Puzzled #4 – UCSF: Cloud Forest ?

The fourth in our series of responses to UCSF’s July 9th letter.

According to the letter, “The forest is not a “Cloud Forest” (these are native forests found in tropical and subtropical areas of the world), but Mount Sutro does experience fog drip. Fog drip encourages the growth of undesirable highly flammable understorey (the area of a forest which grows in the shade of the forest canopy).

So it’s not a Cloud Forest because it’s not in a tropical or subtropical area?
Well, no. It’s a Temperate Cloud Forest.

The forest gets 8-12 inches of moisture from fog precipitation annually. This compares with San Francisco’s average annual rainfall of 21.5 inches. So the the forest gets around a third of its moisture during the summer months, from fog.

This means that the forest should be managed as a Cloud Forest. The first thing is not opening it up and drying it out.

As for “encouraging the growth of undesirable highly flammable understorey” – it may be undesirable to the writer of the letter, but to a lot of wildlife, it’s home.

It’s also a lot less flammable than the grasses and seasonal wildflowers they plan to plant there instead. Those dry out completely in summer. These bushes stay green all year and hold in the moisture that the trees capture.
And if scientists at San Jose State and UC Santa Barbara are right, (as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle) global warming may bring us even more fog.

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3 Responses to Puzzled #4 – UCSF: Cloud Forest ?

  1. NatureLover says:

    It is totally inaccurate to say that the existing understory is highly flammable. The first step in UCSF’s development of a plan for the management of the Sutro forest was to hire HortScience to evaluate the forest and to make recommendations on the various alternatives in the future. It is a fascinating document for many reasons (unfortunately there isn’t an electronic version). Here is what it says about the flammability of the understory: “Controlled burning may be used to remove and control growth of understory plants. Ivy, blackberry and broom, the dominant understory species in the Reserve, will not ignite without first being cut and allowed to dry.” (page VVII-4). In other words, the understory is NOT flammable unless some fool kills it! Unlike the native plants, many of which are dormant at this time of year, even when irrigated. The lovely native plant garden on the summit is irrigated, yet the grassland portion of it is still dormant and dry at this time of year. That dry grass IS flammable, while the existing understory that is green year around is NOT flammable.

    Another reason why the HortScience report is interesting is that it details six different options for maintaining the forest The least expensive option is to maintain “the existing” forest. The most expensive option, by far, is “restoration with native shrubs and tree species. This option is estimated to cost $13,312,600 for the first year and $119,000 per year thereafter. In other words, UCSF has selected the most expensive option and it has done so at a time when the State of California is on the verge of bankruptcy, the UC system is being cut $813 million this fiscal year, requiring tuition increases of 9.3% and salary cuts of 8% with mandatory furloughs of 11 to 26 days per year.

    Does this make any sense? Did the taxpayers fund the UC system to grow native plants or to educate the people of California?

    When is UCSF going to wake up to the public relations disaster it is creating with this destructive plan that nobody wants? What’s it going to take to make them realize they are making a huge mistake by pursuing this boondoggle?

  2. Rational Thinker says:

    Nature Lover’s response is accurate but is really an understatement. Public relations nightmare for UCSF is just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, state funding is a huge issue, but FEMA funds are federal funds with federal taxpayer dollars. Can you imagine national news organizations flying with this type of abuse of taxpayer FEMA dollars when tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims still have no permanent housing? What a disgrace to forward thinking San Franciscans. Yet, UCSF wants to use precious federal funds for a landscape experiment? If UCSF had a real emergency concern to justify FEMA dollars, they would ask for funding to put together a plan for a program or the delivery of service in the event of our inevitable earthquake. That is what FEMA is all about! That is the BIG PICTURE!

  3. TreeLover says:

    Rational Thinker – I agree with you 100%. I was wondering just how much this stupid plan will cost taxpayers in the event that the forest catches fire (just as Angel Island did when the nativists got their way) and there is destruction of houses in our neighborhoods? God Forbid! But really, they are playing with our lives, yet calling it fire mitigation.

    They should stick to actual areas that need help and leave our forest alone. There are plenty of areas that need attention, I don’t understand why they have to gun for this beautiful forest.

    Is it because FEMA is the only client they have nowadays? It’s outright fraud. FEMA shouldn’t be involved with gardening adventures.

    They should come up with a real plan that actually helps people who have ailing trees near their homes! But this plan has nothing to do with actual disaster planning at all.

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