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.”
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
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.
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.”
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:
- The loss of the windbreak in a windy coastal location.
- The loss of stored carbon and the loss of more carbon storage some 200 years into the future, based on the expected lifespan of eucalyptus.
- The loss of habitat for birds and monarch butterflies that have roosted in those trees. They are also a source of nectar for bees and hummingbirds during winter months when little else is blooming in California.