2013 Progress Report

As we approach the end of the year, let’s review the progress we’ve made in 2013 on our mission to save healthy trees and prevent the unnecessary use of herbicides in our public open spaces.  It’s been a good year:

  • University of California San Francisco (UCSF) has decided to scale back its plans to destroy about 30,000 trees and the forest understory on Mount Sutro.  They have also made a commitment to NOT use herbicides in the forest in the future.   (Visit Save Sutro for details.)
  • UCSF’s plans to destroy most of the trees on Mount Sutro were criticized by the mainstream press, i.e. the New York Times and Nature magazine.
  • Thousands of citizens in the Bay Area signed our petitions to object to the Mount Sutro project and the projects in the East Bay which FEMA is considering funding.  Likewise, critics of these destructive projects overwhelmed a handful of supporters at the public hearings about these projects.
  • Marin County Open Space District and Parks Department engaged a consultant who reported that “vegetation management” projects result in more non-native plants and that managers of public lands in the Bay Area no longer consider it feasible to eradicate all non-native plants in open spaces.

The California Invasive Plant Council has noticed the public’s opposition

Anise Swallowtail butterfly in non-native fennel
Anise Swallowtail butterfly in non-native fennel

Another barometer of our progress is the latest edition of the newsletter of the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) which is available here.  Readers are immediately alerted to a change of attitude by the photograph on the cover of a native butterfly and a native bee feeding on a non-native thistle.  As anyone who has debated the issues with native plant advocates or read their propaganda knows, they usually deny that non-native plants are useful to native insects.

Bumblebee on Cotoneaster, Albany Bulb
Native bumblebee on Cotoneaster, Albany Bulb

The cover photograph makes a concession and sets the tone of the Cal-IPC newsletter.  The opening message from the Cal-IPC Executive Director begins with a quote from Invasive and Introduced Plants and Animals:  Human Perceptions, Attitudes and Approaches to Management“…intervention in conservation practice hides behind a veneer of pseudoscience and certainly challenges democratic processes.”    We told our readers about that book and ironically we selected the same sentence to describe its conclusion.  So, have we found some common ground with native plant advocates, as represented by Cal-IPC?

Not quite.  The title of the Director’s message is “A ‘cottage industry of criticisms.’”  This is the phrase used to describe those who criticize invasion biology.  Speaking for Million Trees and those with whom we collaborate, it is not accurate to call us an “industry” because we derive no economic benefit from our advocacy on behalf of non-native species.  In contrast, the ecological “restorations” that are based on the assumptions of invasion biology are an industry.  The economic interests of those who are employed by “restoration” projects are one of the reasons they cling desperately to the ideology that supports their employment.

The Cal-IPC Director tells us that, “Though they raise critical issues to address, such critiques underestimate the degree to which these issues are already being addressed.”  He claims that “Cal-IPC’s workshop asked participants to consider ecological services offered by top weeds of concern.  Weighing such information will become increasingly important as land stewards design management approaches to meet long-term conservation goals in an age of great environmental change.”

Cal-IPC can demonstrate this new management approach

What an excellent idea!! And we hope that Cal-IPC will start that new approach by revisiting its outdated assessment of Blue Gum eucalyptus which presently contains nothing but demerits, most of which are not even accurate.  If Cal-IPC takes into consideration the significant ecological services provided by Blue Gum eucalyptus, they will surely remove it from their long list of “invasive species.”  Here is a brief list of the ecological services provided by Blue Gum eucalyptus in California:

  • These large, hard-wood trees are storing millions of tons of carbon which will be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when they are destroyed and as their wood decays on the ground, thereby contributing to climate change.
  • These trees are expected to live another 200-300 years, which means that this ecological service would be needlessly terminated by their premature destruction.
  • These trees are providing windbreaks on windy hills and for agricultural crops.
  • The roots of these trees stabilize the soil on hills that will erode when the trees are destroyed and roots die.
  • These trees provide the over-wintering roost of tens of thousands of monarch butterflies.
  • These trees are a source of winter nectar for bees, butterflies, and birds.
  • These trees are the nesting and roosting habitat of raptors and owls.

We urge Cal-IPC to demonstrate its professed willingness to consider the benefits of non-native species by revising their assessment of Blue Gum eucalyptus, which is rarely invasive and is providing valuable ecological services to animals as well as humans.  

4 thoughts on “2013 Progress Report”

  1. This is an excellent summary. Million Trees deserves much of the credit for bringing many of these issues to the public’s attention, and tirelessly working to bring about a change in attitudes that harm the environment. Thank you, Million Trees!

    1. And thank YOU, Madeline, for all you and other members of the Hills Conservation Network have done to save our trees from being needlessly destroyed. May 2014 be another good year for our effort to inform the public of these destructive projects. We learned in 2013 that most members of the public will object when they learn about the projects. That’s what made 2013 a good year.

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