This conversation with Sutro Biker started in the Comments. We felt it was interesting enough to have it in a separate post instead of buried at the bottom of a page.
Sutro Biker (SB): I still can’t believe all the misinformation on this website. The fact is, this city cannot manage the the trees it has. San Francisco cannot allow endless seeding in of a truly unsustainable species – eucalyptus. Yet another just fell over the path the other day at Stern Grove.
“Save” Mt. Sutro needs to start finding some common ground with folks by putting forward a plan to prioritize management of the many hazardous eucalyptus trees existing right over trails and next to houses. Period. To defend anything beyond starting with a basic safety standpoint, stopping funding sources to manage the trees, puts this website in the careless category.
Webmaster (WM): Sutro Biker, we try to avoid misinformation on this site… if you have specifics, point them out and we can discuss them. If we’re wrong, we’ll correct it.
You say eucs are unsustainable, but the only evidence you offer is that a tree fell over in Stern Grove. Trees do fall occasionally, euc or not. Stern Grove has particular tree-management issues.
We would like to point out that we have no problem with the removal of hazardous trees.
(We wouldn’t be “stopping funding” for that, even if we had that power. And as UCSF points out, it’s something they consider their responsibility.)
SB: Furthermore: the biodiversity standpoints for eucalyptus are so bird-centric. I’ll bet you folks have no idea about how great the biodiversity for the total system WAS before Sutro hatched his tree-stand-tax incentive plan!
WE HAVE NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE IN HISTORY WITH THE LIFE-CYCLE OF EUCALYPTUS TREES – and now it has come home to roost; a forest we can’t manage for basic safety DIRECTLY because of the mis-info. and efforts of folks behind this extreme, do-nothing website! Bummer for San Francisco and Mt. Sutro users! Good luck neighbors!!!
WM: Sutro Biker, on bio-diversity – you have a point. We talk mostly about birds because we have that information – people watch birds. A 2001 report mentions 93 plant species. No one seems to have studied the insects, reptiles, or mammals using the forest, or the fungi on the trees and in the soil. That’s why our recommendation to UCSF is to commission a study of the full eco-system before messing with it.
And as for pre-eucs biodiversity – perhaps Twin Peaks would be an example? It’s never been euc-covered as far as we know. Maybe Sutro Forest would have been the same – non-native grasses, oxalis, mustard, replanted native flowers, and regular Garlon spraying.
(Unless it was covered with buildings instead.)
SB: Your view of Twin Peaks is clearly incomplete and skewed. Replanted natives only? And besides the usual manually managed aggressive introduced plants?
WM: Well, what we’ve seen seemed predominantly grasses, mostly non-native, but with some recently-planted native bunchgrass on the hill above Midtown Terrace. A number of replanted natives, including poppy, lupin, Douglas Iris, checkerbloom. Flowering non-natives, including oxalis, mustard, sweet alyssum, dandelion, and calendula. Butterflies, including migrating red admirals, and anise swallowtails that breed on non-native fennel. Pocket gophers (native). If it’s incomplete, what would you add?
(We won’t talk about graffiti, rockslides, or trash.)
SB: I researched how biocides are applied there, and as much I detest the chemical companies and becoming fully dependent on them, at least to the Parks Dept’s. credit, biocides are not broken out as a first line “defense“. Furthermore, I learned that the Dept. is careful in how they are applied, using primarily spot application.
WM: How do they manage spot applications? They’re using Garlon against oxalis, which covers the whole area in spring, intermingled with all the other plants. And the signs went up almost as soon as the oxalis came out – from end-Feb to end-March.
We hope they are careful. Garlon’s not acutely poisonous, so you don’t get ill right away. But it’s insidious: its caused horrid birth defects in rats, and can poison kidneys, liver and blood. There are few long-term studies of chronic exposure. Garlon is inherently problematic, and there just isn’t enough information about its effects to feel safe. Also, it can be found for upto 2 years in dead vegetation, and has been found in waterways, too.
It’s cheap and easy and legal and lethal. But really, when the idea is to improve the environment, the tradeoff just doesn’t seem worth it.
SB: Studies have been done on eucalyptus under-stories and the general consensus is that they are more limited in species and species richness in comparison to mixed forests.
WM: We looked into it a bit. Here’s one report on eucalyptus forests – and it starts out by saying, “The wildlife in a Eucalyptus forest varies depending upon the geographic location of the grove.” It also says, “Contrary to popular belief, many animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates, have adapted to life in the Eucalyptus groves. Moisture from the air condenses on the leaves and the drippage keeps the groves moist and cool even during the dry season. This is a suitable ground habitat for a wide variety of animal life.”
Also, are “mixed forests” the right comparison?
Many of California’s forests are dominated by one or two species: The redwood forest in Muir Woods; the oak-bay forests on some hillsides. No one wants to revise their vegetation.
Or should the comparison be with Twin Peaks?
SB: Evident is the at least 75% Algerian ivy (euc. strangler) and Himalayan Black berry —
WM: Not sure how you get the estimate of 75% Algerian ivy and Himalayan blackberry – and 75% of what? There’s actually quite a lot of diversity if you look carefully. If the eucs were going to be strangled, they would be gone by now. The ivy’s had a hundred years to take them out.
SB: — chronic homeless persons habitat —
WM: We’ve heard one homeless person has made a long-term camp somewhere around the Interior Green Belt, not UCSF land.
SB: — and general trail maintenance and user nightmare.
WM: It’s a forest, of course it has trees, shrubs, and undergrowth. The thorns and the lush growth make this safe animal and bird habitat. Those who find this annoying do have the choice of Twin Peaks, Tank Hill, or Golden Gate Park. It’s unclear why people who dislike the trees would want to walk or work in the forest. Or why anyone would want to reduce biodiversity in the area by removing a Cloud Forest ecosystem to substitute another similar to Tank Hill or Twin Peaks.
SB: Again, the safety issue for families as well is of paramount importance.
WM: Quite so.
SB: As a naturalist, I can tell you a study will be a waste of money and simply stalling positive processes allowing people to do the necessary work there doing fire mitigation, restoration etc. – relationships to the mountain diversifying it’s safety and future. I hope somehow through this process you realize that many positive things are happening on Sutro.
WM: Surely, if you’re a naturalist, you understand the need to study of the existing ecosystem before changing it? Wouldn’t that be the scientific approach?
The fire risk is minimal because of the micro-climate. “Restoration” – by which I presume you mean felling trees and removing understory to replant with “native plants” can be destructive of this ecosystem, which we would not consider positive at all.
SB: We humans have made blanket changes to the ecosystem there: “Sutro’s Plantation/Forest”;
WM: Certainly we have, and it wasn’t just with the forest. There was a Rancho there before, and then a dairy farm with cattle (and thus, non-native grasses) in Cole Valley. There have been blanket changes all through San Francisco. Golden Gate Park is one example, and the city itself, another.
SB: — and we will continue as a culture to diversify the forest with other species with far less harsh a hand than Sutro’s with a plantation forest. Realize that it will be okay and that is it a great idea to diversify the eucs.
WM: Harsh a hand? We’d consider felling thousands of trees far harsher than planting them. Thanks, but no thanks. This “diversification” could destroy the integrity of a 120-year-old ecosystem.
SB: Your fog will move over!
WM: Yay! Do I get to be Fog Master, too?
SB: Quit stalling this process and enable folks that want to be there, working there on the trails in nature, be there to enjoy it safely NOW!
WM: We could as fairly say, if you dislike the eucs, why be there at all? Twin Peaks, as you point out, could use some help. We’re not objecting to trail-work or to the bikers – though Nature in the City apparently is.
Someone told us that Josiah Clark (of Nature In the City) publicly declared that though bicycles are ‘green’ on the road, they have no place on Mount Sutro’s trails. We found this a bit odd, because we’re aware that bikers work to maintain them. We also think they do so sensitively – like mulching soggy areas of the trail with rocks, which gives a dry surface while allowing the moisture to remain beneath for plants and animals.
We think the Stewards, the Urban Riders, and the public could all share this place with safety and courtesy, and without damaging the beauty of the forest or the integrity of the eco-system.
This plan would give UCSF lower ongoing maintenance costs than if the forest were converted to a native plant garden, and avoid thousands of doses of toxic herbicides.
Is that a lot to strive for?