etc. are often not nearly as well adapted to invasives. Plant native trees and restore the native ecosystem.

  6. June 25, 2010 6:55 pm

    The oxygen levels on our planet are declining–which should be reason enough to save all trees possible, and plant many more.

    Documentation on the very real threat to our oxygen supply is found in this article:
    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/06/24/18651816.php

    • Naturalist.charlie permalink
      September 12, 2010 8:46 pm

      Judging by the fact that I can still breathe at 10,000 feet, with 1/3 the air at sea level, and judging by the fact that carbon dioxide (what replaces oxygen when trees are removed) is well under 1% of the atmosphere, the idea that we will run out of oxygen (over 20% of the atmosphere) is quite silly. CO2 is a problem because of climate change. It is not going to affect our ability to breathe! That article you posted is pseudo-science at best and a space-balls themed joke at worst: don’t forget to stock up on canned air! http://www.girlontheright.com/perriair.jpg

  7. Kenneth Gibson permalink
    July 11, 2010 12:15 am

    It is my strong belief that dense populations of eucalyptus are a serious fire hazard, whether in the outback of Australia, where they are native, or in the Oakland Hills, where they are invasive. The reality is that gold mining entrepreneurs introduced the fast growing invaders to provide timbers for underground mines. If we were still mining in that way there might be some sort of “ecological” balance. The present reality is that these trees are choking out other plants, thriving on the fires they fuel (they have adapted to fire as a seed dispersal mechanism) and being protected by people who allow arboreal romanticism to supplant ecological realism.

    We should all combine in efforts to ensure that the regional and local agencies replant denuded areas with stands of suitable native shrubs and trees that will grow in a safe, sustainable way – tree species that survived here for millenia before human “wisdom” was visited on this place.

    • July 11, 2010 9:05 am

      Mr. Gibson’s “strong belief” requires examination. The historical record, as shown in aerial photographs over a 60 year period, indicates that non-native trees are not invasive in the Bay Area (see ALIEN INVADERS!! Another Scary Story). Stands of eucalypts and Monterey pines decreased in size while native manzanita and coyote bush increased in size in Bay Area regional parks.

      While eucalypts are adapted to fire, this is equally true of plants that are native to the Bay Area. Since the climates of Australia and California are similar—a Mediterranean climate—this is as we would expect. Fires are an essential feature to the ecology of both places, which is why native plant advocates in the Bay Area demand prescribed burns to support their restorations (see “(UN)controlled Burns”). As Sugihara says in Fire in California Ecosystems, “Perpetuation of California’s biological diversity certainly requires fire to be present as a vital ecological process.”

      The historical record is also inconsistent with Mr. Gibson’s theory about why eucalypts were planted in California. Most mining operations—both gold and silver—were stopped by 1880 and most eucalypts were planted in California after that time, for a variety of reasons both aesthetic and practical. For example, they were widely used as a windbreak because the native landscape is uniformly low and does not provide protection from the wind.

      It is also “arboreal romanticism” to envision the Bay Area populated with a million new native trees. Trees were an inconspicuous part of a native landscape of grassland, chaparral, and dune scrub, all vegetation types that ignite more readily than any tree.

      We are grateful for Mr. Gibson’s comments. Such a dialogue enlivens and informs this important debate.

      • Kenneth Gibson permalink
        July 11, 2010 10:50 am

        Your response is generous. A quick search this morning led me to this article:

        The Eucalyptus of California; Section Three: Problems, Cares, Economics, and Species; by Robert L. Santos, California State University, Stanislaus, Librarian/Archivist at http://library.csustan.edu/bsantos/section3.htm.

        The entire article is not impressive but the following might be useful for both of us to consider:

        “In some parts of the world, the eucalyptus has been considered a boon to the local economy, but when it fails for any reason the eucalyptus receives strong criticism. Quite often failure is attributed to either selecting the wrong species or selecting the wrong land. The problem is not really the tree but bad forestry practice. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) reviewed the eucalyptus issue worldwide, and in 1985, published their findings in a document entitled “The Ecological Effects of Eucalyptus.” It concluded after discussing its field research:

        ‘Having reviewed the evidence very thoroughly, we must stress that there can be no universal answer, either favorable or unfavorable, to the planting of eucalypts. Nor should there be any universal answer: each case should be examined on its individual merits. We cannot see how further general research, however detailed, can alter this conclusion. We stress that eucalypts should not be planted, especially on a large scale, without a careful and intelligent assessment of the social and economic consequences, and an attempt to balance the advantage against the disadvantages.’ 424″

        My earlier point was that the trees were introduced in mass for a purpose, shoring up mining tunnels, that quickly waned. No one wanted to chop them down. These trees were not brought to the hills high above then diminutive Oakland to provide wind-breaks for farmlands. They were here also to replace the redwoods that had been chopped down for housing.

        I will confess to a distaste for the aesthetic characteristics of the species of eucalyptus that crowds around us. I also confess an abiding admiration for Sequoia sempervirens and its cousins. As a result of this past wet winter my four younger redwoods each grew 30 inches while my four older ones are so tall and densely foliaged I can’t gauge the growth. With community support – each one plant one, summer watering programs for the young transplants and temporary protection from the goats – we could re-establish one of the emblems of California in our Oakland hills.

        By the way, I take “invasive” to describe any non-native species that is successful without further human intercession in a new environment.

        • July 11, 2010 11:45 am

          Thanks to Mr. Gibson for his reply. We agree with what he quotes from “The Eucalyptus of California…” Like the author, we don’t advocate for the planting of eucalypts. We are only opposed to their needless destruction because of the functions they are performing in the environment. They are sequestering many tons of carbon that would be released into the atmosphere when destroyed (as described in “Deforestation”).

          Although Mr. Gibson rejects that eucalypts provide a windbreak in the Bay Area, the historical record establishes this as one of many reasons why they were planted here. Here is a link to an article that surveys the local historical record and provides citations: http://hillsconservationnetwork.org/HillsConservation3/Additional_Resources_files/HCNnewsletterFebruary-1.pdf. Another source of information about the use of eucalypts as windbreaks is provided by the reforestation plans of the San Francisco Presidio, available on their website.

          Like Mr. Gibson, we admire the Redwood. He is fortunate that they are thriving on his property. They do not tolerate wind well and they require a reliable water source. There is concern amongst scientists (reported in the Oakland Tribune: http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_15422103?IADID=Search-www.insidebayarea.com-www.insidebayarea.com ) that they will not survive in California beyond this century because of climate change.

          • March 14, 2012 12:33 am

            Thank you for this information … and also for the mutually respectful nature of this particular exchange. I often mourn the absence of civil discourse on heated topics. This short discussion illustrates perfectly how divergent positions can come together on certain points, if — the big if — the discussion is allowed to flourish and evolve as it has here.

  8. July 20, 2010 2:29 pm

    Your site is fantastic! I share your ideas and appreciate all the interesting angles and bogus myths you’ve included here! We are definite allies: we need to leave the wild growth that is already in place rather than destroy it. These forested areas have become ecologically balanced over a long period of time — they are niches that work and support lots of wildlife. Also, isn’t it environmentally sound to preserve the larger CO2 footprint rather than thin it out and destroy it? The individuals out to destroy these areas have latched on to a lot of misinformation — and the misinformation is passed back and forth between them because it supports their ends. I’ve added this link to my coyoteyipps.com blog: we need to get more information out and increase access to it. Let me know if there is more I can do. Sincerely, Janet

    • July 20, 2010 4:07 pm

      Janet of the Yipps blog says, “…and the misinformation is passed back and forth between them because it supports their ends…”

      That reminds me of the visit of a USDA social scientist who studied the local native plant movement while a visiting professor at Berkeley. He gave a talk at the Randall Museum in SF before he left town in which he said that native plant advocates were victims of incestuous amplification which he defined as sharing of misinformation by a community that isolates itself. The fact that no member of the staff of the so-called “Natural Areas Program” attended his lecture, supported that view.

      While that may not be an accurate description of all native plant advocates, it is certainly true of some. A recent example was the reply I received from a local community group which advocates for native plant restorations in the East Bay. I sent them the web address of my blog when it was new to alert them to this opportunity to see another perspective on the issues. I received a mocked up spam notice informing me that my email had been deleted and added to their list of blocked email addresses. Hardly an example of an open mind.

      In contrast, I read everything I can get my hands on on all sides of the issue. It is just as important to know what they are thinking as it is to know the reality of the harm they are doing to the environment and all its inhabitants, including humans.

      Thanks to Janet for visiting Million Trees and posting this comment. I’ve added a link to the Yipps blog. I urge others to visit it. There are fantastic photos of coyotes in the open spaces of San Francisco. This is the evidence that Janet is a regular visitor to those spaces which is why she is aware of the effect that the native plant movement is having on our public lands.

      • Kenneth Gibson permalink
        July 24, 2010 6:55 pm

        My concern is about the fire carrying potential of eucalyptus in close proximity to residential property. I’d rather surround myself with (relatively) fire-retardant trees like the redwoods, than fire carrying ones. I’m not sure I’d like the rest of California forested like Australia.

        As to the coyote, the eucalyptus offers it no particular advantage. The dense eucalyptus forest chokes off much of the plant life that feeds the small mammals on which coyotes depend (unless they are depending on garbage left by larger mammals).

        The carbon sink represented by these trees in the Oakland Hills or in the Hills of San Francisco, is small, but I agree it should be maintained. I fully support the planting of safer trees to replace any eucalyptus that are taken.

        If one gives up on the Coast Redwood surviving in its natural habitat because climate is changing, then the battle against climate change is lost.

        I’m not convinced that we should content ourselves with nature as left to us by our foolish past predecessors rather than that nature which evolved over millenia and which will continue to evolve with or without us.

        • July 25, 2010 7:45 am

          On this website we offer those with a sincere concern about fire safety a comprehensive analysis of this issue in these posts: “FIRE!!! The Cover Story,” “The Power of a Legend,” “Fire Factors: #1 Moisture,” and “More Fire Factors: Fire Ladders and Embers.” We urge Mr. Gibson to read these posts, but we won’t repeat them here.

          Instead we offer this quote from Colin Tudge’s book, The Tree. Mr. Tudge is a fellow of the Linnean Society of London and the author of several books on natural history subjects. As a biologist in England, he is not engaged in our local debate about the pros and cons of nativism. I hope that will establish his credentials both as a scientist and a neutral source of information on this issue. He says,

          “In the places where they [fires] naturally occur–virtually everywhere that has anything to burn and is not permanently wet—the local plants (and animals to a greater or lesser extent) tend to be adapted to them [fires]. Grasses need to have their tops burned off if grazing animals do not do the job for them, or the tops become senescent and stifle the fresh growth beneath. As we have already seen, many trees are highly fireproof, like redwoods and eucalypts, and the seeds of many pines and other species will not germinate unless first effectively cooked, whereupon they know they can sprout in the nutrient rich ash provided by their immediate predecessors.” (page 376)

          The climates of Australia and California are similar: wet winters and dry summers with occasional hot, strong winds from the hotter interior to the coasts (foehn winds). Therefore, what grows here and there is adapted to fire. When nativism does not interfere with an analysis of fire safety, redwoods and eucalypts are considered equal with respect to flammability.

          • Kenneth Gibson permalink
            July 25, 2010 2:55 pm

            Milliontrees, I note that the last paragraph of your reply is not a quotation from Colin Tudge, rather it is your application of his comments.

            While I cannot provide a reliable citation trail, due to the poverty of my library, there is some useful information from Wikipedia. First I confirmed that there is one single extant species of the genus Sequoia, namely the Sequoia sempervirens also known as the coast redwood. There are some different varieties of the species which various nurseries foster and market.

            On the other hand, the term eucalypts is applied to three distinct genera, namely Angophora, Corymbia and Eucalyptus, each including various species. These diverse species have different properties as can be noted on a walk through the East Bay Regional Parks. (The Park’s wild plants list includes: Eucalyptus camaldulensis Gum, River Red Myrtaceae; Eucalyptus globulus Gum, Blue Myrtaceae; Eucalyptus sp. Gum Myrtaceae and Eucalyptus viminalis Gum, Yellow Manna Myrtaceae. All four are listed as “introduced” species.)

            Reading the entire sentence from Tudge, rather only the part you have put in bold type, I take his meaning to be that the three genera of eucalypts, along with the Sequoia sempervirens are able to survive individually or as species through the ravages of fire. There are “fireproof” he says. This does not mean that all their elements are equal with respect to “flammability” as you say. The visible evidence in the Oakland Hills is that the
            Eucalyptus globulus, itself, is well equipped to survive fire individually and as a species, but its loose outer bark spreads flames as it falls to the ground between the trees and its crescent shaped leaves, tinged with fire, rotate in the updraft from fire and float for a half mile to touch down in streets and on rooftops at some remove from the roaring flames. I have seen these glowing leaves fall in my street and on my roof during the last Oakland Hills Fire. I’m not talking about theory. Where were you on Sunday, October 20, 1991?

  9. July 25, 2010 4:43 pm

    We don’t doubt that some eucalypts burned in the wind-driven fire of 1991. As Jon Keeley (biologist, USGS) says in Sugihara’s Fire in California’s Ecosystems, “The primary driver of large fires that are often catastrophic to humans is the coincidence of fire ignition and Santa Ana winds.” A wind-driven fire will burn everything in its path, eucalypts and redwoods included. The exact composition of the fuel is irrelevant in a wind-driven fire.

    Mr. Gibson’s perception about the flammability of eucalypts has been influenced by what he observed in the 1991 fire and that is certainly understandable. However, here is a quote from a resident on Vicente Road from a book about the 1991 fire (Firestorm! A Study of the 1991 Fire in the East Bay Hills): “Two redwoods up the street caught fire like matchsticks.” Clearly redwoods burned in that fire as well…. as did oaks, bays, houses, chaparral, grass, etc.

    If we wish to reduce fire hazard in the East Bay hills, we should focus on reducing sources of ignition. Undergrounding power lines is an example of something positive that can be done that does not require the destruction of hundreds of thousands of trees which will not reduce fire hazards in a wind-driven fire.

  10. August 14, 2010 5:31 am

    I’d like to politely take issue with Mr Gibson about his definition of “invasive.” He says: ‘By the way, I take “invasive” to describe any non-native species that is successful without further human intercession in a new environment.’

    Surely, this is a recipe for a barren *natural* landscape? If native species compete poorly, and any successful plant is deemed invasive, the only way will be to actively intervene everywhere – with a high cost in resources, and potential chemical usage.

    • Naturalist.charlie permalink
      September 12, 2010 8:49 pm

      yeah, i don’t think I quite agree with that definition either. I’d say an ‘invasive’ organism is one introduced by humans that displaces the pre-existing native ecosystem, replacing or drastically overwhelming a complex ecosystem with a monoculture of one or a few rapidly-reproducing organisms. Notice that they don’t even have to be non-native to do this.

  11. Kenneth Gibson permalink
    August 15, 2010 9:26 pm

    Save Sutro gives my words a tortured interpretation. Let me try again. By “invasive” I mean a plant that is introduced artificially but survives, in that new context, without additional help. I take “native” to mean a plant that was viable and present before any introduction by man. Since I don’t take “invasive” to mean “all-conquering,” invasive and native species can and obviously do co-exist.

    While my preference would be to allow our wild lands to stand as they did before the appearance of man, I am not such a purist that I think all introduced species in an area must be evicted. What I do say is that individual, large, particularly-flammable trees or large stands of particularly-flammable trees should not be planted or fostered near my home or near the home of any other person of good sense. Therefore, I support the removal of eucalyptus forests, or individual giants, in or near cities.

    Readers may want to review
    http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/eucglo/all.html

    Please note the subsection “Other Management Considerations” and the sections “Fire Ecology” and “Fire Effects.” Included in the latter is some mention of the repetition of fires in the same forest of California eucalyptus at a less than 20 year interval. “Fire Effects” includes a description of the particularly flame supporting characteristics of the tree.

    Again, I encourage the removal of eucalyptus in areas near housing and replacement with redwood, native oak or other less flammable species suited to conditions.

  12. August 16, 2010 2:04 pm

    We believe Mr. Gibson confuses “invasive” with “naturalized.” The Sunset Garden Book defines “naturalized” as plants “that can spread or reseed themselves as wildflowers do.” Federal Law (Executive Order 13112) defines “invasive” as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Many non-native plants are naturalized. Few are invasive. The federal database of trees to which Mr. Gibson provides a link says of eucalypts, “It does not spread far and rarely invades wildlands.”

    The database includes coast live oak and redwoods, as well as eucalypts. All are described as adapted to fire, which is as we would expect, given the similarity of the California and Australian climates. All these trees can and do burn in wildfires, but are capable of surviving and regenerating because they are adapted to a landscape that is prone to frequent fires. The 20-year fire interval quoted by Mr. Gibson from this database is actually two fires that are used to illustrate that eucalypts are capable of regenerating after a fire. Two data points do not constitute a “fire interval.”

    Homeowners in the wildland-urban-interface should focus on creating defensible space around their homes rather than on choosing particular plant or tree species. CALFire guidelines for creating defensible space (http://www.fire.ca.gov/cdfbofdb/pdfs/4291finalguidelines2_23_06.pdf)
    do not advise for or against any particular species of plant or tree. Rather they focus on how to prune and maintain vegetation around your home. Likewise the UC Berkeley Fire Center in their brochure “Home Landscaping for Fire” (http://firecenter.berkeley.edu/docs/CE_homelandscaping.pdf) says, “It is important to remember that given certain conditions, all plants can burn…how your plants are maintained and where they are placed is as important as the species of plants that you choose…landscape management (e.g., pruning, irrigation, and cleanup) have a greater impact on whether or not a plant ignites than does the species.”

    Mr. Gibson has every right to his preference for particular trees. However, it is dangerous to assume that this preference will reduce fire hazard.

  13. Kenneth Gibson permalink
    August 16, 2010 4:33 pm

    The point correspondents seem intent on missing is that the eucalyptus spreads fire more effectively than local redwoods or oaks. Eucalyptus leaves, with smoldering, glowing edges, floated and spun on the wind over a half-mile from the fire-line onto the roofs and into the streets in the Woodminster neighborhood in Oakland, in 1991. If we don’t learn from experience, how will we learn?

    Willing to admit my mistakes, I acknowledge that I have not used the term
    “invasive” the way it is used in Sunset.

    Most important, I want to help plant a million trees.

  14. August 16, 2010 7:16 pm

    We don’t miss the point. We disagree with it. We have the experience of specific fires in which everything around the eucalyptus burned, but the trees did not ignite, as well as scientific sources that say eucalyptus leaves are fire resistant. Conversely, we have the experience of specific fires in which both redwoods and oaks burned. We have laboratory evidence that oak leaves cast embers absent any wind as well as the Angel Island fire in which park rangers reported an “ember shower” from the oaks. Official reports of the 1991 fire in the East Bay include many species of trees and plants, as well as embers from every possible source, including pages of books, shingles from roofs, etc. (Sources are cited for these observations in pages and posts on this website. We won’t repeat them here, because we have already provided Mr. Gibson with links to them.)

    We do learn from experience. Our experience is that any tree—both native and non-native—will burn in a firestorm.

    By all means plant a million trees of whatever species you prefer. That does not justify destroying the trees you don’t prefer.

  15. Bev Jo permalink
    August 30, 2010 12:02 am

    Your work is so important and beautifully done. I would add that the chipping and mulching will also result in the extermination of native bees (75 species in Berkeley alone.) They need bare ground for their burrows and mulching prevents this. As honey bees disappear, the native bees will become essential for pollination.

    Webmaster: Thank you for this interesting information. If you know of a reference for it, I would like to add it to the Wildlife page.

    I’ve been seeing Red Shoulder Hawks in the East Bay nesting only in Eucalyptus.

    I love the Golden Wattle Acacias (Acacia Baileyana). I also love broom. When people are depressed in midwinter, these exqusite bright yellow-flowered, delicious-scented plants bloom. Broom blooms for months, and does any other flower smell as good? Why don’t they go after the ivy that smothers trees? I say, deport non-native humans and leave the beautiful plants alone.

    Webmaster: We are not opposed to non-native humans either. Our “live-and-let-live” philosophy applies equally to plants and animals, including humans.

    • Naturalist.charlie permalink
      September 12, 2010 8:51 pm

      humans aren’t non-native to North America and California as they have been there at least 13,000 years. One could argue that our culture is invasive but biologically, all humans are the same species and very closely related to the Native Americans who got here first.

  16. September 8, 2010 10:45 am

    So many people don’t know what they may be doing, and what or what not maybe safe to cut down when it comes to our trees so please be safe out there! Great Article!

  17. Bruce McAllister permalink
    September 19, 2010 11:52 am

    Mr. Gibson is promoting nature as things were before human intervention and is, in a sense, promoting the health of the planet. I believe that it is important to remember one of the first precepts of healthcare: FIRST, DO NO HARM. Cutting down thriving trees when it is clear that we do not know what the result will be is a clear violation of this rule.

    If humans evolved through a natural process over millions of years a) are they not part of nature? and b) where do you draw the line between “nature as left to us by our foolish past predecessors” and “that nature which evolved over millenia.”

    It must have been scary as hell to see everything around you going up in flames; I cannot imagine it not having made an indelible impression on you. I also cannot imagine it not having given you a strong preference for the species of trees around which you feel comfortable.

  18. Bob Mutch permalink
    October 25, 2010 4:42 pm

    I am appalled that anyone living in the Berkeley-Oakland Hills area would object to the removal of the world’s most flammable tree, the non-native eucalyptus. In addition to shedding tons of stringy bark every year, the eucalyptus also has leaves that contain 20 percent by dry weight of highly volatile and flammable oils, waxes, and resins.

    Webmaster: This statement is not supported by evidence from reputable sources. According to the National Park Service, eucalypts shed 4.99 tons per acre of “leaves, bark, needles,etc.” (http://home.nps.gov/pore/parkmgmt/upload/firemanagement_fireeducation_newsletter_eucalyptus_p2.pdf). Since there are usually between 600-1,000 trees per acre in a typical eucalyptus forest, the bark shed by an individual tree is significantly less than “tons.” The National Park Service is eradicating millions of eucalyptus trees, so Mr. Mutch should consider this a credible source of information. Putting eucalyptus bark and leaf litter into perspective, the tree database of the US Forest Service, says of the native coast live oak: “Flammability of coast live oak and chaparral communities with a coast live oak component is of particular concern because of their high fuel loading and proximity to urban areas. Some fire-excluded chaparral habitats have fuel accumulations of 30 to 40 tons per acre.”

    Secondly, the oil content of Blue Gum eucalyptus leaves is 1.0-2.4% (fresh weight which is roughly twice dry weight) (http://home.nps.gov/pore/parkmgmt/upload/firemanagement_fireeducation_newsletter_eucalyptus_p2.pdf). Putting this into perspective, the oil content of the leaf of the native bay laurel is 1.3%. In other words, the leaf of the eucalyptus is not substantially oilier than the most common native tree in the Oakland-Berkeley hills.

    This is twice the volatile content than the needles of the highly flammable ponderosa pine. Surely people in the Berkeley-Oakland Hills area still remember the tragic Tunnel Fire that killed 25 people in 1991. The spread and intensity of this fire was largely fueled by the eucalyptus trees in the area.

    Webmaster: According to the technical report of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Berkeley-Oakland hills fire was not “largely fueled by the eucalyptus trees.” Native trees and plants were equally involved in that fire, as were the approximately 3,000 homes that burned. In a wind-driven fire, everything will burn, as it did in that fire. (“East Bay Hills Fire Oakland-Berkeley, California,” United States Fire Administration, Technical Report Series, FEMA)

    So 23 citizens, 1 law enforcement officer, and 1 firefighter paid the ultimate price as people, homes, and highly flammable fuels came together to produce a killer fire. This fire was predicted years earlier by Dr. Harold Biswell, Professor Emeritus at UC-Berkeley, who was rightfully concerned about the flammable eucalpytus on very steep slopes. Good for East Bay Parks, the University of California, and others who are trying to reduce the fire hazard caused by these non-native eucalyptus trees before the next conflagration occurs. Eucalyptus trees that are removed can be replaced by less flammable vegetation. I have hiked entensively in these hills and have seen numerous wood shake roofs loaded with pine needles that could easily be ignited from a high intensity eucalyptus fire on a windy day. Yes, homeowners must reduce the flammability of their own property and home, but the Tunnel Fire certainly leaves a lasting lesson that these non-native eucalypts must be managed to reduce the survival danger they present to the community at large. Surprisingly a writer to the latest issue of Sunset magazine states that “destroying non-native trees will not make us safer…” I wonder what she will say when Tunnel Fire II occurs under the prevailing hot and dry conditions of global climate change. Think, too, about Black Saturday in Australia in February 2009 when 173 Australians were killed in eucalyptus crown fires in Victoria.

    Webmaster: Australia is vegetated with eucalyptus and its climate is similar to California’s Mediterranean climate. Its wildfires are largely caused by hot winds, as are the fires in California. As in California, everything will burn in a wind-driven fire. In California native trees and vegetation will burn in a wind-driven fire. In Australia, what is native there will burn in a wind-driven fire. It is therefore not logical to conclude that the trees that are native to Australia are inherently more flammable than the vegetation that is native to California.

    We as a society have a responsibility to do all in our power to allow people to live more compatibly in the fire environment that characterizes California. That means reducing the flammability of homesites and reducing the flammability of adjacent wildland vegetation.

    Bob Mutch, Fire Management Applications, Montana

    Webmaster: We urge Mr. Mutch to look at other posts on Million Trees about this issue. There are many wildfires in California in which the eucalypts did not burn, while much around them did. We share Mr. Mutch’s concern for fire safety. However, we do not believe that eradicating non-native trees will achieve that goal.

  19. Nani Pogline permalink
    December 31, 2010 12:15 am

    This web site is both disturbing and wonderful. It is disturbing to learn this kind of thing is happening in other places besides my back yard, but good to know other people out there are taking a stand. I live on the Big Island of Hawaii. The native forest campaign here is both an industry and a religion. Herbicides are used liberally in the water shed forests without consideration for the Islands water supply. Food producing plants are killed. Acres of mangroves along the coast were poisoned with both herbicidal injection and spray. Whole eco-systems were destroyed, and the environment left with rotting debris. Not only are non-native species being destroyed with the use of herbicides, but bio-control is also big. Insects and fungus have been released into the environment, causing large scale damage and death to many different plant species. There are legitimate suspicions that bio-control releases are being done under the table as well. Eradication projects not only target plants, there are also large scale animal removal projects. Wild life has been trapped, shot, rounded up and slaughtered. Cruelty and abuse is condoned for non-native wild life. Pigs are left to die a slow painful death for days when trapped with snares. Sheep and goats are herded from air till exhaustion, then fired upon. Grazing sources are depleted from bio-control and herbicidal poisoning, and animals are left to slowly starve. Different groups of people have been fighting long and hard, but to no avail. The government seems set on accommodating these programs. Hopefully a collective effort may bring some answers. Thank you and cheers for “A Million Trees.”

    Million Trees Webmaster: Thank you for visiting and commenting on the Million Trees blog. We hope that you will share our website with Hawaiians who share your concern.

    We are not surprised to learn of the damage caused by “restoration” efforts in Hawaii because we know that islands are particularly vulnerable to these ideological attacks. Please visit our post about the Channel Islands in California: http://milliontrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/restoration-or-destruction/.

    We share your view that the motivation for this devastation is both economic and ideological. A perfect examble of this unholy alliance is the evidence that the chemical industry, which manufactures the herbicides used by restorationists, funds their annual professional conference about “weed management in the wildlands.”

  20. Peter Scott permalink
    January 3, 2011 10:56 am

    I cannot believe Kenneth Gibson’s report that he witnessed burning eucalyptus leaves spreading fire. I’ve experimented with both dry and green euc leaves, to see for myself whether they are prone to flying , and whether they can retain an ember once ignited. The results: Unburnt, dry or green, the euc leaves tend to flutter and fall (because of their curved and narrow shape?) but more importantly: they burn quite quickly, leaving only a disintegrating tissue of ash that is obviously too frail to fly, much less sustain an ember.

    Many fine, tall eucalyptus survived the ’91 fire where every other species around them burned. The fire swept through: grass and brush and low trees in the understory were consumed quickly enough that the eucs apparently did not reach ingnition temperature. I walked and photographed the site of the Broadway Terrace fire (circa 2008) a few days after it was extinguished. The understory — a tangle of brush and litter 6-8′ deep — burned completely but the low-hanging euc leaves, about 10′ – 12′ above the ground, were only discolored; they refused to ignite. The euc trunks were superficially singed.

    If you look carefully at the videos of the Australian fires, you will see the green crowns of the eucs remain intact, while the fire races through the understory. I’ve walked the euc forests in the east bay hills, and the accumulation of shedded bark does not represent nearly the ignition risk that the dried-out (native) poison oak and coyote brush does — and it is far easier to maintain.

    The point is, UCB, EBRPD and the City of Oakland have failed to maintain their properties to resist ignition for decades, and now they have convinced themselves that “reducing fuel” (aka deforestation) will address fire risk. Vegetation management in our hills is too important to be left in the hands of the Fire Chiefs, because they clearly fail to consider the wider issues of damage to the environment (climate change, loss of habitat, air and water quality, erosion, long-term use of pesticides), the likelihood of Sudden Oak Death or the aesthetic quality of the forested hills.

  21. February 11, 2011 9:22 am

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    A thankful human, Karen

    P.S. Being green is the best thing:)

  22. February 11, 2011 9:27 am

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  23. February 11, 2011 10:34 am

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  24. February 11, 2011 10:37 am

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  25. February 11, 2011 11:10 am

    Thank you so much for continuing the fight for the precious trees and their wild native inhabitants. I think everyone advocating removal of non-natives should have their yard open to the public for us to see that most have spent a lot of money on planting popular non-native ornamental trees, shrubs, flowers, etc. And before a single tree that we all “own” in public lands is cut, they should have their (usually) entire garden removed. Wouldn’t that be justice? I hate double standards. I mean, why not cut down all of Golden Gate Park, the Conservatory, UC Botanical Gardens, etc.

    And who can not love the exquisite golden acacias, now blooming on what is often wasteland? They are my favorite tree.

    • Paula Fitzgerald, Natural Forest Advocates permalink
      February 15, 2011 12:53 pm

      We have been fighting the same fight here in Chicago area for many years. Thousands of trees and thousands of tax dollars being spent to cut down, douse with herbicide, and burn in Cook County Forest Preserves, Chicago Park District lands, as well as surrounding counties. Acres of forest preserves have been cut down to create these artificial landscapes. Claims of “the prairie state” when historical records show this area of the state was historically forested. Local, state, and federal taxes and additonally private grants to do the work. To say nothing of money going to private “restoration” companies as well as using Little Acorns (school children armed with loppers)and well meaning city folks out on weekends “helping nature”. Our heavily populated city needs trees!
      Million Trees Webmaster: Yes, we are well-aware of the “restoration” effort in the Chicago area that has destroyed hundreds of thousands of trees because one of the first books we read on this subject was about Chicago. Restoring Nature (edited by Paul Gobster, Island Press, 2000) was both enlightening and horrifying to us because it alerted us to the fact that the public often reacts negatively to this destruction, but that ultimately it proves impossible to stop. And so it is in the Bay Area, where 20 public hearings later, the destruction continues unabated. But we don’t give up and we hope that the people of Chicago will not either.

      • Paula Fitzgerald, Natural Forest Advocates permalink
        February 17, 2011 7:56 am

        THANK YOU!!! We were unaware of Gobster’s book! We spent many hours with Ried Helford when he wrote his PHd on our issue and attended his presentation at Loyola in 2000. We have lost contact with him, but I will order the book and read it asap. I am so excited to learn of any influence we may have had on you. I and other members of our groups have spent countless hours writing letters, and speaking to others about the issue and we are well aware that the problem is nationwide and even international in scope. We continue to fight the good fight and are greatly encouraged by Davis’s book and the review in Scientific American.

  26. February 17, 2011 9:05 am

    We are located in Chicago and have been fighting the “restorationists” for 30 years.
    The Cook County Forest Preserve allows “restorationists” to cut down healthy trees, to irresponsibly use garlon and to use not only “controlled burning” but the use of fire in brush piles across the street from homes.
    The unintended consequences of pollution, smoke and soot as well as the impact on our diminishing forested land is frightening and heartbreaking.
    Last year over 500 acres of forest preserve land burned out of control under the watch of restoration “stewards.” This program is dangerous to human health and safety and has dubious ecological benefits. It is a breath of fresh air to see that we are not alone.
    Webmaster: No, you are not alone. We agree that the word “restoration” to describe these destructive projects is a misnomer. Please visit the SaveSutro website for the brilliant work of another ally in San Francisco. Carry on bravely.

  27. March 27, 2011 9:20 am

    Nicely done. I am so tired of all the energy spent on getting rid of “non native” species that are not harmful. instead we need to be putting energy into getting rid of lawns and ornamental plants that take up tons of water and use that water on growing food locally for humans so we don’t have to ship it from organic and non organic farms far away.

    If people want to complain about non native plants what about the millions of acres of corn that is grown to feed people who choose to eat meat and dairy every day 3 times a day. think about it. I have nothing against hunting for tribal people but meat eating does not work in an industrialized society.

    Let’s put our energy into growing local plant based food because it makes so much more sense than fighting harmless trees that are not hurting anyone.

  28. April 5, 2011 1:07 am

    Appalling state of affairs! Here in Australia we have Eucalypt forests AND pine plantations everywhere, and yet we don’t kill them all to prevent bushfires. In many cases trees and vegetation protect homes against fire.

    I support conservation of existing native trees especially intact ecological communities, but to knock down perfectly healthy mature trees for the sake of attempting to recreate nature doesn’t make sense, when we’re trying to reduce carbon emissions in the world!

  29. peter permalink
    April 5, 2011 11:10 am

    On this blog (http://milliontrees.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/lies-and-intimidation-savesutro-receives-apparent-legal-threat/) you (rightly) complain about others’ uses of alarming photographs to misrepresent their case. I would like to complain about yours. You show several sensational photos of restoration projects in progress, but do not show the completed project. For instance, when the eucalyptus in Claremont Canyon were initially removed, it certainly looked barren. Now, a few years later, it is looking much better, as the diversity of plants that had previously been hanging on underneath of the eucalypts started to take off. I expect your photo of “UC Berkeley’s “Vegetation Management”” above will look similar in suprisingly few years.
    Webmaster: The photographs on Million Trees are current. If and when the area shown in the “vegetation management” photo looks better, we would gladly update the photo. We just visited that area on Sunday. It looks the same.

    Furthermore, I’d like to point out to the people who are fixated on trees and global warming that a healthy native grassland stores, over time, more carbon than many types of forest.
    Webmaster: Carbon sequestration is proportional to biomass. Grass cannot sequester as much carbon as a large tree. If you think we are mistaken in that, please provide a reference, which we would gladly read. Although we have heard native plant advocates make this claim many times, we have never seen a reference substantiating that claim. When we have debated the issue with them, they were unable to make their case successfully.

    • May 8, 2011 2:09 pm

      “Carbon sequestration is proportional to biomass. Grass cannot sequester as much carbon as a large tree. If you think we are mistaken in that, please provide a reference, which we would gladly read. Although we have heard native plant advocates make this claim many times, we have never seen a reference substantiating that claim. When we have debated the issue with them, they were unable to make their case successfully.”

      Native grasses sequester carbon in the soil. Many native bunch grasses can live for hundreds of years. When their tops are grazed or burned they shed roots to balance the upper and lower part of the plant. The shed roots provide organic material for worms, fungi, beneficial bacteria and other soil life. Over time sequestered carbon in grass land soils can rival developed forests by creating top soil many feet deep and root systems 10′s of feet long. Healthy native grass lands of the past likely had better permeability with all this soil activity leading to less runoff and better recharging of the aquifer. We have dramatically changed our grasslands and the unmanaged invasive annuals should not be confused with native grasses.

      Webmaster: Yes, carbon is sequestered in the soil by the roots of plants and trees. However, the root systems of large, mature trees are more extensive than any grass, including bunch grasses. Native plant advocates frequently make claims regarding native plants that are equally true of non-native plants and trees. This is an example of an instance in which the capabilities of carbon storage are unrelated to the nativity of the plant or tree. Nor does carbon storage in roots and soil contradict the fact that carbon storage is proportional to biomass.

      • peter permalink
        May 11, 2011 1:14 pm

        No-one here has claimed that carbon storage is related to native-ness; this would be ridiculous, because everything is “native” somewhere. In this context, what we meant was (clearly) that perennial grasslands can sequester more carbon than many types of forest (native or non-native). As I understand it, this is not true of the (European) annual grasslands.

        Webmaster: Please reread Matthew’s paragraph beginning “Native grasses sequester…” He is specifically discussing “native grasses” and “native grasslands.” And when you refer to “perennial grasslands” (the native grasslands in California) and compare them to “(European) annual grasslands” (the non-native ones in California) it appears that you are also making claims that native grasslands can store more carbon than forests.
        While you may understand that carbon storage is unrelated to native-ness, some native plant enthusiasts do not. We attended a lecture by a member of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy in which he was recruiting volunteers for a “restoration” project. He said during the lecture, “Carbon sequestration in non-native trees doesn’t count. Only carbon stored in native trees counts.” I suspect you agree that this statement has no scientific meaning, but it was made in a UC Berkeley ecology class, and was not questioned by anyone in the room, including the class instructor.
        Matthew’s “useful explanation” of how a native grassland goes about storing carbon is not specific to native grasslands. The processes apply to all grasslands and forests. All these plants have roots and supply organic materials to the soil and to soil organisms, adding carbon to the soil. Trees provide a continual rain of leaf litter which adds carbon to the soil.

        To add to Matthew’s useful explanation, and to respond to the request for citations, here are some citations indicating that “bigger plants equals more stored carbon” is naive. Please correct me if you have other sources. Apologies for non-open-access links.

        “In terrestrial ecosystems the amount of carbon in soil is usually greater than the amount in living vegetation.” (Post & Kwan 2008, Global Change Biology) It’s not necessarily about the biomass or the sizes of the root systems — the carbon sequestration depends on how fast the plants grow (using atmospheric carbon), and what the soil ecosystem does with the accumulated organic matter. The same paper displays a wide range of carbon sequestration rates, showing that transition to grassland can sequester faster than a transition to a forest. (or vice-versa — it depends much more on other factors)

        In the literature, it is hard to find a generalized comparison of “grassland” versus “forest”, because this is nonsensical — soil properties have a much larger effect. For instance, “Land-use effects on the composition of organic matter in particle-size separates of soil: I. Lignin and carbohydrate signature”, by Guggenberger et al in the European Journal of Soil Science, finds 84 and 59 g C/kg soil in two kinds of forest, and 73 g/kg in a perennial grassland. Further googling finds similar examples.

        Also, there is a nice summary of California soils (freely accessible) at: http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/filelibrary/5472/43464.pdf

        Webmaster: We can’t access “Post & Kwan (Kwon?) 2008, Global Change Biology” so we don’t know if they claim grasslands store more carbon than forests, nor how they quantify (if they do) the amount of carbon stored in soil vs. the amount stored in living trees. You have provided no references we can check to alter our understanding that a living forest stores more carbon in its trees than a grassland does in its grasses. The Guggenberger abstract doesn’t provide any information about carbon stored in trees or grasses. The UC Davis (Jackson et.al.) paper doesn’t mention carbon stored in trees or in forest soils.
        You say “carbon sequestration rates.” We were talking about the amount of sequestered carbon, not rates. That is what is relevant when trees are destroyed.
        We’re not clear what you think the issue is regarding native plants and carbon sequestration. Let us try again to be clear about our point: When intact forests are destroyed, the carbon they have stored over their lifetime is released into the atmosphere. No subsequent “restoration” of native grassland will compensate for that release of carbon into the atmosphere. If we were debating the future of bare ground, the comparison between carbon sequestration rates of forests and grasslands might be relevant. But we’re not. We are confronting plans to destroy over one million trees that presently exist.

      • May 20, 2013 5:09 pm

        I was referring to native grasses because some of our native bunch grasses can live for 800 years or more. This is in sharp contrast to European annual grasses that do not have a significant root system and basically turn over the same carbon every year.

        I’ve commented in other threads on this site, but I am not a fan of the polarization I’m reading here. Not all of the eucalyptus trees are healthy specimens. Many of the eucs have tops and limbs with narrow branch unions that are highly likely to break out, many have already. Many of the trees in the grove have unsustainable leans due to the grove not receiving the thinning and pruning it needed during early establishment. If the project focused on thinning from the understory and taking out some of the compromised trees, the rest of the grove would be healthier and safer for everyone.

        We need to address eucalyptus groves the same way we need to address our native forests, thin out the smaller trees that would be consumed by a low intensity fire so the larger more successful trees can thrive.

        Before policy makers start clear cutting eucalyptus it would be helpful for them to read some of the intended management plans that were laid out at the time of establishment. This is a fabulous document that explains the history, establishment, breeding, intended uses ect of Eucalyptus in California at the beginning of the last century.

        http://wwwlibrary.csustan.edu/bsantos/section1.htm

        As far as using herbicides, I’m not a fan. You have the obvious issues of toxicity, unintended consequences ect. But as a small tree service contractor, the use of herbicides excludes me from even being able to bid on the job. A chemical applicators license is very expensive. I would advocate for grinding the stumps using a slow speed high torque stump grinder from Europe rather than the noisy and dangerous stump grinders that are so popular here in the US.

        Trees mean different things to different people. I hope that this conversation can settle somewhere in the middle rather than being a centrifuge throwing all opinions to the far right or far left.

        • May 20, 2013 5:13 pm

          Wrong link earlier…this is much better technology than what is commonly available in the US.

          Webmaster: Thanks for sending this video. It seems to be an option that should be considered. It’s certainly a less toxic option than the herbicides that are planned. Do you think it will kill the roots and prevent resprouts? It may not be an option on steep slopes, but it should be evaluated as an alternative. I hope you will submit a public comment on the FEMA projects and suggest that this technology be considered.

          • Matthew Banchero permalink
            May 20, 2013 5:39 pm

            Hello Webmaster…

            I seem to keep coming back to this same thread every few months and offering a reiteration of a braindump. I hope I haven’t overly monopolized the thread. I really appreciate the work you are doing on this site.

            Even as a tree cutter myself I am trying to stop some of the logging projects going on in Sonoma County, where I live and work.

            Unfortunately, most of the best and most concientious arborists don’t have the equipment or desire to get into these large scale thinning and restoration projects and the people who do have the equipment are good ol’boy logger types. I’m certainly working to change the paradigm. I’m glad to see the effort that you are putting in as well.

            Kind regards,

            Matt Banchero

            On Mon, May 20, 2013 at 5:28 PM, Death of a Million Trees wrote:

            > ** > Matthew Banchero commented: “Wrong link earlier…this is much better > technology than what is commonly available in the US. > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCYDwlrDSJ4 Webmaster: Thanks for sending > this video. It seems to be an option that should be considered. It’s > certainly” >

    • peter permalink
      May 11, 2011 1:18 pm

      “Webmaster: The photographs on Million Trees are current. If and when the area shown in the “vegetation management” photo looks better, we would gladly update the photo. We just visited that area on Sunday. It looks the same.”

      Right. This was not my criticism. I was complaining that although the site looks bad *now*, we might expect it to look much better in the *future*, as has happened for instance in Claremont Canyon. You didn’t claim that the CBD’s photo (in http://milliontrees.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/lies-and-intimidation-savesutro-receives-apparent-legal-threat/) was “not current”; just that it was a *misrepresentation*.

      Webmaster: The photo in question is of an area that was clear-cut by UC Berkeley in 2004. Seven years later it is still barren. Although you are free to speculate about its future appearance, we are not obligated to do so. Accurately describing its present appearance does not constitute “misrepresentation.”

      The photo used by the Center for Biological Diversity to libel Chilton Ranch is not analogous to our photo of UC Berkeley property. CBD’s photo was not of Chilton Ranch property, nor was the land grazed by Chilton’s cattle. The damage portrayed in that photo was not caused by Chilton Ranch. That is clearly a case of misrepresentation, as the court found when it awarded Chilton $500,000 of punitive damages for CBD’s fraudulant photos.

  30. May 8, 2011 1:54 pm

    I love that there is this much passionate discussion of these groves of Eucalyptus.

    When I was 11 years old the Berkeley Hills fire came within a 1/4 mile of my parents Oakland home I watched the fire consume houses, trees and electric transformers from the corner of Clairemont Ave in Oakland. I grew up hiking in the over grown Eucalyptus groves spending a lot of time thinking about how to deal with these plantations. I didn’t realize until many years later that it would be a big contributing factor to me becoming an arborist.

    A point I think needs clarifying is that many of the eucalyptus groves that burned in 1991 were choked with dead wood from intense frosts in the 70′s and 80′s that wiped out whole groves. The blue gum eucalyptus re-sprouted from the roots and as water sprouts on the bottom 20′ of the trunk. The dead tops in the ensuing years broke off and piled up at the base of the trees or were caught in the over crowded sprouts. These sprouts continued to push their way through 10′s of tons an acre of aerial dead wood and had thousands of stems an acre. These were un-managed groves and they burned with intensity and rained fire brands across the whole bay area. This should not have come to a surprise to anyone. Groves in that condition need to be addressed as a hazard and not lumped in with the healthy groves that would benefit from relatively minor understory thinning and native understory planting projects. But, all groves of blue gum need some work done just as native forests need to be thinned in the absence of fire.

    Most of the necessary work can be done with relatively small industrial equipment that’s light on the soil and doesn’t remove large areas of canopy cover. I have not read the proposed thinning or eradication plans and I have no idea what kind of equipment they will utilizing and how much canopy will be removed. I also don’t know what kind of planting, grading, erosion control, seasonal timing ect is involved in the projects being discussed. I do think we need to plant additional species of native trees and potentially food bearing non native trees to increase biodiversity in our east bay groves.

    We have been lucky so far that eucalyptus does not have many pests, but what if the groves we have now were to all die suddenly like our tan oak, or American chestnut, or elms or port oxford cedar ect. Do we have a reasonable system for handling 200′ tall dead trees in the urban wildland interface? What if this happens in a climate with no government spending to speak of…like the foreseeable future?

    Webmaster: Yes, we are aware of the die back of many trees and plants in the East Bay Hills caused by a freeze the winter before the firestorm of 1991. We explain this important factor on our page, “FIRE!! The Cover Story” which we hope you will visit. And, as you mention such freezes occur rarely and not in the past 20 years. Therefore, cleaning up after them is less costly and less destructive than destroying millions of trees that then must be poisoned repeatedly to prevent them from growing back.

    As for tree diversity, we can agree that that is a worthy goal. However, the arguments for planting trees and the arguments for destroying them are very different. By all means plant more trees of various species, but that does not justify destroying mature, healthy trees solely because they are not native, in our opinion.

  31. May 13, 2011 2:20 pm

    I would like to clarify that native grasslands adapted to our natural fire regime will sequester more carbon than many non-native grasses.
    Webmaster: Although this is probably theoretically true (because of the deeper, perennial roots of native bunch grasses), it has no practical meaning because there are almost no native grasslands left in California and there haven’t been for nearly one hundred years.
    This is acknowledged by David Amme, Wildland Vegetation Program Manager of the East Bay Regional Park District in “Grassland Heritage” (Bay Nature, April-June 2004):

    “But the Mediterranean annual grasses are a permanent part of the California grasslands, and they now are as much a part of California’s grasslands as the native perennial grasses once were. The time is long overdue for an official naturalization ceremony. Despite the losses suffered by native plants in the face of exotic grasses, the East Bay annual grasslands remain a tremendously productive ecosystem…”

    The Serpentine Prairie and Point Pinole are the only parks in the East Bay Regional Park District in which native grasses exist, according to the Park District’s “Wildfire Plan.” All other grasslands in the East Bay parks are classified by the “Wildfire Plan” as California Annual Grassland, which is described by the Plan as predominantly non-native. This is as we would expect given that, “…only about 1% of [California] grassland today could be considered pristine [AKA native].” (page 520. A Natural History of California, Schoenherr, UC Press, 1992)
    It is extremely difficult to transform annual grassland to native bunch grasses. Where it has been attempted it has been uniformly unsuccessful. Because the effort is costly and requires large quantities of herbicides, the attempts at such conversions have been small. Therefore, we must assume that existing eucalyptus forests cannot be converted to native grassland.

    I am not a botanist…I know just enough to get me into trouble, my area of specialty is trees. But I do know that bunch grasses in California have been carbon dated at 800 years old. Every time the top is grazed or burned that small bunch of grass sequesters carbon in the soil and adds soil depth. 5′ of top soil is going to contain more stored carbon than the grove of Eucalytus growing on top of it.
    Webmaster: You are mistaken in your assumption that “every time the top is grazed or burned that small bunch of grass sequesters carbon in the soil and adds soil depth.” In fact, when a plant burns or dies some of the carbon it has stored during its lifetime is stored in the soil and some is released into the atmosphere. Nor is it true that a grove of eucalyptus trees stores less carbon than the soil in which grasses have grown because the carbon sequestered within the tree is proportional to its biomass. Details about where carbon is stored in plants, ocean, and soil are available on the EPA website in its periodic report of greenhouse gases. These reports contain much useful information that is comprehensible to non-scientists. I recommend them to you: http://epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads10/US-GHG-Inventory-2010_Report.pdf

    European perennial grasses generally do not have the root mass nor are long lived enough to sequester carbon at the same rate.
    Webmaster: We agree that this is probably true because the native grasses are perennial. Once again, the advantage of native grasses with respect to their ability to sequester carbon, is theoretical because there are few native grasslands in California.

    I also want to point out that broadcasting wood chips on the ground is not just dumping CO2 back into the atmosphere. If the chips are covering exposed soil they are protecting the skin of the planet by preventing desiccation. If the chips have been broadcast under the canopy the carbon is intercepted by roots and perhaps multiple canopy layers. I suggest reading Mycelium Running by Paul Staments for ideas on how mushrooms and wood chips can be used to save the world.
    Webmaster: This is the most dangerous statement that you make because it implies that we would benefit from destroying all trees, chipping them and just doing without trees, which would be disastrous for the environment. Once again, I refer you to the EPA reports about carbon sequestration. The reports explain in detail the disposition of carbon when trees are cut down. For example, when the wood is used to build a house, the carbon is not released from that wood until the house is destroyed by decay or fire. In contrast, when the wood is left on the ground to decay, the carbon is released into the atmosphere as the wood decays.
    This is a complex subject that we do not claim to fully understand, though we make every effort to do so. Therefore, we sought the advice of a scientist who specializes in this area. Sarah Hobbie is Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior at University of Minnesota (see http://www.cbs.umn.edu/labs/shobbie/). She read a draft of my reply to you and she made these comments: “You are absolutely right that forests store more carbon than grasslands because the carbon stored in wood—that plus the soil carbon under the forests is greater than the carbon stored in soils + plants in grasslands…And you are absolutely right that once wood chips decay, they return CO2 back to the atmosphere. You will never ‘save the world’ in terms of storing carbon by spreading woodchips around.”
    Professor Hobbie sent us several reports on this subject which we will read and publish a new post about carbon sequestration soon. Thank you for initiating this discussion about this important subject about which many native plant advocates seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding.

  32. May 14, 2011 2:10 pm

    “This is the most dangerous statement that you make because it implies that we would benefit from destroying all trees, chipping them and just doing without trees, which would be disastrous for the environment. Once again, I refer you to the EPA reports about carbon sequestration. The reports explain in detail the disposition of carbon when trees are cut down. For example, when the wood is used to build a house, the carbon is not released from that wood until the house is destroyed by decay or fire. In contrast, when the wood is left on the ground to decay, the carbon is released into the atmosphere as the wood decays.”

    Now I’m being misquoted. :) I said when chips are broadcast under the canopy of a forest they are a benefit. I did not say cut and chip all of the trees and we can do without forest cover. Clearly trees are a benefit, but an over crowded stand of trees will slow down and eventually stop sequestering additional carbon.
    Webmaster: We had not understood what you were saying about spreading chips under the canopy of a forest. We had puzzled over that sentence, but did not understand it. Since you seemed to be advocating for replacing forests with grasslands, we didn’t understand that you now seem to be advocating for thinning the forest. So now we will reply to that suggestion:

    Most of the projects to remove non-native trees in the San Francisco Bay Area are clear-cutting, not thinning the forest. When thinning is proposed, it is drastic. In the East Bay Regional Park District, for example, the proposal is to remove non-native trees entirely in some areas and thin in other areas to 25 to 35 trees per acre. Since there are now between 600 and 1,000 trees per acre in these forests, this is a virtual elimination of the trees.

    The Blue Gum eucalyptus, which is the dominant non-native tree in the Bay Area lives in Australia between 200 and 400 years, depending upon the climate (longer in wetter areas). The eucalyptus forest in the Bay Area is therefore young and actively growing and sequestering carbon at the rapid rate associated with rapid growth.

    “And you are absolutely right that once wood chips decay, they return CO2 back to the atmosphere. You will never ‘save the world’ in terms of storing carbon by spreading woodchips around.”

    The chips will return carbon the the atmosphere if the Co2 is not captured by the other plants and trees in the forest. Understory thinning and chipping is one of the best ways the sequester carbon in forests because of the release to the remaining trees and the soil building and moisture retaining properties of wood chips. Be careful not to demonize carbon too much as it is the basis of all life on this planet.
    Webmaster: If I understand you correctly, you are saying that a thinned forest will be capable of absorbing the carbon of their decaying neighbors when they are destroyed , chipped, and left to rot on the forest floor. This is a complicated calculation, which I don’t think either of us have the resources to do. However, common sense suggests that if you have destroyed 99% of a forest, the remaining 1% of the forest will not be capable of absorbing the carbon from their decaying neighbors. Again, chipping wood does not sequester carbon in forests. You would be wise to consider Sarah Hobbie’s credentials when denying this basic fact.

    This thread isn’t really about carbon though…it is about proper forest management.
    Webmaster: We would also like to see the forests managed better than they are. However, we apparently define “management” very differently. “Management” means to us that the trees are pruned, limbed up to remove fire ladders, leaf and branch litter are removed, trees are evaluated for potential hazards and removed as needed to ensure the public’s safety. We don’t think removing 99% of the trees qualifies as “management.”

    • May 14, 2011 6:34 pm

      I jumped back and forth between this thread and a discussion of the Sutro forest in San Francisco.

      I think the eucalyptus groves in the east bay hills need a lot of work. Hazard trees need to be removed, some trees need to be pruned, clumps need to be thinned to 2-4 stems, wilding trees need to be eliminated, over crowded groves should be thinned starting with the understory to maintain canopy but remove fire ladders. You might only need to cut/remove 20% of the biomass to get the results of biodiversity and fire safety in healthy groves.

      I think some of that biomass is best used as mulch on the site to remediate the soil disturbance and compaction from machinery. Being able to chip low value on site also reduces labor, transportation costs and fuel and disposal costs. I think the 20′ deep snow drifts of chips from whole tree chipping in Clairmont Canyon was a bit extreme but 12″ mounds over 1/4 of the soil surface is about right. The firewood generated from that kind of work could potentially offset the cost.

      The rate of cut you are describing is troubling, 600-1000 trees down to 25-35 trees an acre is going to lead to allot of wind throw.

  33. Skeptic permalink
    May 14, 2011 6:08 pm

    Matthew says, “The thread is not about carbon.” ?? Well, Matthew’s posts are definitely about carbon. He started with carbon sequestration in native grasslands, on May 8, and continued with carbon sequestration in grasslands on May 11, with a segue into wood chipping. Now he is still talking about carbon connected to wood chipping. So I consider it totally appropriate to comment on what he says about carbon.

    Matthew says, “The chips will return carbon to the atmosphere if the CO2 is not captured by the other plants and trees in the forest.” That’s simply not correct. The chips will return carbon to the atmosphere. Period. No qualifying “if.” If decaying wood chips release a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a ton of carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere, not less. If half of that CO2 is absorbed by neighboring trees, those trees will then not absorb a different half ton of CO2 that is already in the atmosphere from other sources. (say from Matthew’s Prius driving around the neighborhood) The neighboring trees would have absorbed the Prius CO2 if the CO2 from chips hadn’t been there. The net effect of the decaying chips is one ton of CO2 added to the atmosphere, whether neighboring trees absorb some of the CO2 from the decaying chips or not. The carbon economy is global, not local.

    I don’t know Matthew, so I can’t tell whether his, “Be careful not to demonize carbon too much…” statement is made as a joke. But the fact that carbon is the basis of life on this planet does not diminish the climate change dangers of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

  34. Carolyn Blair permalink
    September 21, 2011 4:19 pm

    Wow! I can’t believe no one has mentioned, the historic scary as hell facts — that one of the main reasons the eucalyptus trees were originally planted –as a wind break — was to prevent the YEARLY FIRES! Since then there have only been three fires — still too many.

  35. September 21, 2011 5:07 pm

    check out our website
    treesforlifechicago.org
    Webmaster: Thanks for letting us know about your new site. Thank you and congratulations on its creation. We’ve added it as a link and we hope you will add our website as a link on yours. We are on the same page and our problems are very similar.

  36. John Pritchard permalink
    January 4, 2012 8:44 pm

    You can see this minority anti-science viewpoint throughout society, from the left to the right. On the right we can see overpopulation denial, global warming denial, creationism, acceptance of all chemicals no matter how toxic, and the belief that the current level of extinction is “natural”. The left generally has as better understanding of science, but still we can see overpopulation denial, and the demonization of all chemicals. Now we have this denial of the invasive species crisis, from people most of whom I think are on the left. We see people in essence comparing fifth-graders pulling broom to Nazi prison guards. Wendy Tokuda of T.V. news fame just had an article in Bay Nature about how when she was clearing broom in an area that had been cleared of eucalyptus and pines she found an endangered species of manzanita. Anyone who really knows plants and ecology, even amateurs like Wendy, can see the difference.

    Webmaster: If Mr. Pritchard would read any of the articles on this website he would see that virtually every statement is supported by a scientific reference. In fact, the criticism of the native plant movement is emerging from science, not from amateurs. It is precisely people like Wendy Tokuda who are clinging to the fantasy that the eradication of all non-native species will result in the magical emergence of native species. The broom which Ms. Tokuda is trying to eradicate is the result of clear-cutting the trees. The bare ground is much more likely to be occupied by more competitive non-natives.

    No, Mr. Pritchard, not everyone “can see the difference.” The most vocal critics of these projects are those who watch them turn into weedy messes behind fences, posted with signs about pesticide applications and prescribed burns. And if the animals could speak, they would join us as their food sources and their homes are destroyed.

    Fifth-graders pulling broom aren’t doing so by choice. No one would rightfully compare them to Nazi guards. But the adults who bring them to these destructive projects are another matter.

  37. January 23, 2012 6:45 pm

    Thank you so much for your brilliant work. I love those non-natives. They give us golden beauty in the winter, precipitate water from fog, greatly increasing what other plants can grow. They give homes to native wildlife. I see uncommon species prefer them. The mixed eucalyptus/pine forest where I hike has amazing wildlife diversity that I do not see in native forest.

    But those who do not care they are killing living beings are the same kind of people who happily kill native animals (such as ground squirrels who give homes to so many species, including the endangered burrowing owls, once one of the most common birds here). It’s all about money, really. But what is sad is that well-meaning people believe the cons and lies.

    I don’t know what else to do. It’s heart-breaking to see the death and destruction where there was once such beautiful forest in the Bay Area.

    Webmaster: Please do not lose heart. The science that has supported native plant restorations in the past is making a radical shift. It will surely take some time for the science to catch up to the public opinion that has developed over a long period of time. But, the tide is turning.

    Thank you for your encouragement.

  38. January 23, 2012 6:58 pm

    I have a suggestion: Those who advocate killing any non-native tree should first have to destroy every non-native plant in their yard. Get rid of the multi-million dollar landscaping at all public places, including the East Bay Regional Parks, UC Berkeley, government agencies, businesses, etc. No more non-native street trees. Nothing much would be left, but why should only the native animals lose their homes and food and safety. Start with the people.

    Hypocrite UC Berkeley. There is even a book listing the magnificent non-native trees they have. Those of course aren’t to be touched. Only the non-natives in the hills.

    Of course I do not want ANY non-native plants hurt, but let’s stop the hypocrisy and double standards. If all the non-native trees where people live, work and shop were killed, then things would change. Most of these people don’t even know what is native and what is not.

    Webmaster: I think I see your point. People don’t seem to realize how much of our landscape that we enjoy is non-native. Another way to make that point would be to ban all non-native food from their tables. Do you think they might enjoy acorn mush?

  39. Jimi permalink
    February 6, 2012 1:47 pm

    So I have to ask the question, can the author(s) of this website give their names, credentials and education history? I am curious to note if this is a reputable website made up of informed decisions or merely opinions. At present, I would say this serves as a biased platform simply by using the wood “destroyed” in every instance of tree “removal”. You do know that once a tree is felled (another word I don’t recall seeing on this page), the lumber can, and oftentimes is, utilized for wood products, thus not “destroying” it.

    Webmaster: Yes, we realize that. If you would read our post about carbon sequestration, you would find that we make the necessary distinction between using the wood and allowing it to decay with respect to the release of the stored carbon when a tree is felled.

    And you would find in several of our posts that we are not opposed to the removal of hazardous trees.

    Our focus is on an urban/suburban area in which timberlands do not exist. We do not take any position about timber harvests because we don’t have the information needed to form an opinion.

    We are opposed to the destruction of healthy trees for no legitimate reason other than their nativity. And, in that case, the word “destruction” is appropriately used. If you consider that opinion “biased,” so be it. It is the primary purpose of this website.

    We are not scientists, but we make few statements that are not supported by scientific studies. We also have several scientific advisors who review our work when we are not confident that our comprehension of the scientific literature is up to the task.

    We are not willing to reveal our personal identity because we have been on the receiving end of ad hominem attacks and our anonymity reduces the opportunities for those attacks.

    Since you are apparently knowledgeable on the subject, I assume you can judge for yourself if we are a “reputable” source of information and dismiss us if you wish. It’s a free country.

  40. May 20, 2013 10:06 am

    Fire danger is real. Only children just say “NO.” SOMETHING needs to be done. The question is what? We need to have a counter proposal. I say remove eucalyptus because they are non-native and aggressive dirty trees. No herbicides. And a 300 foot wide firebreak. Clear overgrown underbrush.

    A minimal organic approach to avoid another fire CATASTROPHE.

    Webmaster: The eucalypts and acacias will resprout if their stumps are not poisoned. If they are not poisoned, they would have to be cut down repeatedly.

    There are less destructive approaches to reducing fire hazard. For example, creating defensible around residential property would be less destructive and expensive. Many acres of these projects are no where near structures.

    Most wildfires start in grass and herbacious vegetation, especially alongside roads where people throw their cigarettes and the heat from the road is most intense. Herbacious vegetation could be mowed to reduce the risk of ignition.

    These are just examples of the many things that could be done to reduce fire hazard without destroying tens of thousands of trees and using thousands of gallons of herbicide.

    In the case of these projects, the cure is worse than the disease.

  41. May 20, 2013 10:10 am

    BTW…. when I see a bunch of eucalyptus, I see big invasive weeds. They do not belong here.

    Webmaster: I prefer oak trees to eucalyptus, but it never occurred to me that my preference would give me the right to demand the destructive of eucalyptus.

    The eucalypts belong here as much as the people do. After all, it’s the people who brought them here. The trees are blameless.

  42. May 20, 2013 2:38 pm

    Thank you! Those trees are alive and feel and give us so much. Ask our native raptors what they think. They PREFER nesting in the tall Eucalyptus. I see Red-shouldered Hawks, Great Horned Owls, and more choosing eucalyptus and ignoring the oaks and redwoods.

    In response to the above comment, when I see non-native humans wanting to kill trees and all the native animals who need those trees, I see invasive human weeds, and environmental destruction. We are lucky to have these exotic forests and should appreciate them as the animals do. This area is known for love of nature. Humans who want the nature and trees destroyed “do not belong here.”

    I love all the trees and we should all be grateful for what we have here. No non-native human should disparage non-native plants.

    I ask every human who is against the beautiful exotic trees, what do you have in your own yard? If you don’t want to be a hypocrite, first cut down your olives, roses, magnolias, wisteria, jasmine, apples, peaches, plums, etc. before you deprive wild animals of their homes and food. Most people don’t even know which trees are native and which are not. But 99% of what is in people’s yards and gardens are not native.

    If you don’t want to be a hypocrite, I recommend first eliminating all non-native street trees, local park trees, multi-million dollar landscaping of businesses and on federal, state, county, city, etc. lands. There is a reason that the vast majority of city plantings are with non-natives. (I do not want any non-native plant killed, but the double standard for humans versus wild animals and wilderness areas is outrageous.)

    Anyone familiar with the Bay Area eco-systems will know that this proposal for FEMA money is about money and not about fire reduction. Fires start in grasslands. Kill the trees and there will be more fires. The tall trees precipitate inches of moisture out of the fog each summer, helping to protect against fire. It’s a myth about Eucalyptus being flammable as Madeline Hovland of The Hills Conservation Network testified. The Firestorm came right to her house, engulfed her redwood, but did not touch her three tall Eucalyptus, who saved her house.

    The poisons sprayed are likely to increase flammability also.

    It makes no sense to kill hundreds of thousands of trees in our local parks! It is even more outrageous that almost no one knows about this, that there is no vote, and people will only find out what has happened when their favorite park is empty of trees.

    Our climate is also heating up and deforestation will add to that. The lack of trees will mean emptier creeks and reservoirs and lakes, and terrible erosion.

    There are so many unexplained flaws in the plan, but others are that the oaks are dying from Sudden Oak Death. We may soon be left with nothing but non-natives.

    The chipping plan will kill native bees by depriving them of the soil they need to nest. While non-native honeybees (why not kill them too) are dying, our many native bee species could take over pollination — but not if their habitat is destroyed. Endangered animals will die also. The deaths of all the other animals affected will be criminal as well.

  43. Dr. Richard H. Seiden permalink
    May 31, 2013 9:50 am

    http://science.kqed.org/quest/2011/10/17/eucalyptus-fuel-for-fire/
    Somebody must have it wrong. I cleared my eucalyptus trees after the freeze of some twenty years ago and have been rewarded by a rebirth of native trees and shrubs. A plant whose reproductive strategy is to propogate by fire can hardly be heralded as a fire resister!

    Webmaster: I don’t know what you mean by “propogate” [sic] by fire. Eucalypts are adapted to fire, as are most plants in a Mediterranean climate such as ours and Australia’s. Plants in a Mediterranean climate adapt to fire in a variety of ways. In the case of the eucalyptus, it will resprout when it burns. It does not require fire to germinate its seeds.

    Many plants native to California will also resprout after being burned. Some—such as many species of Manzanita—require fire for germination. Some 200 species of native plants are “pyro-endemics,” according to Jon E Keeley. Pyro-endemics are not sustainable without periodic fire. I suggest you read Keeley’s new book, Fire in Mediterranean Ecosystems.

    As for the success of natives in your garden, we congratulate you on the success of your garden. Are you saying that you achieved this success without planting anything? Or irrigating? Or weeding? Because unless you did no gardening in your native garden, the situation is not comparable to the FEMA projects in the East Bay, which I assume is the focus of your comment. The projects do not intend to plant anything, let alone irrigate or weed.

  44. June 5, 2013 12:05 am

    Wow… I just spent a couple hours reading the entirety of this post and all its comments and I do so because I aim to get in on this. I’m so glad this forum exists! We need to realize the SF Bay Area has been a cultivated landscape for thousands of years and unlike the last islands of rare intact native landscapes that need to be left alone, some type of periodic low intensity cultivation could be really rewarding for native plant diversity and wildlife habitat in these urban rural interface zones where non-natives have naturalized and are providing vital ecosystem services. And never forget, no amount of destruction of non-natives will ever make the SF Bay area restored to its original native origins. We need to ignore the extremists who push the radical agenda of a holocaust against all non-natives. Instead we need to focus on non-native and native mosaics co-existing, maybe even native species being the ones we allow to do all of the encroaching… I have so much to say about this!!! But for the next couple weeks my focus will be on the FEMA EIS for the east bay.

    Webmaster: We found this comment so interesting that we contacted its author and invited him to write a guest article which is available here.

  45. James permalink
    August 14, 2013 8:45 am

    This is zealous, irrational and idiotic. A complete waste of time, money and effort. native – smative , Let it be, it’s done. They live here too now. get over it

  46. Jared Farmer permalink
    September 12, 2013 10:19 am

    I would like to bring your attention to my new book, TREES IN PARADISE: A CALIFORNIA HISTORY, to be released on 10/28 by W.W. Norton & Company. It includes the most complete account ever published on the introduction and naturalization of eucalypts in California. I suspect that people on both sides of the current controversy will find points of agreement and disagreement. For more on the book, see http://jaredfarmer.net/books/trees-in-paradise and https://www.facebook.com/CaliforniaTrees

    Webmaster: Thank you for alerting us to the publication of your book. It sounds very interesting. I look forward to reading it.

    • December 22, 2013 6:37 am

      I am a 15-year veteran of the tree wars of the San Francisco Bay Area. I consider myself well-informed about the many projects that have destroyed and plan to destroy non-native trees. Yet, I learned a few things from Mr. Farmer’s chapters about eucalyptus.

      This is a serious history of eucalyptus in California. It’s a complex story that requires an understanding of scientific as well as historical documents. Although I would quibble about some details, it is also a fair treatment of a controversial subject. Mr. Farmer is an historian, not a tree or native plant advocate.

      Mr. Farmer tells the story in an engaging way and he puts it into a social context that deserves respect from both tree and native plant advocates. I am grateful to Mr. Farmer for bringing some solid information to an otherwise emotional debate. If it is widely read it could contribute to the resolution of a conflict that has been intractable.

  47. Connie Ghosh permalink
    October 28, 2013 4:57 am

    Hello, I’m from Georgia (quite a different part of the country from yours!), and I work as a volunteer to restore habitats to their original native plant communities. We remove invasive plants and plant native ones in a park in suburban Cobb County, in the metro Atlanta area. We do this as members of the Georgia Native Plant Society.
    There are a few things you should know about our efforts. Number one: we have never used herbicides, or any equipment other than hand-held tools — no noisy gas-powered saws, no bulldozers or any other heavy vehicles. Number two: our site is wooded and continues to be so, with a variety of oaks and hickories, black walnut, deciduous magnolia, beech, tulip poplar, and more. These are all native trees that are a part of the great southeastern forest, and each of these species is represented by mature and majestic individuals at our site. Number three: ours is an ongoing project — we schedule a workday once a month and for the past 10 years we have been slowly working our way through the site (to date, have covered approximately 5-10 acres). We mainly remove Chinese privet (an evergreen shrub) and English ivy (a climbing vine), although other invasives are added to our list as we find them. It is a great satisfaction to us to know that we are restoring a portion of our environment to its native habitat.
    Oh, one other thing — I have lived in California (in the San Diego area as a child and near San Jose/San Francisco as an adult); so I have seen how prominent the eucalyptus groves are and I know the danger of wildfires.
    Here is my point: please learn what your native plant communities really are. Love trees? (Yes, of course!) Then find out about the native sycamores, oaks, and other big trees that can still be found in less-disturbed places in your area, and think about how your landscape would look if they were restored to their original places. They provided shade, shelter, beauty, and variety to your region long before the eucalypts did. They belong there.
    To do this, please seek out the native plant experts in your area. They can reveal to you a treasure trove of native trees and plants that you may never have known existed. Listen to what they have to tell you about your different native habitats and which native plants live in these different habitats — you have such an incredible variety of them!

    Webmaster: We have studied the natural history of the San Francisco Bay Area. We know that it is naturally virtually treeless. The written goals of our local projects are grassland and dune scrub, with few exceptions for canyons in riparian corridors where there is sufficient water and shelter from the wind to support trees.

    Also, tell your state and local agencies that are charged with removing invasives that there are other ways to remove big trees than by clear-cutting whole groves at a time, ways that can be cost-effective and environmentally sound, but just require time and patience. And also please be sure to mention that the massive use of herbicides is not really necessary, either. I will send another email with some details to get you/them started.
    Finally, start helping to restore habitat yourself! Search for and find groups of volunteers who are using environmentally friendly methods to remove invasives and get out there, into the fresh air and the company of wonderful and active people. Volunteers will always be necessary for efforts such as these. Then the environment really wins!
    Oh, about fire: wildfires are a major problem; I know that, but am not an expert. Please listen to those who are; and when discussing or shaping policy please don’t just use common sense and good judgement, but always work with nature and not against it, and insist that others do so, too.

    Webmaster: Thank you for your visit and for your comment. We don’t doubt for a minute that it is possible to restore native plants without damaging the environment in some places. If it can’t be done without damaging the environment, it should not be done in our opinion. Thank you for describing your project and for the work you are doing there. We hope our local native advocates may learn from your example.

    • Kenneth Gibson permalink
      October 28, 2013 12:13 pm

      Connie,

      I appreciate your post. Planting natives as targeted invasives are gently and safely removed is the ideal policy which our agencies, with volunteer support, should adopt.

      Also, I believe, the pre-columbian state of the East Bay Hills was not nearly so barren as the Webmaster suggests. Established redwood forests on our hills would capture moisture from the summer fog and restrain rainfall runoff in the winter. We should at least retain some reservation lands for native american plants in our region. Within my small, private plot I have invited natives to return (redwoods) and I have no hope or desire to remove all the immigrants (English ivy). However, eucalyptus is not welcome. It seems inimical to all else.

      – An East Bay Hills Resident

      • October 28, 2013 2:18 pm

        If Eucalyptus is not welcome in the East Bay Hills than why do we have Billions of dollars in prime hillside Real Estate covered in Eucalyptus? Obviously people who can afford million dollar views of the SF Bay like Eucalyptus trees. If they didn’t like these trees they would have all been cut down long ago. Clearly Eucalyptus haters have been and will always be a discriminated against minority, which is probably why they speak so loudly.

        Truth is your “ideal policy” Kenth teaches people that the only answer is all about what you kill rather than what you grow and care for. So often I’ve seen areas stripped of vegetation just because it was non-native and that cleared area still had little growing on it a decade later.

        Or even more often I’ve seen cleared areas offer a foothold to more voracious non-native grasses and weeds better suited to surviving in more arid conditions with less topsoil. (remember the dust bowl?)

        How about instead of killing with volunteers we’re more rejuvenative with volunteers?

        Volunteerism in its current state looks more like war than life-affirming stewardship of all the flora and fauna that grows around us. We need to sow seeds, plant flower bulbs, look out for and protect baby trees that are sprouting.

        Or at least that’s what I consider to be “ideal policy.”

  48. SHARON GADBERRY permalink
    February 10, 2014 8:20 pm

    Hi, I like the site, and have read all the comments. Please check out Wikipedia for Eucalyptus. There is a long passage on how combustible they are, how they caused the Oakland fire. It includes citations.

    • February 11, 2014 5:14 am

      Thanks, Sharon. Some effort has been made to revise the Wiki entry for eucalyptus and more must be made. One problem is that all trees will burn in the right circumstances. The question is this: “Is eucalyptus more likely to burn than other trees?” As this page explains–http://milliontrees.me/fire-the-cover-story/– we think the answer to that question is “no” except in the rare case of a freeze long and deep enough to cause the eucalypts to die back. Such a freeze has not occurred since 1990. As the climate warms another such freeze is unlikely.

  49. February 11, 2014 3:57 am

    Thanks for finally writing about >Death of a Million Trees | Saving
    trees from needless destruction in the San Francisco Bay Area <Loved it!

  50. March 10, 2014 12:17 pm

    Aloha! We have been in contact before about the efforts here in Hawaii to poison mangroves and infest strawberry guava trees, all in the name of invasive species control. Now, the feds want to eradicate our barn owls and cattle egrets. Please help spread the word. We are collecting petition signatures. Go to our website, http://www.DontKilltheBirds.org. Thanks. — Syd

    • March 10, 2014 12:45 pm

      Thanks, Dr. Singer. We will sign the petition and post it to our Facebook page. Please let us know if you would like to write a guest article about this new attack on innocent wildlife. Our readers are very interested in these horrible projects. As much as we dislike the destruction of trees and other non-native plants, the killing of animals is more disturbing.

  51. March 10, 2014 8:32 pm

    Most land which once contained ancient old growth forest was only disturbed from 100 to 200 years ago by the first pioneers, and today has a much greater chance of being restored, instead of waiting for future implementation of plan after all affected parties have time to discuss the issues further. Yet this confrontation is needed to keep things in check

    Just like the unique population makeup of our great Chicago. I believe any existing invasive plants and trees today growing in our urban parks and backyards have as much right to continue living, just as our native examples do within our set aside preserves. Invasive species which have gained a foothold within our younger native forests that were only returned to Mother nature some 76 years ago from pioneer riparian farmland need to be completely removed in order to have a local ecosystem that promotes the continued existence of endangered native wild life, which totally relies on the indigenous for food, and which they cannot get from inedible to them intensives!

    Any non native forest examples that do not produce seed should be allowed to live out their lifespans, while the seeding ones should be immediately removed before more acreage is effected. At the same time promoting the planting of native seeding Plants & Trees will allow the local ecosystem to regain lost ground.

    I understand alternative viewpoints which proclaim that todays plans being hastily implemented by local governmental entities within these forests contain fatal flaws since some of their methods are only based on theory. I’ll agree on that fact!

    On the concern, how can anyone be sure what land restoration should be implemented forest or Prairie?. And, what effect did 14,000 years of Indian inhabitants have on the landscape since they might have regularly controlled natural Prairie fires which then helped natural Prairie become forest with human help?

    Like all of Mother natures wild creatures, I believe that Indians relationship with her was symbiotic, which resulted in both parties gaining something from each other. So is todays efforts on the behalf of nature, or just for our gain? Again, its both, after years of humanity just taking without regard to its continued existence.

    Open Prairies burned by natural fire were found on Westward side of rivers. And on the rivers Eastern sides were ancient forests where Indians lived since they had always been natural fire breaks. Not until modern mans halting of natural prairie fires produce young forest on the Western side of rivers from Bottomland tree species normally kept in check by fire.

    There is no evidence of native tree species replanted by Indians outside their natural range which normally is controlled by bordering soil conditions & weather climate.

    So let it be known that indeed parts of these plans to restore native ecosystems do contain scientific flaws, especially since many old methods regarding care for trees was found to be improper and have been replaced over the last 20 years. And for the ones just sticking up for the strongest species conquering others, American Ash trees planted in Russia quickly became invasive, but today are also being killed off by EAB.

    As a responsible historian I can say that todays humanity can easily utilize preserved information published by our earliest Pioneers & Explorers regarding their personal observations of the pristine lay of the land before cleared on behalf of modernity. And presently those preserved first hand recollections are defining todays goals.

    Here in Chicagoland our region was lucky enough to have our ancient forests carefully surveyed for their plant & tree species population ratio’s before urban sprawl began to wipe the slate clean some 180 years ago!

    Its a fact that humanity will never be able to correctly return our locally evolved ecosystems to their original states. Especially after now losing one of the “namesake” keystone species from the “Elm-Ash-Cottonwood” ecosystem since humanities newest invasive Emerald Ash Borer is causing the American Ash species to become extinct after EAB is glutinously killing off all small saplings before reaching seeding age of 10 to produce continued generations!

    I want to pass down to the many future generations in the next 1000 years a local forest that represents Chicagoland’s ancient wild life & plains Prairie system, not a typical looking forest from Asia, or some mixed hybrid! Truly, todays Man/Woman made society containing color & creeds from throughout the world has produced successes never dreamed of by our past predecessors. But mistakenly introducing invasive species which would have normally taken thousands of years for our native ones to adjust their defenses to, and then proclaiming that it is impossible to repair mother nature perfectly by fixing our past mistakes today before situation gets even worse is no enlightened future I would like to live in.

    I just cannot believe that today there is people thoughtful enough to appreciate nature, but in an “unnatural” way by standing up for the continued existence of introduced species which have their own homeland, while here these foreign organisms continue to smother the existence of the more fragile endangered natives that are as unique as our nations Flag & Eagle. At least in space NASA takes all precautions not to introduce life from Earth onto other planets & Moons.

  52. March 14, 2014 4:55 am

    Today, I went to the beachfront with my children.

    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.”
    She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and
    it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!
    LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  53. March 31, 2014 10:55 am

    You actually mentioned that very well.

  54. April 2, 2014 2:26 pm

    Superb write ups, Thanks a lot!

  55. April 2, 2014 11:30 pm

    Superb facts, Appreciate it!

  56. April 15, 2014 3:26 pm

    I enjoy what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever
    work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to
    our blogroll.

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