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.