We received this letter from one of our readers, “R.R.”. It’s republished here with permission.
To Whom it May Concern:
I am appalled at the planned destruction of thousands of trees by UCSF and the SFNAP [San Francisco Natural Areas Program]. I consider myself a practical-minded person. I understand the regret some people feel at the loss of what was San Francisco ‘s “native ecosystems.” But the overwhelmingly obvious fact that should guide the use and management of our public and private lands is this: our ecosystem now, at this moment, is what we have. The “restoration” of an idealized past by reintroducing “native” plants and destroying trees deemed “invasive” is an exercise in futility as well as an unwanted course of action by the majority of San Francisco residents.
The attempt to reintroduce certain species of plants is just as artificial as the original introduction of non-native species was. Where no “native” species still exist, the functional, beautiful ecosystems in place should be left alone. It is a MASSIVE act of hubris and environmental destruction to try to engineer a new ecosystem. RESTORATION is not the same as PROTECTION. Restoration is an act of ecological engineering. Protection is an attempt to save what is still in existence. Historically “native” plants are no more “native” than the current flora which have become dominant over the course of hundreds of years.
It all depends on the timeframe being referenced. Why idealize a certain set of plants which were dominant for only a minuscule amount of time on a geological scale. Why not go back further and remove ALL vegetation in favor of cyanobacteria and Archaea? It is foolishness and misplaced idealism.
Most importantly, we, as SF residents, have the great fortune to live in a city of great natural beauty. Aside from geological formations, most of this beauty is man made. People have chosen, rightly, a more diverse and pleasing ecosystem, that now has become home to an amazing variety of wildlife. Just because it does not fit a few extremists’ definition of “natural” doesn’t mean it is less beautiful or valuable. What is “natural,” anyway? Do NAP members actually believe that before European settlement, the Native People never molded the land to their vision and need? That is ignorant and condescending.
As to the suitability of Eucalypts, this is a pointless discussion. People ignorant of arboriculture have too much influence. There are hundreds of species of Eucalypts, many of which most people don’t even recognize as being Eucalypts. An amazingly diverse group with amazingly diverse habit, form and ecological influence, Eucalypts are very well adapted for our climate and have been here much, much longer than any of their ill-informed critics.
I do not want to see San Francisco devoid of trees and covered in “dunes and scrub.” It wouldn’t work, and it shouldn’t happen. Like it or not, this is an urban area, not a nature preserve.