Harassment by native plant zealots

Ruth Bancroft Garden is a mix of native and non-native plants
Ruth Bancroft Garden is a mix of native and non-native plants

The following exchange of emails was recently posted to the faculty email list at City College of San Francisco.  The first email was sent by a student at City College to the President of the Board of Trustees of the College and the Chancellor.  (Written communications to public employees are in the public record.) The second email was sent by the Chairman of the Environmental Horticulture and Floristry program at City College. 

“On Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 12:03 AM, Denise Louie,  email address redacted

Hello President Rizzo, Chancellor Scott-Skillman and Sustainability Committee members,

 Today I spoke with Environmental Horticulture instructor Gus Broucaret while his class was removing plants outside the Environmental Horticulture building.  He indicated his plan was to replant similar non-native plants.   I pointed out that the CCSF Sustainability Plan calls for planting native plants and urged him to reconsider his plant choices.  If no one has done so, I suggest you request that all Environmental Horticulture faculty and staff be asked to follow principles of the Sustainability Plan.  That includes planting [local] native plants, removing and avoiding invasive plants, conserving resources like water, and the like.

 At the same time, I heard that a native plant installation had been designed for the front of EHD.  The plan was drafted and did go through certain review processes, only to have been shelved.  I suggest you ask the EHD chair to present the written plan for a native plant installation in front of EHD, so that interested stakeholders may see it and discuss it further. It is entirely possible to create a local native plant landscape that yields cut flowers, berries and greens for flower arrangement classes.

The online CCSF employee directory does not show an email address for Mr.  Broucaret, so I intend to call him to inform him of my mention of his name in this email.

 Thank you,
 Denise Louie
 Member, Sustainability Committee”


“Steven Brown, email address redacted 4/25/2013 3:12 PM

This is absolute harassment and illegal behavior.

Denise Louie has no business interrupting instructors during class times, period. She has done so several times now.

This student doesn’t know anything about what she is talking about. And she does not represent the sustainability committee.

My instructors have all been advised to call the campus police if she interrupts them.

She has been removed from our department in the past and has had instructions not to be here.

I have filled out paper work many times to try to end this harassment.

I had no idea this incident had occurred until now.

I am extremely upset about this and will be looking into hiring an attorney to sue the school for not taking steps to prevent this behavior. This harassment has gone on for three years now!

We have cooperated with the sustainability plan which is a guide. Title five is law, the Ed code is law.

This has to stop”

The Chairman of the Environmental Horticulture & Retail Floristry program is featured in a video about the program on the CCSF website.  In that video, he explains that “Horticulture is the decorative use of plants…We teach our students how to use plants in an urban landscape and how to maintain that landscape.”  This suggests that students in that program can expect to learn about both native plants and the thousands of species of non-native plants that are planted in our gardens.  A horticulture program that uses exclusively native plants would not provide its students with the education they need to be gardeners. 

In the 15 years in which we have been engaged in the effort to prevent the destruction of our non-native urban forest we have witnessed and been subjected to harassment from native plant zealots.  We have been threatened and accused of wrongdoing of which we are innocent.  Therefore, we sympathize with the Chairman of the CCSF horticulture program. 

At the same time, we acknowledge that there is a wide range of both opinion and behavior amongst native plant advocates, just as there is a wide range within the community of their critics.  We do not wish to paint native plant advocates with a broad brush.  We only wish to remind them that such attempts at intimidation do not reflect well on their community.

Above and below the middle ground are trees that will be destroyed by the FEMA project.  The middle ground is a preview of the landscape these projects hope to achieve.   Photo taken from Skyline Blvd, south of Claremont Blvd, looking north to Frowning Ridge.
Above and below the middle ground are trees that will be destroyed by the FEMA project. The middle ground is a preview of the landscape these projects hope to achieve. Photo taken from Grizzly Peak Blvd, south of Claremont Blvd, looking north to Frowning Ridge.

We received many more comments than usual during the public comment period for the FEMA projects in the East Bay Hills.  We posted many of the comments we received from supporters of the project.  We did not post comments from those who called us names and/or threatened us.  When we refused to post those comments, the threats and name-calling escalated, making it even less likely that we would post their inflammatory comments. 

Another theme in the dialogue with native plant advocates, which was repeated by some media coverage of this episode, is their deep state of denial of the strength of the opposition to the destructive projects they demand.  They repeatedly portray critics of these projects as a “tiny band” and similar minimizing descriptions. 

They are very mistaken.   The primary supporter of the FEMA projects, The Claremont Canyon Conservancy, claims in its public comment (available on CCC’s website) to represent 500 families.  Yet, the Conservancy’s on-line petition supporting the FEMA projects has less than 500 signatures.  In contrast, the petition which criticizes the FEMA projects has over 5,700 signatures.    The opposition to these projects has overwhelmed the support, which will surely be reflected in the public comments.  As these projects get bigger, greater numbers of trees are in jeopardy, and the devastating consequences are more apparent, the opposition will also get bigger and noisier.  We will eventually be heard. 

2 thoughts on “Harassment by native plant zealots”

  1. “Harassment By Native Plant Zealots” paints a picture of a student acting the same kind of inappropriate which is accurately described in the title, however not yet commented on is that teacher responded in a way that was even more threatening than the student. This is bad news all around… We can’t keep demonizing each other and further polarizing this issue.

    This is not suppose to be a war, this is suppose to be about the planting and nurturing of all life in our commonly shared parkscapes. We need to stop fighting! We need to put all our efforts into working together to make the earth green and thriving again!

    People who want to make slow gentle biodiversity improving changes to these hills over time are my friends! And with careful long-term planning and lots of site-specific observations over time we can make healthy decisions that helps these hills thrive with so much life instead of watching its demise and being yet again set back.

    Low-impact citizen-based planting and pruning events can provide all the restoration and education opportunities that this landscape needs. It would also mean that we’d no longer need FEMA and a bunch of gypos loggers leveling our parklands to bare herbicide polluted ground.

    Problem is the issue has become incredibly polarised because there has been so much clearcutting. There have been so many beautiful cool shady moist parks turned to arid bare slowly growing shrub oak hillsides with near zero chance for the development of structural diversity. And if we stay the course, there is going to be much less chance for future biodiversity.

    But what if instead we simply organized thousands to regularly water, weed, plant, prune and love the land?

    It’s so easy in this polarised situation to demonize the opposing side. And just because I oppose garlon poisoning and industrial clearcutting of heavily used parks I’ve been treated like I’m a demon. I’ve also been told I’m a stupid idiot who has no idea what I’m talking about. And I’m so tempted to treat these misguided folks the way they treat me…

    Truth is I do know what I’m talking about and I have the work experience to prove it and I’m gonna keep talking about what I know about and most important of all: I’m going to do my best to never treat my opponents the way they treat me!

    I have more integrity than that and I want my truth to be more powerful than name-callers and those who demonize anyone with a contrary view.

  2. Too often, those who speak the truth are threatened. And those who can’t answer the truth respond with insults. It’s like dealing with religious fanatics. The “nativists” really are a cult if they cannot respect what the native animals have chosen as their homes and food, and if they refuse to see what is right in front of them — which is that we are lucky to have this beautiful variety of plant. Every tree is sacred and needed.

    Again, no double standards. Take it from the hills to the streets and ask every person if they would be happier killing the non-natives in their own yards and in the cities’ landscaping. NO more vegetable gardens, flower gardens, fruit trees… no more roses or magnolias or rhododendrons (good luck with our one native rhododendron, the Western Azalea, who basically needs to live in water. Not all of our natives are drought tolerant at all, as is stated here for the redwoods.)

    Of course I want all the non-natives to remain, but those who are “nativist” should really look around the cities and their own yards before trying to ruin our parks.

    Thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful site! You’re making all the difference!

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