The day was perfect, the weather unusually nice. A long weekend, and perhaps the publicity surrounding UCSF’s plans to “thin” the forest, drew many more hikers than usual. We hiked up the steep trail from Christopher (scheduled to be closed and replaced with a long hairpin) and reached the South Ridge.
Though the last rain was a few days ago, the trails were uniformly damp; the understory and canopy prevent it from drying out. This gives a good footing, without either dust or slush, so it’s great for hiking or jogging. It’s a winter pattern – in summer, the trails will be damp or muddy where there’s tree cover and understory, and dry where the Cloud Forest has been opened up.
It was a bittersweet afternoon in the forest. There’s already been a lot of understory removal here and there. Most of the forest is no longer as lush as it was when we first started this record. If you’d never been there before, it was still amazingly lovely. But we’ve seen it denser and lusher, and we knew the plans were to remove 90% of the trees on 3/4 of this forest. We looked at the “Demonstration Areas” where the felling is to start.
All along all the trails, snags – standing dead trees – were marked with orange blobs of paint, as were some trees that were leaning. We presume these trees will be gone soon. None of them looked hazardous and snags are good for birds, but removing them isn’t as bad as taking out live trees.
The Native Garden bloomed with a forest of orange flags where they’re replanting a meadow again. But flowers are also blooming – pink-flowering currant, forget-me-nots, an occasional oxalis or dandelion.
The grass in the Native Garden is green, and it’s probably at its best right now.
Down along the North Ridge trail is where the forest is relatively dense still, and it’s beautiful.
“THINNING” THE FOREST
We saw more people in the forest today than we ever have before – maybe two dozen hikers and joggers, three dogs, and only three bike-riders. One group was clearly exploring the forest; we asked if they knew about plans to fell 30,000 trees.
“But we met someone who was giving a tour,” said one, “And he said it was just rumors. What they’re going to do is just some thinning.”
Well, yes, true. If removing 90% of the trees and 90% of the understory on the affected acreage (3/4 of the forest) counts as thinning. We referred them to the actual UCSF Draft Environmental Impact Review, so they could get the facts from the official source.
[Here is the PDF of the DEIR: Mount_Sutro_EIR_1-16-13_with_Appendices ]
They knew about that, and about this website, and SFForest.Net, the website of the San Francisco Forest Alliance. Now its for them – and for all our readers – to decide for where they stand on this.
If you would like to help the effort to save the forest, there’s a list of what you can do HERE. And please sign the petition (if you have already signed, there’s no need to sign again).
Meanwhile, it’s a wonderful time to visit the forest. The Sutro Stewards may stop removing understory now since the birds are beginning to nest, and it should start to rebound. If the project goes through, the tree-felling on the “Demonstration Areas” could start as early as Fall of 2013. The next few months may be the time to make your memories of the forest.