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Hills Conservation Network files suit to stop FEMA grants in East Bay Hills

March 11, 2015

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.

UC Berkeley destroyed hundreds of trees on Frowning Ridge in August 2014, before the Environmental Impact Statement was complete.

UC Berkeley destroyed hundreds of trees on Frowning Ridge in August 2014, before the Environmental Impact Statement was complete.

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 inquiries@hillsconservationnetwork.org


 

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.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Madeline Hovland permalink
    March 11, 2015 10:18 pm

    Thanks for this clear explanation of the HCN lawsuit.

  2. March 12, 2015 5:25 pm

    Thank you both! This is horrific. And I’m getting emails from people who don’t understand what is happening and believe the trees will be saved. What more can we do?

    • March 12, 2015 6:58 pm

      I wish I knew. 13,000 people wrote scathing public comments. We did what we could.

  3. March 13, 2015 1:32 pm

    Yes, we did, and your blog is SO important and a great resource to link to and to share.

  4. Let's Save Human Lives permalink
    March 21, 2015 11:31 am

    Why do you want the Hills to burn again? We are in a drought and a fire could easily happen. So that people do not die again, it is much better to get the job done even though you disagree with the policy. Human life is much more important.

    • March 21, 2015 3:02 pm

      I don’t want the hills to burn. You have been duped into believing non-native trees were the cause of the 1991 fire. They were not. Most fires in California start in grass. Vegetation native to California is very flammable. There are hundreds of wildfires all over California during fire season. Non-native trees are not involved in most fires. Read FEMA’s technical report on the 1991 fire to confirm how that fire started and what burned in it: https://milliontrees.me/fire-the-cover-story/

      The project which will destroy non-native trees on 1,000 acres of public land will increase fire hazard by covering the ground in 24 inches of dead wood chips, eliminating the fog drip which keeps the forest floor moist, and eliminating the shade that suppresses the growth of easily ignited weeds.

      I oppose this project for the same reason that you should: it will greatly increase fire hazards in the East Bay Hills. Ninety percent of the 13,000 people who wrote comments on this plan agree with me.

  5. March 22, 2015 12:31 pm

    It is so sad how people believe the lies which are easily disproved if they ignore propaganda and learn the truth.

    Million Trees has explained it so well, and so many times.

    Besides the magnificent Eucalyptus, they are planning to kill other trees that prevent fire with their ability to precipitate water from fog and which greatly increase our diversity of plant and wildlife, which is the Monterey Cypress, Monterey Pine, acacia species and others.

    The hypocrisy is clear when UC and the EBRPs are leaving massive piles of dry cut wood for years on the hillsides. In one section, they look like they are preparing to light signal fires. It’s incredible. I called about this over a year ago and was told they would be removed. They have no intention of clearing this obvious extreme fire danger.

    People also die from grief and depression and lack of contact with nature and exercise. Our parks are so valuable as a way to get peace of mind, relaxation, and exercise. If we are left with barren, arid hillsides covered in non-native grasslands, then we will definitely have more fires close to houses. And people will suffer.

    Also, it will be impossible to measure the deaths caused from the exposure to the massive poisons that will be used, but it will far outweigh any deaths from fires. And that is not even counting the massive increase in chronic illness that will result.

    Also, I have to disagree that human lives matter more than the lives of the thousands of animals who will be killed by this project that is solely about money. And the tree and other plant lives matter too. Humans’ forgetting that we are part of nature, and think that killing everything around us, leaving treeless barren land will protect us is part of what is destroying the earth. As nature dies, so do the humans.

    There has not yet been a fire in our forests here. It always starts in the grasslands. Help prevent more fires, by protecting our trees.

    • Sylvia I de Trinidad permalink
      June 2, 2016 10:03 am

      You mean well and I honor your sentiments. You say:

      “It is so sad how people believe the lies which are easily disproved if they ignore propaganda and learn the truth.”

      Sadly, Bev Jo, you are describing yourself.

      Please, please, do real research. You will find that the hills conservation network which is, understandably, distressed by the loss of forest that has enriched our community for decades, has resorted to outdated expert opinions, exaggeration, and misrepresentations in their desperate attempt to save trees that endangers thousands of people. Keeping that forest is a luxury we cannot responsibly afford.

      The concerns about herbicide use merit vigilance to assure compliance with best practices.

      Concerns about loss of habitat for species are valid as in ANY land management effort.

      Please continue to be vigilant, but look also to more broadly respected scientifically based sources.

      • Madeline Hovland permalink
        June 2, 2016 12:12 pm

        Hills Conservation Network depends on its research as well as on the findings of fire scientists who are not influenced by nativists’ demands to rid the East Bay Hills of non-native trees. Additionally, anyone who reads daily newspapers must acknowledge this indisputable fact: almost all fires in California start in grasslands/brushlands, the type of vegetation that will flourish if the tall, non-native trees are destroyed.

    • Skeptic permalink
      June 2, 2016 2:53 pm

      Sylvia, you are pretty vague. Please tell us, what are the “outdated expert opinions, exaggeration, and misrepresentations” used by HCN? And what are the “scientifically based sources” that tell you HCN is wrong? This website is full of citations to scientific papers and books, but you have offered none.

  6. April 4, 2015 5:08 pm

    Has anyone heard the theory a new friend just told me, which is that the Oakland firefighters who did not fully put out the fire that started the 1991 firestorm were deliberately trying to make trouble for the new fire chief who was African-descent and hired from elsewhere?

    We see beautiful trees blamed when most fires are arson or being uncareful. In his memoir, Johnny Cash claimed credit for the enormous forest fire caused by his truck in the Los Padres National Forest (no Eucalyptus there):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Padres_National_Forest) and even joked about the effect on the almost extinct California Condor.

    • April 4, 2015 5:11 pm

      I have not heard that rumor. I think incompetence is the more usual explanation for such mistakes.

  7. July 28, 2016 12:00 am

    The Debate in the Woods 7-24-16 – Berkeley Calling Blog Video Project by Vic Sadot YouTube Channel posted 7-27-16. http://youtu.be/LZlLcQ83SU8

    Berkeley Calling Video Blog 7-28-16: “The Debate in the Woods” was between Jack Gescheidt of The Tree Spirit Project versus Bob Strayer of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy. The monitor was Bill Lazarus. http://berkeleycalling.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/the-debate-in-the-woods

    • July 28, 2016 5:34 am

      Thank you for alerting us to this information and for your interest in this issue.

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