Conservation Sense and Nonsense

You are receiving this announcement of our changed focus and new name because you are a subscriber to our original Million Trees blog.  This is our revised mission for the Conservation Sense and Nonsense blog:

Conservation Sense and Nonsense began in 2010 as the Million Trees blog to defend urban forests in the San Francisco Bay Area that were being destroyed because they are predominantly non-native.  In renaming the Million Trees blog to Conservation Sense and Nonsense, we shift the focus away from specific projects toward the science that informed our opposition to those projects. 

Many ecological studies have been published in the past 20 years, but most are not readily available to the public and scientists are often talking to one another, not to the general public.  We hope to help you navigate the scientific jargon so that scientific information is more accessible to you.  If this information enables you to evaluate proposed “restoration” projects to decide if you can or cannot support them, so much the better.

Anise Swallowtail butterfly in non-native fennel. Courtesy

Since 2010, we have learned more about the ideology of invasion biology that spawned the native plant movement and the “restoration” industry that attempts to eradicate non-native plants and trees, usually using herbicides.  We have read scores of books and studies that find little scientific evidence in support of the hypotheses of invasion biology.  We have studied the dangers of pesticides and the growing body of evidence of the damage they do to the environment and all life. 

Meanwhile, climate change has taken center stage as the environmental issue of our time.  Climate change renders the concept of “native plants” meaningless because when the climate changes, vegetation changes.  The ranges of plants and animals have changed and will continue to change to adapt to the changing climate.  Attempting to freeze the landscape to an arbitrary historical standard is unrealistic because nature is dynamic.  Evolution cannot be stopped, nor should it be.

Destroying healthy trees contributes to climate change by releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere.  Both native and non-native trees store carbon and are therefore equally valuable to combat climate change.  Native vegetation is not inherently less flammable than non-native vegetation.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both native and non-native vegetation. 

The forests of the Earth are storing much of the carbon that is the primary source of greenhouse gases causing climate change.  Deforestation is therefore contributing to climate change.  By destroying healthy trees, the native plant movement is damaging the environment and its inhabitants.


All of the articles on the Million Trees blog are still available in the archive on the home page.  The search box on the home page will take you to specific subjects of interest.  Visit the pages listed in the sidebar of the new home page for discussion of each of the main topics by clicking on the links above.  Readers who subscribed to the Million Trees blog will receive new articles posted to Conservation Sense and Nonsense unless they unsubscribe.  Thank you for your readership.  Your comments are welcome and will be posted unless they are abusive or repetitive. 

9 thoughts on “Conservation Sense and Nonsense”

  1. This is a MARVELOUS concept, and the name is so clever and APROPOS. Great idea!!!!!!!

    I would like to point out that not all scientific studies are valid. I’ve seen studies that must have been done simply to support removal of so-called invasive plants because the results were so obviously wrong. For example, claims of allelopathy can be verified by anyone to be false. Here in the East, you can easily view trees considered allelopathic, such as Ailanthus, that are surrounded by plants–both native and nonnative! It’s as if scientists behave like teachers in today’s schools; they don’t dare point out that someone has their “facts” or theory wrong. It’s a terrible way to run the world. Bad information leads to inappropriate actions based upon them.


    1. Thanks. I agree that scientific studies cannot be taken for granted. With the help of the academic scientists with whom I collaborate, I attempt to evaluate invasion biology studies critically. Here is a recent example of a critique of an invasion biology study that I published:

      Allelopathy is definitely an example of a hypothesis that deserves critical analysis. Claims that eucalyptus is allelopathic have been recently and thoroughly debunked at the most recent conference of the California Native Plant Society:

      By all means, alert me if and when you spot a study that requires critical analysis.

      1. I would be delighted to alert you to suspect studies. And I forgot to previously mention that I ADORE that sign with the dandelions in the photo above! Where’s it from, please? It could also say it’s feeding the goldfinches–they love dandelion seeds.


  2. Welcome back to what will hopefully be more regular publishing. I look forward to your posts which are informative and researched both in studies and by observation. Know anything about new pesticide person at EBRPD? Apart from extensive clear cutting at top of Centennial Drive I haven’t come across expected large scale deforestation yet this Spring. Do you know if it is happening and where?

    1. Yes, I have met and spoken with Pam Beitz several times. I have heard her speak to the EBRPD Board several times and I attended her workshop training of volunteers who eradicate non-native plants in the parks. She is a dedicated native plant advocate. She repeats the usual myths, such as “evolution takes thousands of years” and “glyphosate is not a carcinogen.” It is sad and disturbing that she has replaced Casey Brierley as the head of the Park District’s IPM program. He knew what he was doing and was also capable of interacting with the public in a civil manner.

      I haven’t seen what is happening at Centennial Drive and I am not aware of recent deforestation, but I am not making an effort to inform myself of what they are doing because I no longer believe they can be stopped. They have the required legal approvals and funding of their projects is secured.

  3. Thank you!!
    I really appreciate your work!
    The direction of my interest is wild plants of the human ecosystem, especially the wildflowers, the plants that can survive around people.
    Years ago I was in the California Native Plant Society. The turning point for me was when a woman I know wrote a article in the CNPS newsletter saying that people were telling her that CNPS was a hate group. She ended the article by saying that when she sees an non-native plant, if she can’t kill it, she at least injures it. Sigh.
    Recently I volunteered for two years at the Sun House museum, giving tours of the Wild Gardens of the agricultural plants of the Pomo people. When the Europeans came, this land was a garden not the wilderness that it salved their conscience to call it. Farming by fire is farming still, and it supported a dense population. Yet when I search for agricultural plants that are “native” to here, on the Calflora plant database, nothing comes up. We know that very many of the plants growing around us are the remains of their destroyed agricultural system. To me it seems racist to not acknowledge their agriculture and their agricultural plants, many of which are getting rare now because those plants depend upon human care. Now they’re “protected” even from the people who evolved with them.
    Our hills also evolved to withstand fire farming, and eventually to thrive with that form of agriculture.
    But today the plants around us are learning to thrive with the effects of cars which spread nitrogen, and with weed whackers and mowing (chicory actually thrives with it, to my surprise). I’m watching Queen Anne’s lace learning to thrive with herbicide, and also bindweed. Life goes on, evolving with us.
    I so appreciate your work.

  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful article and blog and continuing your essential work. It’s heartbreaking to see the killing of healthy trees and other plants, but your work makes such a difference. I console myself with knowing those plants will eventually outlive us all and hopefully the many animal species they help. Love the logo!

    I seem to be locked out of sharing on facebook for three days, but linking here went through. I want all to know about your work.

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