New funding creates new threats to eucalyptus trees

I recently received a message, asking for help to save a grove of eucalyptus trees on the Napa River from destruction:  “I live in Napa on the river where eucalyptus trees are going to be cut down that are home to owls, ravens, herons, egrets and more for over 50 years.  Could you please help save these beautiful trees and wildlife? Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.”

Eucalyptus trees on Milton Road on the Napa River
Owls nest in the trees on Milton Road

I learned a few more details by speaking with the neighbor of the trees.  The trees are on State property and the project was going to be funded by California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW).  There are few trees in this neighborhood and therefore few alternatives for the birds that roost and nest in the eucalyptus trees

Eucalyptus grove on the Napa River in which many birds nest and roost

The neighbors asked if herbicides would be used to prevent the trees from resprouting.  That was a concern partly because the well that supplies their drinking water is within 60 feet of the trees.  Before they received an answer to that question, they were informed that “CDFW has decided to halt their project of cutting down the eucalyptus trees on Milton Road!”  We don’t know why CDFW changed its mind, but we would like to believe the questions raised by the neighbors may have helped.  Thanks and congratulations to the neighbors of the eucalyptus grove on the Napa River.

Eucalyptus trees threatened in El Granada

Shortly before I heard from folks in Napa, I learned about a project to destroy eucalyptus in a small community on the coast of San Mateo County.  It’s a foggy coastal location, much like Mount Sutro in San Francisco, where fog drip from the trees during summer months keeps the ground moist and reduces fire hazards. 

The community has made a video (available HERE) about the project and the issues it raises.  It is an even-handed presentation that acknowledges the fire hazards of dense forests in the hills surrounding their community and contrasts that risk with the lower risk of the widely spaced trees in the medians of their village on flat land.  The video explains the many important functions that trees perform to store carbon, improve air quality, provide wind protection and habitat for birds.  The people of El Granada would like the project to reduce fire hazards in the hills, but retain the trees in their street medians because of their ecological value.  It’s a reasoned and reasonable approach.

Source: El Granda Advocates. http://egadvocates.org

The people of El Granada ask for your help to save some of their trees.  Their website (available HERE) invites you to sign their petition.

Predictable…and probably only the beginning

The State of California has committed billions of dollars in fire hazard mitigation, climate change, and biodiversity.  We watched the budgetary plans for these projects being developed in the past year and the plans were recently approved.  Now communities all over California are applying for State grants to implement projects like the two I have described today.  Now it’s up to communities to watch as plans are developed and participate in the process to ensure that the plans reflect their wishes.  It’s your money and your community.  Pay attention and engage in the process.

Postscript…different, but the same

Days before publishing this article, I received an email from Santa Barbara:  Well it is with great sadness we have to report that The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) is again trying to destroy hundreds of Eucalyptus trees here at the University.  They want to destroy what is known as “The Eucalyptus Curtain” the boundary between the University and Isla Vista the college town here.” 

“Eucalyptus Curtain,” UC Santa Barbara. Source: localwiki.org

Some people who are trying to save this grove of eucalyptus are appealing to the California Coastal Commission.  They suggest those who share their opinion contact the CCC HERE.

In this case, the motivation for destroying these trees is not the usual allegation that they are a fire hazard.  According to this article in localwiki, the trees will be destroyed to build more student and faculty housing.  There is no question in my mind that we need more housing and I am rarely opposed to any housing project, including this one.  However, the consequences of destroying these trees are the same regardless of the motivation:

Eucalyptus and Bee, painting by Brian Stewart

4 thoughts on “New funding creates new threats to eucalyptus trees”

  1. OMG, destroy a forest and put up a parking lot!!!!!!!!!!!

    A parking lot is actually in the UCSB Ocean Road project , Long Range Development Plan for housing, and fast food places, apartments etc.

  2. Thank you so much for this! A friend in Canada just asked me if Eucalyptus “explode” so I am sharing. I was horrified, but not surprised to see on the KTVU news last night the weather caster saying stupidly “Eucalyptus are bad.” As if the audience doesn’t even need to be given facts. (Of course they also tell us whether we need jackets or not.) This was in response to the fire in San Rafael, but when the recent Napa fire was attributed, like most, to PG&E again, or arsonists, that is dropped and not repeated like their targeting of Eucs. Meanwhile, the current tree killing along Hwy 13 in Berkeley and Oakland is horrifying. Sharing….

    1. This podcast is a gift from one of my subscribers, Peter Del Tredici: “Peter Del Tredici is an American botanist and author. He is a former senior research scientist at Arnold Arboretum for 35 years and a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He was appointed curator of the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection in 1982 and was editor of the journal Arnoldia from 1989 to 1992.” (Wikipedia)

      Tree of Heaven is one of many non-native trees that is despised by native plant advocates. Peter Del Tredici understands why the tree has a bad reputation, but he also wants us to know that it is performing valuable ecological functions in neglected urban landscapes. He points out that it is nearly impossible to eradicate because it resprouts vigorously from its roots. If you cut down one Tree of Heaven, you might end up with a forest of Tree of Heaven. Both Peter and the interviewer are uncomfortable with the way some people talk about the Chinese origins of the Tree of Heaven.

      Thanks to Peter for sharing this podcast with us.

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