San Franciscans come to the defense of the Sutro Forest

Mount Sutro Forest
Mount Sutro Forest

The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an op-ed by Joe Mascaro about the Sutro Forest (available here). He is a professional ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science who studies the ecological functions of forests (his research is described here). He is also a San Franciscan and a fan of the Sutro Forest. He tells us in his op-ed that the Sutro Forest is a unique, “novel” forest that is thriving and that destroying it will increase the risk of wildfire, contrary to the claims of UCSF.

As we approach the March 19, 2013 deadline for submitting public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for UCSF’s proposed plan to destroy 90% of the forest and its understory on 75% of the 61 acres of the Mount Sutro Reserve, we appeal to our readers to take a few minutes in their busy day to write your own comment (see below for details of where to send comments).

About 200 people came to the community meeting at UCSF last night.  Nearly 60 people spoke; the overwhelming majority spoke in opposition to UCSF’s proposed plans to destroy most of the forest.  Everyone spoke respectfully but with passion about what this forest means to the community.  Many spoke about the loss of trees and habitat where similar projects already have been implemented by the Natural Areas Program and the GGNRA.

Over 1,700 people have signed the petition to save the Sutro Forest. If you haven’t signed yet, please do so here. We’re going to quote a few of the astute and well-informed comments that people have written on the petition in the hope that it will inspire you to write your own comment. (Grammatical edits only.)

Comment #1575:

“Among many other reasons not to hurt this forest- it is healing to people in need of healing at the UCSF hospital. The sight of it sustained me through a difficult labor during which I gazed on it for 13 hours. It is a vibrant, healthy, and sacred forest, and the people who love it will not stand by idly and quietly if it is in harms way”

Scientific studies corroborate this patient’s personal experience. Here is a report of these studies.

Comment #1528:

“Please nooooo!!! do not destroy the habitat for hundreds of creatures. WHY the destruction FOR NOTHING!!! I live in the neighborhood and I am sick and tired to see the city and UCSF cutting down trees and not replacing them.. but only with shrubs and small plants”

This is another San Franciscan who has noticed that the UCSF project is one of many in San Francisco which is destroying trees in order to return the landscape to native grassland and scrub.

Comment #1519:

“The reasons for tree removal are inaccurate. The effort is a waste of resources. The forest is healthy and most importantly serves the needs of the population of the city. UC has indicated its willingness to destroy trees for its own gain, but what the people of SF need is the unique ecosystem that provides wind relief, beauty, and comfort. Native plant restoration is a myopic, militant effort that does not take into consideration the needs of the people who live in SF. This is another effort to waste and destroy for misconceived ideals.”

This San Franciscan understands that the Sutro forest is performing important ecological functions.

Comment #1518:

“The trees in Sutro forest provide immense value to the neighborhood and the city in which we live. It is a wind break, it is a visual stimulus, it is a wonderful place to walk, it is home to a large number of hummingbirds, it isolates a busy hospital from the neighborhood and it provides a tremendous source of ground water to neighboring houses. Save the forest.”

This Sutro neighbor understands that the loss of this forest will harm both the neighborhood and the animals that live in the forest.

Comment #1471:

“Destroying 90% of the trees will destroy the forest – its beauty, its Cloud Forest aspect, and its habitat value. The trees, which sequester tons of carbon, will no longer do so, and instead the dead chipped trees will release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE THESE TREES!”

This commenter understands that the forest is storing carbon which will be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when the trees are destroyed. Carbon dioxide is the predominant greenhouse gas which is causing climate change.

Comment #1277:

“For environmental reasons please do not cut the forest of Mount Sutro. Risk of landslides (the old forest has intertwined and intergrafted roots that function like a living geo-textile and hold up the mountain, while the exposed rock on Twin Peaks has a rock-slide every year or two); Pesticide drift into our neighborhood, affecting us and our pets (right now, Sutro Forest may be the only pesticide-free wildland in the city; the Natural Areas Program, which controls most of it, uses pesticides regularly) Increased noise (the vegetation – the leaves of the trees and the shrubs in the understory are like soft fabrics absorbing sound) Changes in air quality (trees reduce pollution by trapping particle on their leaves until they’re washed down) Environmental impact – (eucalyptus is the best tree species for sequestering carbon because it grows fast, large, is long-lived, and has dense wood; but felled and mulched trees release this carbon right back into the atmosphere).”

This San Franciscan is aware of the pesticides being used by the Recreation and Park Department’s so-called “Natural Areas Program.” UCSF’s proposed project will use pesticides to prevent the resprouting of the trees that they destroy. Pesticides used by native plant “restorations” are described here. She also understands that trees stabilize steep slopes and reduce air pollution.

Here’s what you can do to help save the Sutro Forest:

• Sign the petition to save the forest. Available here.

• Submit a written public comment by 5 PM, March 19, 2013 to UCSF Environmental Coordinator Diane Wong at or mail to UCSF Campus Planning, Box 0286, San Francisco, CA 94143-0286. Include your full name and address.

• Write to the Board of Regents to ask why a public medical institution is engaging in such a controversial, expensive, and environmentally destructive act. Address: Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents,
1111 Franklin St., 12th Floor, Oakland, CA 94607
 Fax: (510) 987-9224

• Subscribe to the website for ongoing information and analysis.

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