Public land managers in the San Francisco Bay Area are destroying non-native trees and vegetation in our public parks and open spaces because of their preference for native plants. These projects are harmful to wildlife because they destroy habitat, eliminate food sources, and spray herbicides that are harmful to wildlife.
Bev Jo is a frequent visitor to all of the parks of the Bay Area. She knows our parks and the wildlife that lives in them. She cares deeply about our wildlife. We are publishing an excerpt of her comment to East Bay Regional Park District about the damage being done to wildlife, as a result of killing non-native trees and vegetation.
East Bay Regional Park District is in the process of selecting the projects that will be funded by the renewal of the parcel tax, Measure CC. Measure CC will be on the ballot for renewal in November 2018 and will provide funding for “park improvements” for the next 15 years. YOU can have some say about those projects by making your suggestions to the park district by the end of December. Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once upon a time, people in the San Francisco Bay Area were thrilled to live in a place where so many exquisitely beautiful and edible plants from all over the world could survive. It’s not a tropical region, but sub-tropical, so there are limits to what grows here and it depends on the area. But, still there is so much magnificent variety here that cannot live in other parts of the US.
People loved to plant what they missed from their homelands. In our small yard, the previous Lebanese owner had planted a Greek Bay Laurel, Olive, Sour Orange, Apricot, Nectarine, Apple, Pear, and Plums. Our poor neighborhood that was once mostly barren dry grass and juniper hedges, now has so many beautiful herbs and plants that just taking a walk is like a trip to a botanical garden. There also has been an increase in birds and other native animals.
Visitors used to be stunned that even the California freeways could be beautiful, with South African Ice Plant in glowing bloom and large trees and shrubs that bloom throughout the year to help clean the air from the traffic and soften the noise.
And then, something very disturbing happened. A movement began to spread that many of us recognized as being frighteningly similar to the racist hatred against immigrant people, but this time it was about nature, in the guise of being for nature. Most of the luminous Ice Plant has been eradicated. Flowering plants, including edible herbs, who most rational people would revere for their beauty and ability to survive in an increasingly dry land are being called “trash” and killed.
It’s not just innocent plants who are being reviled and killed, but animals are also being poisoned, trapped, and shot for no rational reason. The killing frenzy even includes important keystone native animals, like the California Ground Squirrel.
Why do we have to see parks we have loved for decades ruined, with most of the trees cut down for no reason other than that they are the “wrong” species, especially when many of the “right” (native) species are dying from global warming, disease, and insect infestation? Most parts of the US, as well as the world, treasure trees and are planting more, but not the Bay Area. Even while temperatures are increasing horrifically–and anyone can easily feel the twenty degrees difference between being in the sun versus being under trees–we are cutting down our trees.
With so much of the land in the Bay Area covered by concrete, asphalt, and buildings, shouldn’t we value and love every tree we have? Aren’t the trees who most help native animals even more important to protect? Of course I’m talking about the majestic Blue Gum Eucalyptus. In spite of myths saying no native animals use Eucalyptus, they are clearly crucial to the survival of the Monarch Butterfly. Their flowers are an important food source for hummingbirds, and they are the preferred nesting tree for large raptors, like Golden and Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and Buteos. Raptors haven’t been indoctrinated in the nativist cult. They just want the safest nest for their babies. A survey in Tilden Park found 38 different plant species beneath the canopy of Eucalyptus forests, compared to only 18 in Oak woodlands.
Monterey pines are also villainized, even though they are native, with fossil records throughout the Bay Area. They give throughout their life cycle, as they irrigate other plants with their extensive fog drip. They enrich the soil more than most other trees, and feed and shelter a diverse population of animals, including woodrats. The woodrat’s intricately constructed pyramid nests provide homes for many other species like mammals, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, etc. The pines are a self-replenishing forest, continually creating baby trees, while their dead snags are perfect granary trees for acorn and other woodpeckers, as well as being lookouts for hunting birds. Visit Monterey pines to see the rich wildlife around them, from kingfishers to tree creepers. In one small area of local pines, it’s possible to find over forty mushroom species.
The advantage of having plants from all over the world is that someone is always blooming, fruiting, and setting seed. One of our most beloved, but not often seen birds, the Cedar Waxwing, travels in flocks from one berry-bearing shrub or tree to another. I have seen Waxwings eating non-native Cotoneaster, Ligustrum, and Pyracantha berries, and only once native mistletoe. Almost all our birds are benefiting from non-native species, for nesting and food.
Our most common spider species, so essential for a healthy eco-system, are non-native. Honeybees are forgotten in the vendetta against non-natives, but they are European and valuable as the chief pollinators of our agricultural crops. They are another example of a beloved species who survives because of the many non-native plants we have. Eucalyptus provide valuable food for honeybees during the winter, when little else is blooming in California. And bees help plants reproduce, which provides more food for native animals, not to mention fruit and vegetables for humans.
As the park district plans future projects for funding by Measure CC, I ask that the projects quit destroying non-native trees and vegetation, particularly by using herbicides. Our wildlife needs these plants. The park district does not “improve” the parks by killing plants and animals.