Habitat Destruction in Sutro Forest

We posted recently about the destruction of the forest understory along the South Ridge trail, near where it meets the Nike Rd. Now we hear that this isn’t the only area where habitat has been destroyed along the trail. Areas where the understory was 5-6 feet high have been mowed down to a shoulder broad enough to park a car on. And when we checked the UCSF Mt Sutro website, there it was: “Regular maintenance of the trails includes: maintenance to better allow usage and ensure continued accessibility, including keeping a clearance of up to 5 feet on both sides…” Assuming that the trail itself is about 3-5 feet wide, we’re talking about a road that’s up to 15 feet across.

We’re dismayed. This is not “maintenance,” this is habitat destruction.

Habitat destruction ahead of the base-line Environmental Review risks invalidating the exercise. This kind of disturbance of the forest ecosystem will have the effect of reducing populations of birds, insects,  possibly mammals, and existing plant species. It could also change the conditions in those areas of the forest.

The same trail before

(Photo credit http://www.mi9.com )

Moreover, this is still the bird nesting season (which normally continues through June). Given this year’s wet spring, it’s entirely possible that the season has been delayed or extended this year, or that birds are able to raise second broods due to food availability. (Hummingbirds have been known to nest as early as February and as late as June. Click here for a picture of a hummer’s nest on a San Francisco blackberry bush.) Did anyone carefully inspect the bushes before mowing them down?

A fifteen-foot wide unpaved road through trees with thinned underbrush is an altogether different experience than mysterious narrow trails through a dense woodland. “It seems cut back and thinner every time I go up there,” said a neighbor.

We call on UCSF to exercise caution in its forest management. Issues cannot be defined away by declaring understory removal as “maintenance” and chain link fence over concrete as part of the Open Space Reserve.

White-crowned sparrow on blackberry: David Parsons

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7 Responses to Habitat Destruction in Sutro Forest

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  5. Dirk says:

    This is a good example of something that has particularly concerned me about the UCSF/Sutro Stewards approach for quite awhile: their actions belie any concern for the integrity of a vital, dense, living forest—
    Six years ago, Mt Sutro was a dense thicket of nearly impenetrable trees and brambles that regulated itself. Now it is criss-crossed by a network of trails (apparently to be widened? Who needs a 15 foot clearance? Except a vehicle, that is.), thronged by hordes of dog-walkers who throw bags of dog excrement in the trees, and has been developed and managed to the point where it is only questionably natural space (I refer to the trail markers (?) – how do you get lost in a 61 acre area?), and to proposals for park benches, viewpoints, and “demonstration” projects that take up more than a quarter of the Preserve’s area.

    I was happier when we let the forest alone.

    Every development or alteration here lessens the educational impact for those who come here- it makes Mt Sutro less undeveloped and more like a Park. If people want to see quasi-developed, managed areas, they’ve got places to go: Golden Gate Park and McLaren Park are good examples in the City.

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