Our notes on UCSF’s Notes – May 25th Meeting

This is UCSF’s summary of the May 25th meeting, which we reported on here. We have edited it for clarity. “C” stands for comment; “Q” for question; “A” for an answer provided by UCSF or by its hired arborist, Ray Moritz.

Our additional comments are in square brackets and bolded.

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INTRODUCTION

UCSF hosted the first in a series of three community workshops on May 25, 2010 to update neighbors on the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, to seek input on proposed demonstration areas, and to discuss next steps in working toward a safe and healthy forest. The workshop was held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Millberry Union on the UCSF Parnassus Campus and was attended by more than a dozen people from the neighborhoods surrounding the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.

Outreach for the meeting included an ad in the Sunset Beacon neighborhood newspaper (circulation 25,000); email to everyone who expressed interest in the project (this listserv was developed after an extensive mailing in fall 2009); and notification on the UCSF website.

Barbara J. French, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications and University Relations at UCSF, opened the meeting and shared her appreciation for everyone who came out to help UCSF identify how Mount Sutro will be maintained as an asset to our community.

OVERVIEW

Daniel Iacofano of MIG, Inc., provided an overview of the evening’s agenda and introduced Lori Yamauchi, Assistant Vice Chancellor of UCSF Campus Planning, and Maric Munn, Director of UCSF Facilities Management, who provided a recap of the 2001 Mount Sutro Management Plan, listed actions that have been taken since 2001, and described how conditions have changed since 2001. Assistant Vice Chancellor Yamauchi also went over the 2001 Adaptive Management Strategy to evaluate the effectiveness of management and listed the goals for the Mount Sutro forest, which are to make it safe, healthy, aesthetically pleasing and usable.

Following this presentation, Daniel Iacofano went over the community planning process. Next to present was consulting arborist Ray Moritz, who gave an overview of local examples of eucalyptus thinning projects to remove hazards, reduce fuel loads, improve forest and riparian corridor health and enhance the aesthetic character of the forests in the Bay Area and also described demonstration project planning and the different factors that will be considered when selecting demonstration areas. He presented a matrix of factors for consideration of the demonstration areas which included: location, size, thinning prescription, undergrowth and ground fuel removal, fire safety pruning, regrowth control, safety pruning. Diane Wong, UCSF Senior Planner, described the environmental review process, including requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which must be undertaken before full implementation of the Management Plan.

At the end of each presentation, Mr. Iacofano facilitated a feedback session, inviting attendees to ask questions or provide comments. UCSF staff answered questions when possible or committed to provide requested information at follow-up meetings. Meeting attendees were also able to submit written comments to UCSF by filling out comment cards that were made available to them.

PARTICIPANT COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS

Participants provided a number of comments and questions that are listed below. Where provided, UCSF’s response is indicated in italics below the question. Often during the flow of conversation there was not an opportunity to respond to each question, but we anticipate being able to cover these issues at the remaining workshops.

We have divided the comments and questions into topic areas:

Tree Health and Density

C: Even though I am invested in preserving the forest, I support removing hazardous trees.

Q:  If you have a block of trees and you thin them, it would seem each tree would grow to fill the space. What is long term plan for that?

A: Blue gum eucalyptus can grow to a mature height of 130 feet to 165 feet and mature crown spread of 35 feet to 70 feet. They will fill that space. You get healthier growth and carbon sequestration in stands that are thinned to certain specifications. We have found fungal disease in leaves of eucalyptus trees on Mount Sutro, which is unexpected. Better aeration and better spacing will favor a decrease in that disease. Better aeration will help leaves dry during the day, so there will be no moisture to spread disease. When stressed by disease, the trees become more subject to beetle infestation.

[Note: What fungal disease is this, and how widespread is it? We would like specifics, including areas affected and extent of the infection. This is a Cloud Forest. It has always been damp, and its safety and ecosystem depends on the dampness, so we would be concerned with attempts to dry it out. It is likely to create fire hazard conditions as in the 1930s.]

Q:  When trees grow back after thinning, what is the long-term impact?

Eucalyptus compete in several ways: for available moisture, for available soil nutrients, for growing space, by providing shade, and finally by producing chemicals that are drained by rain and fog drip (lilopads) [Note: We think they mean allelopaths] that prevent germination of other species. They are good competitors. There will be a resurgence of vegetation when the forest is thinned initially, but as trees fill in space, they will create more shade as they mature.

C:  Tree thinning will dry out the forest; we can see this on trails that have been worked on. We will get a dry forest with very little undergrowth.
C:  I support broad spacing.
C: Agreed. It allows for development of native species, to get back to what was historically here.
C: Anything less than substantial thinning is a prescription for failure because we would continually be battling the regrowth of eucalyptus. We have to introduce species that provide habitat, and we can’t do that in a shady area.
C:  I am concerned about 30-foot spacing because we don’t know how to measure impact. We should consider leaving the forest alone.

Wildlife

Q:  Regarding native bird habitat from one of the eucalyptus thinning examples, was the Park Service acting on the “myth” that eucalyptus is hazardous to native bird habitat?

A: The Park Service was acting on information from the Audubon Society about gum building up in bird beaks, and it had found one bird dead [Note: We think it wasn’t the Park Service that found the dead bird, this was the one bird that was found by birder Rich Stallcup.] The Park Service looked into the issue and concluded there was a possibility that the build up from anthers in the eucalyptus flowers could contribute to gummy build up in beaks, but there has not been a rigorous study about this. There has been some filming that shows the buildup in bird nostrils does exists. [Note: The bird-death myth has been debunked.]

Q:  We have talked about a count of animals that populate the forest now, and we would like to see a real inventory done. We would like to see the forest enhanced for them.

A: A wildlife study will be performed as part of the CEQA process. It will not include a count, but observed species will be documented as well as suitable habitat for special status birds and other important wildlife.

Q: Will you leave some undergrowth for wildlife?

A: Yes. One benefit of the South Ridge demonstration area is that it is narrow and has plenty of options for wildlife habitat nearby, and we will be able to see what is best to let regrow. In removing brush as we work on trails, we’ve seen that it improves wildlife because it allows it to feed on seeds on the ground. Stacking tree limbs also provides habitat. [Note: What wildlife feeds in seeds on the ground in the trails? From what plant are the seeds and why are they preferentially on the trails? Is this a reference to the one-time clearing/ planting at the summit?]

C:  I am not objecting to native plants, but at the summit all I see are birds and butterflies. There are more species in the forest, and nothing unique to the summit.
C: A lot of the “wildlife” on Mount Sutro is living on dog food. There are not a lot of berries on the berry bushes because you need sun for that. I suggest replacing blackberries with better quality food for wildlife. There are a lot of creatures to consider besides birds.

[Note: So what wild-life are we talking about here? Birds? Skunks? Racoons? Where is the wildlife getting all this dog food?

Besides its berries, blackberry provides a food source in other ways. Insects eat its leaves or visit its flowers. It traps moisture in its thickets, providing a damp area where worms and other insects can live, and those also provide a food source for birds and rodents which in turn are a food source. And what kind of plant would provide a better quality food and habitat?]

Q: How will “mowing down” the understory help wildlife?

A:  Eventually, regular removal of the blackberry understory may give native species, natural wildlife habitat, better chances to get established. [Note: What native species and natural habitat do we mean? Can we be specific here rather than having a vague idea that some “native species” provide “natural wildlife habitat” when we really have no evidence for it?]

Demonstration Area

Q: There seems to be a big difference between a demonstration and an experiment. A demonstration is to show what is to come, not to have a finding.

A: The purpose of the demonstration projects is to help UCSF and the community see what the implementation of forest management practices will look like, and to guide the management of Mount Sutro in keeping with the principles of the 2001 Management Plan. This is not a scientific or research forest. The observations will be short term, and we will observe if it looks visually like a forest. Our purpose is not to do scientific research.

[Note: That sounds like there’s a foregone conclusion and “what is to come.” Is the “2001 Plan” a foregone conclusion? Or are we considering other options in light of new information and an additional ten years of observation? If not, why waste everyone’s time?]

It was clear at the time of the 2001 Plan that the demonstration concept was intended for people to observe the forest management process. There are examples in San Francisco of what UCSF wants to do; some delicately phased in eucalyptus management. We should encourage people to go see the result of these projects, because those done well are breathtaking. (There was an additional comment that a list of these areas would be helpful.)

C: We already have a huge control area of doing nothing, so that doesn’t need to be demonstrated.

Q: Mount Sutro Forest is one of the last dense forests left in the city, so we have concerns about any thinning, even in demonstration project area. The “Area L” project on the map will impact the whole forest in that area. Area P runs along a seasonal creek that has a different ecology. We would like to see real ecological study of the forest

A: The demonstration areas are small and will not impact the entire forest. Storms have a greater impact on the forest than a small demonstration thinning project. The purpose of the first demonstrations is to get an idea of the visual and aesthetic impact from within and from outside the forest. The thinning of eucalyptus will be on a priority basis. We will first remove safety hazards, limbs or trees themselves. From there, less healthy trees will be removed, leaving the healthiest trees. The thinning will be done to enhance the vigor of the remaining trees, and we will watch what happens when undergrowth is removed. The forest will regrow, and we may need to thin it again in the coming years. The ecosystem will thrive when there is sunlight on the forest floor. Maintenance will be continuous, not just one time.

[Note: Since this is a Cloud Forest, the ecosystem will be substantially altered if there is sunlight on the forest floor. And obviously ecosystem impacts are one of the things to be demonstrated, as well as effects on other trees – such as increased windthrow when the storms blow through a thinned area and knock down trees that no longer have support.]

Q:  How is the two-acre demonstration spot selected?

A: We want a variety in tree size and spacing, slope and other factors. The areas will be selected as part of of our community workshops.

Q: I am concerned that Area L is visible from my neighborhood.

A:  One of the reasons for choosing that location is that it is far back enough as to not weaken the visual aesthetic, and it is particularly dense.

C:  I agree that Area L just above Forest Knolls probably won’t be visible from off site.
C:  I have no problem with a demonstration area on the South Ridge.

C:  In Area P there is a watershed, and we found an old trail there. It would be a great asset to open this up as watershed. Going out to Clarendon might also be good.

Undergrowth Control and Herbicides

Q:  We would like UCSF to agree not to use herbicides. We prefer to use the black plastic ground-covering method. Why is UCSF still using herbicides? Would like to see none used.

A:  That’s a good topic to cover extensively at our next workshop.

C:  I support trying to avoid herbicides, but we should demonstrate which works best regarding cost and efficacy. It may turn out that light toxins work best.

C: Restoring natural drainage is another reason to avoid poison.

C: We can’t convert those who want all native plants and need to acknowledge that things will grow where the undergrowth is cut.

C:  This effort, like the 2001 Plan, focuses on diversity; native and non-native species can co-exist.

Future of the Reserve

Q:  Can you tell us if UCSF foresees any potential use of the area for buildings or functional structures in the University’s long-term plan?

A: This is a permanent open space reserve designated by the University of California Board of Regents, so there will be no buildings or structures. [Note: Except chain-link fences over concrete pads…]

General Comments

C: Calling Mount Sutro forest a cloud forest is unfair to the history of the entire area. The history of the forest goes back further than the 1940s. Originally the hill was as barren as Twin Peaks, but that said, the forest was planted. Logging in the 1930s cut down up to 95% of the trees. A happy medium is what we are looking for.

[Note: We don’t disagree that it was a barren hill like Twin Peaks 150 years ago. It is a Cloud Forest now. Logging in the 1930s ended with creating fire-hazard conditions.]

C: View corridors enabling views from Sutro are important.

[Note: Or not. One of the beauties of the forest is its sense of seclusion and wildness in the heart of the city.]

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2 Responses to Our notes on UCSF’s Notes – May 25th Meeting

  1. milliontrees says:

    I have just read UCSF’s “minutes” of the first so-called community meeting and would like to add a few comments to these observations about the disadvantages of implementing UCSF’s 2001 plan without major modification.

    UCSF claims that the canopy of the Blue Gum is capable of spreading to cover the 70 feet of space created between trees by the “thinning” they have planned. Anyone who has seen a mature Blue Gum standing in isolation, knows that its canopy is narrow even when it grows in isolation. The claim that the canopy will be capable of covering 70 feet of space is bogus.

    UCSF also claims that the eucalyptus forest is infected with a fungus that will invite an infestation of beetles that will kill the trees. This is also bogus. The beetle that preys upon the Blue Gum in Australia does not exist in San Francisco. Now don’t come back at me with the claim that a native beetle will eat the eucs because keep in mind that you repeatedly claim that the native insects don’t eat the eucs which is one of your favorite arguments for killing them all.

    The information from the Audubon and the National Park Service about the eucalyptus killing birds is entirely fabricated. The bird that is said to have been found dead by an employee of the Park Service was a Ruby Crowned Kinglet, which is a leaf gleaner. In other words, it was not trying to take nectar from the flower of the eucalyptus. It doesn’t eat nectar. It eats insects. Furthermore, birds frequently get their beaks gummed up with stuff and are perfectly capable of removing that stuff either with their feet or by scraping it off on a branch. Ask yourself this question: If you were suffocating because your mouth or nose was obstructed, wouldn’t you lift your hands to your face and take care of the problem? You wouldn’t just passively suffocate. In any case, one dead bird does not make a case for this ridiculous theory.

    Finally, the claim that there aren’t a lot of berries on the blackberry bushes is yet another ridiculous claim from people who apparently think those who walk in the forest regularly are blind. Since the employees of UCSF who propagate such nonsense apparently don’t walk in the forest, they are lapping up such blatant misstatements of fact.

  2. HarryEye says:

    While Twin Peaks has a visitor parking lot, drawing lots more people to Forest Knolls “to see the view” will have a horrible effect on us, the local residents.

    Here is a review of Twin Peaks from Yelp:

    “The trash. Shards of glass are littered on the top of the peaks, around the trails and just about everywhere else. For a town so eco-friendly, it’s a pretty disappointing sight. Maybe additional trash cans would help solve this problem, or even a city official or two? ”

    I, for one, don’t want Sutro Forest to be turned into another Twin Peaks. TP is doused with toxic chemicals constantly to quell the “invasives” (how that helps the butterflies, I have no idea) and the wind can be unbearable.

    Sutro Forest is quiet and beautiful just as it is, and it was better before they started thinning the trails and wishing it was another Twin Peaks.

    Reading the comments from UCSF above is very depressing. Some of the comments are ridiculous – wildlife living on dogfood, berries are not good food for wildlife, and the whole bogus demonstration project? Good Lord.

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