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The Sierra Club instructs FEMA

October 2, 2010

Those who are still members of the Sierra Club, but are concerned about the Club’s endorsement of projects to destroy trees and  use toxic poisons to kill their roots, might be interested in the Club’s public comment (scroll down to Appendix F “Written Comments) to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in preparation for the Environmental Impact Study of four such projects in the East Bay hills. 

 The Chairman of the Bay Area Chapter of the Sierra Club begins by asking FEMA to ignore those who are critical of these projects:  “1. We urge FEMA to discount the views of any individual or group that uses sophomoric name calling tactics in the press or in their FEMA scoping comments to categorize people or advocacy groups as ‘nativists’ (or other similar pejorative labels)…”

Apparently the author does not consider calling someone “sophomoric” an example of “name-calling.”  Webster defines “sophomoric” as “intellectually pretentious and conceited but immature and ill-informed.”  Hmmm…that sounds pretty insulting to us.

We don’t use the word “nativist” here on Million Trees, not because we consider it an inaccurate description, but rather because we have been told that it offends native plant advocates.  Since our goal on Million Trees is to inform, rather than to offend, we stick with the clunky phrase, “native plant advocates.”

What about “other similar pejorative labels?”  Does the Club also object to the phrase “native plant advocates?”  We are at a loss to arrive at some phrase that would appease them.  For the moment, we’ll stick with “native plant advocates” to describe those who advocate for the restoration of native plants to our public lands.  After all, the Sierra Club freely admits its preference for native plants in their letter:  “We obviously prefer our local native species and plant communities when compared to…introduced species.” 

The Sierra Club also instructs FEMA to put the restoration of native plant communities on an equal footing with fire hazard mitigation:  “We also urge FEMA to ensure that natural resource protection is given equal status with fire hazard reduction work when final projects are developed.”  The letter provides a detailed description of the “natural resource protection” it has in mind.  In this context, that phrase translates to “native plant restoration.” 

Since the stated purpose of FEMA’s pre-disaster and hazard mitigation grants is to reduce fire hazard to the built environment and the humans who live in it, this doesn’t seem an appropriate request.  FEMA’s legal and fiduciary responsibility is to respond to disasters when they occur and to reduce the potential for disasters in the future.  FEMA seems to have its hands full doing just that.  FEMA’s assigned mission does not include native plant restoration.

As we observed in our post “Open Letter to the Sierra Club,” the Club tends to ignore the fact that the tree destruction for which they advocate requires the use of toxic herbicides.  However, in its public comment letter to FEMA, the Club acknowledges the use of such herbicides and endorses their use:  “We are not currently opposed to the careful use of Garlon…”  On our page about “Herbicides,” we report that the EPA classifies Garlon as “hazardous”  and we cite the laboratory research on Garlon, indicating that it is harmful to many species of animals and is mobile in soil and water.

We hope that FEMA will maintain its mandated focus on hazard mitigation, its sole responsibility to the taxpayers.   If the taxpayers wish to fund native plant restorations, they should do so by designating an appropriate fund source.  FEMA is not an appropriate fund source for native plant restorations.

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