Losing Battles to Save our Trees

In our posts “They can destroy your trees”   and “KILLER TREES!! Scare Tactic #3”  we told you about two efforts to save eucalyptus trees that were threatened with destruction.  Today we must tell you that those battles have been lost.

In Larkspur, 25 trees that have been destroyed were on private property.  The owner of that property was sued by her neighbors who demanded that the trees be destroyed because they believed them to be dangerous.  The owner of the trees made every effort to save her trees, even appealing unsuccessfully to the California Supreme Court for reversal of the court order to destroy most of her trees.  She organized demonstrations in a fruitless effort to interest local politicians to come to the defense of her trees.  Finally, when she was cited for contempt of court, she had her beautiful trees cut down.  



Yesterday we attended a memorial for her trees.  We find it hard to believe that her neighbors would prefer the barren landscape that remains or the PG&E pole that was installed to hold the electrical wires that had previously been held by the trees. 

In San Leandro, the neighbors worked equally hard to save the eucalyptus trees on the banks of the San Leandro Creek from being destroyed.  They faithfully attended a series of community meetings which were theoretically an opportunity for them to defend the health, safety, and beauty of their trees.  As is often the case when we advocate on behalf of our trees, we may be successful in demanding a public process, but that rarely seems to save our trees.

 That was the case in San Leandro.  Neighbors were informed at the last public meeting that 31 of the 47 trees originally in jeopardy will be removed and 2 will be “trimmed” to stumps, but allowed to regenerate (1).  After months of effort, neighbors have saved only 14 of their trees and the assumption is that the remaining 1,000 eucalypts on the banks of the creek remain in jeopardy. 

However, the county has made a commitment to an environmental review, which it had originally intended to avoid by destroying the trees piecemeal.  This environmental review will give the neighbors another opportunity to document the negative environmental impacts of tree destruction, whether the trees are native or non-native. 

As the needless destruction of non-native trees continues unabated, millions of native  oaks are being killed by Sudden Oak Death, millions of native pines are being killed by bark-beetles, and the ranges of native plants and trees are shifting to higher elevations as the climate changes.  Those who demand the destruction of non-native trees which are adapted to current climate, soil, and air quality conditions will doom us to a barren, treeless environment. 

It is long past time for environmentalists to reorder their priorities to put climate change mitigation ahead of their commitment to native plants.  Their crusade against non-native trees is contributing to climate change by releasing tons of sequestered carbon into the atmosphere.  Ironically, as the climate changes, the native plants to which they are devoted are dying.  In other words, they are shooting themselves and the plants they prefer in the proverbial foot.

 (1) San Leandro Times, 9/2/10

They can destroy your trees

Million Trees was created to inform the public of the many projects that have destroyed or plan to destroy non-native trees on public lands at every level of government from the federal government to local jurisdictions such as the Alameda County Water District.  However, private properties are not immune from such efforts to destroy non-native trees.  The legal battle to destroy 28 of 45 trees on private property in Larkspur is a case in point.

 We learned of this legal battle from the San Francisco Chronicle .  The property owner, Dr. Anne Wolff, was sued by her neighbors who claimed that her trees are hazardous.  When the judged ruled that her trees must be destroyed, she appealed that decision. 

 We attended the appeal hearing.  It was disturbing to hear the case law cited by the attorney representing the neighbors.  We learned that other property owners had been ordered by the court to destroy their trees for such frivolous reasons as “leaves in the rain gutters” of their neighbors.  One court ruling said that the “sheer size [of the tree] is a menace.”  In other words, neighbors have successfully forced the destruction of their neighbors’ trees without any evidence that the trees were dangerous.  The mere theoretical existence of danger was sufficient for the court to require the destruction of trees.

As we have reported in our post KILLER TREES!!!, arborists are sometimes willing to declare trees as hazardous if they are hired to do so. Therefore we are not convinced by the assessment that Dr. Wolff’s trees are hazardous.  If these trees are in fact hazardous, it is not visually apparent.

Trees on private property in Larkspur

Dr. Wolff told us she has received many calls from other property owners who did not have the financial resources to challenge the legal demands of their neighbors to destroy their trees.  

The California Supreme Court has refused  to hear Dr. Wolff’s appeal.   

Dr. Wolff is now hoping that the Larkspur City Council will invoke the city’s Heritage Tree ordinance to prevent the destruction of the largest trees.  We attended the demonstration on June 13, 2010, organized to appeal to the city council to save the trees.  About 50 people attended and the media reported on the demonstration.

Demonstration in Larkspur, June 13, 2010

If you would like to help Dr. Wolff save her trees, please send an email to the Larkspur City Council, asking them to invoke the city’s Heritage Tree ordinance on behalf of her treeslrifkind@larkspurcityhall.orglchu@larkspurcityhall.org, dhillmer@larkspurcityhall.orgjlundstrom@larkspurcityhall.org, lk_admin@larkspurcityhall.org, khartzell@larkspurcityhall.org