Sutro Forest Statement by Dr Joseph Mascaro

This is the statement of Dr Joseph Mascaro at the February 25th 2013 hearing UCSF held about the Draft Environmental Impact Report regarding Sutro Forest. It is published here with permission and added emphasis.

mossy tree trunk


My name is Dr. Joseph Mascaro, I am a forest ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California.  Although I cannot be present at the meeting today due to prior travel arrangements, I asked Keith McAllister to read this statement on my behalf.  I wish to deliver my expert opinion as an ecologist, but please note that my views regarding Mt. Sutro are not endorsed by, or affiliated with, the Carnegie Institution for Science.

I have worked in forest ecosystems throughout the United States, as well as tropical forests in Central and South America, Oceana and Australia, where I worked in forests dominated by eucalyptus and acacia species.  Having experienced conditions in eucalyptus forests in their native habitat, I believe the management objectives of the draft environmental impact report by the University of California, San Francisco will have three significant and unnecessary negative impacts on the environment, and in light of these negative impacts, I strenuously object to the proposed management activity.

First, the management activity will increase—not decrease—the risk of fire.  The present microclimate of the Sutro forest is cool and moist, with predominately healthy trees.  The forest promotes fog drip, and blocks wind.  By thinning the forest and removing most of the understory vegetation, the management activity will open the canopy of the forest resulting in drier and hotter duff on the forest floor and a greater risk of fire.

Second, the management activity will increase carbon emissions to the atmosphere.  In the report, UCSF justifies these carbon emissions on the grounds that, after the cutting, more eucalyptus trees will grow to accumulate any lost carbon.  UCSF is disingenuous on its views regarding eucalyptus: they first suggest that it is bad because it increases fire risk, and then suggest it is good because it grows quickly.

Third, the management activity will damage the biological diversity and character of Mt. Sutro.  The forest on Mt. Sutro is, indeed, a novel ecosystem with many introduced species.  Yet it is a diverse, functioning ecosystem providing many services, the most interesting of which is that it provides a small piece of wild nature in the heart of our city.  The forest is old, but it may not yet be mature.  There is no forest perfectly analogous to what exists on Mt. Sutro – a cosmopolitan mix of species, much like San Francisco.  The fact that the forest is strange to us is not a sufficient  justification for destroying it.

I urge UCSF to withdraw their management proposal.

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7 Responses to Sutro Forest Statement by Dr Joseph Mascaro

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  2. Richard Crooks says:

    I’m glad that someone outside has come forward with a professional statement about Sutro Forest.
    It’s time we spent more time helping nature rather than destroying it.

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