Ten years after UC Berkeley, City of Oakland, and East Bay Regional Park District applied for FEMA grants to fund the destruction of hundreds of thousands of non-native trees on 1,000 acres of public open space, FEMA announced its final decision on Thursday, March 5, 2015. FEMA’s announcement of that final decision, which was sent to those who commented on the draft plans, implied that the projects had been revised to be less destructive. In fact, those who take the time to read the final version of the plans will learn that the original plans are fundamentally unchanged in the final version.
East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) will destroy about 90% of the trees in its project area, as originally planned. “Thinning” is not an accurate description of EBRPD’s project. UC Berkeley (UCB) and City of Oakland will destroy 100% of all non-native trees on their project properties. On a small portion of UCB and Oakland property (29 of 460 acres), tree removals will be phased over the 10-year project period. In other words, the final version of these projects will destroy as many trees as originally proposed by the grant applicants. However, FEMA has refused to fund tree removals on Frowning Ridge (185 acres) because UC Berkeley removed hundreds of trees there before the Environmental Impact Statement was complete, in violation of FEMA policy.
The Hills Conservation Network (HCN) filed suit to prevent the funding and implementation of these projects on March 6, 2015. Below is the press release announcing HCN’s suit. Please contact the Hills Conservation Network if you wish to contribute to the cost of this suit: http://www.hillsconservationnetwork.org/HillsConservation3/Blog/Blog.html or email email@example.com
Hills Conservation Network
Preserving the East Bay Hills
March 6, 2015
For Immediate Release
HCN announces lawsuit against FEMA EIS
Today the Hills Conservation Network, an Oakland, CA based environmental non-‐proﬁt, ﬁled suit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also naming the Regents of the University of California, the City of Oakland, and East Bay Regional Park District in the suit.
The suit was ﬁled in opposition to the Record of Decision released March 5, 2015 ﬁnalizing FEMA’s decision to award approximately $7.5 million in ﬁre risk mitigation grants. The suit contends that the Environmental Impact Study used as part of the grant process was signiﬁcantly ﬂawed, and as such cannot be used to justify awarding these funds.
The lawsuit argues that FEMA did not consider a reasonable range of alternatives and reached unsupportable conclusions in deciding to allow the three agencies named in the suit to remove large numbers of healthy trees, with the goal of eradicating certain species of non-‐native trees (acacia, Monterey pine, eucalyptus) by the end of ten years. HCN proposed a more nuanced approach that would have resulted in higher levels of ﬁre risk mitigation at a much lower cost and with far less environmental damage than the current plan that calls for the removal of well in excess of 100,000 healthy trees that provide shade canopy (preventing the growth of highly ﬂammable weeds) as well as storing tons of carbon that contribute to the greenhouse gases warming our planet.
This step marks the latest chapter in this process that began in 2005. During the Draft EIS review in 2013 approximately 13,000 comment letters were received by FEMA, 90% of them opposed to the proposed projects. In response to this public outcry FEMA reworked the EIS, and while the Final EIS is somewhat less destructive than the Draft EIS, it essentially calls for the same level of environmental damage, but over a longer time period.
The Hills Conservation Network is an Oakland, California based 501c3 comprised of residents of the Oakland hills that were directly aﬀected by the 1991 ﬁre. Several members of the group lost their homes in this conﬂagration and have committed themselves to driving change in Oakland to ensure that similar events never happen again. Members of HCN have been involved in the Grand Jury investigation of the ’91 ﬁre and in developing enhanced emergency response capabilities in Oakland.
Please direct inquiries to Dan Grassetti at 510-‐849-‐2601.