Open Letter to the Sierra Club

In this post we are writing an open letter to the Sierra Club about an article in their recent edition of the Yodeler, the newsletter of the Bay Area Chapter of the Club.  The article is available here


Dear Sierra Club,

We are writing about an article in the Yodeler about the “Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan” of the East Bay Regional Park District.  A charitable description of that article is that it is misleading and inaccurate.

The most important flaw in the article is that it omits the most controversial issue in the “Wildfire Plan.”  It describes the methods used to eradicate non-native plants and trees as follows:  “Methods for removal include hand removal, grazing by cattle and goats, and limited controlled burns.”

In fact, herbicides are often used by EBRPD to kill non-native plants and trees.  The failure to mention this use of herbicides in the Yodeler cannot be dismissed as ignorance of this fact since it is described in detail in the “Wildfire Plan” and was the most frequently mentioned issue in the meeting of the EBRPD Board of Directors at which the Plan was approved.  The Sierra Club was represented at this meeting and surely noticed that many speakers expressed their concern regarding the use of herbicides officially designated “hazardous chemicals” by OSHA.  The toxicity of these herbicides is reported  here and here.

The description of controlled burns required by the Plan as “limited” is debatable.  We believe that the use of controlled burns for the sole purpose of restoring native plants is dangerously irresponsible.

At the recent meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the EBRPD, the “fuel management” plans for 2011 were presented and approved.  These plans included prescribed burns in 5 locations, on approximately 250 acres.  These burns were described by the Assistant Fire Chief as unrelated to reduction of fuel loads, but rather for the purpose of supporting restoration of native plants to the parks.  A representative of the California Native Plant Society expressed  gratitude to East Bay Regional Park District  for conducting these burns for the benefit of native plants.

We object to the use of controlled burns for this purpose because such burns have a history of causing major wildfires (reported here).  Some of these controlled burns will occur in areas with many acres of eucalyptus and Monterey pine that both the Sierra Club and the East Bay Regional Park District claim are highly flammable.  The burns are scheduled to occur during the height of the fire season.  Such burns also reduce air quality and release carbon and particulates into the air.

It baffles us that the Sierra Club endorses the use of dangerous herbicides and prescribed fires.  However, we aren’t surprised because the Club’s comments on the Draft EIR for the “Wildfire Plan” warned us that the Sierra Club considers the restoration of native plants a higher priority than the public’s safety.  The lawyer representing the Club said on behalf of the Club, “Perhaps the most serious problem with the Plan is that it explicitly makes the preservation and enhancement of wildlife a secondary concern, with minimizing fire danger the primary concern” and concluded, “However, the over-emphasis on decreasing wildfire risks at the expense of habitat values is disturbing.”

The Club’s priorities reveal a misanthropic agenda that betrays its original ideals and its commitment to the environment on behalf of all living creatures, including humans.

Million Trees

6 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Sierra Club”

  1. I agree completely with the comments expressed in this letter to the Sierra Club. It is really unfortunate that the Sierra Club has turned away from the basic goals and values that once made it an outstanding organization. As someone who lives in the area that burned in the 1991 Oakland-Tunnel Fire, I am interested primarily in policies and procedures that will mitigate the risk of fire. I like native plants and trees but I know that many of them have characteristics that make them flammable. To remove large trees that are extremely difficult to ignite, and replace them with grassland and brush communities that ignite more quickly and have higher flame lengths–that is the height of folly!

  2. We wish an unbiased and truthful biologist would publish the fact that spartina grass grows along fresh water lakes and rivers. In fact it will grow in any inland area in rainy western Wa.,thus making it a migrating not invading grass that is impossible to eradicate! What a waste of tax dollars to control weeds in wealthy corporate owned oyster beds. The Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association are pro-chemical advocates for spartina and mud shrimp removal and should be boycotted. Save a salmon avoid PCSGA products!
    Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Bova
    229 Toleak
    Ocean Shores, Wa 360-580-5534

    1. We have just seen a video of a presentation made by a scientist who studies spartina that addresses the Bova’s concern about eradication efforts:

      The scientist, James Morris, is the Director of Belle Baruch Institute for Marine & Coastal Sciences at University of South Carolina. He made a presentation about spartina at an Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon, on March 5, 2011.

      He makes the following points in his presentation:
      1. Spartina performs many useful functions in the environment
      2. Spartina does not displace the native eel grass which is the usual justification for attempts to eradicate the spartina. Eel grass and spartina grow in different water levels
      3. Spartina has existed in Holland (where it is not native) since the 1930’s without doing any visible damage to the environment
      4. It is futile to try to eradicate the spartina. It can be poisoned with herbicides forever, without eradicating it.

      The crusade against spartina seems to be identical to other pointless efforts to eradicate non-native plants and trees. In addition to being pointless, it also harms the environment by poisoning our waterways.

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