UCSF: No Pesticides for Mount Sutro Forest

A few weeks ago, we posted about UCSF’s revised plan for the forest. It was a substantial improvement – though we continue to have reservations. (Read about the changed direction and our comments HERE.)

Today, we’d like to focus on one aspect in particular: Pesticide use. We think UCSF has scored a big win by promising not to use pesticides in the forest.

sutro forest path


July 31/ Aug 3 2009, 7 AM-2.30 PM

July 31/ Aug 3 2009, 7 AM-2.30 PM

It wasn’t always so. Neighbors who’ve walked in the forest for twenty or thirty years recall when they would see pesticide notices there from time to time.  And UCSF still used pesticides, very visibly, in the Aldea Student Housing area. For years, neighbors wrote in, asking them to stop, but got no response.

We started documenting pesticide notices like this one – and found that not only were they spraying Roundup all over the Aldea Housing, they were doing so many times annually. We also wrote to them, sharing the information we had found about the potential dangers of glyphosate.

UCSF declared a moratorium on glyphosate use in Aldea Student Housing – and also confirmed that no herbicides had been used in the forest since end-2008. It didn’t promise never to use herbicides; it focused on the risk from the surfactant (POEA) in Roundup and considered looking at other surfactants. Here’s a quote from their note:

“Herbicides have not been used in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve since 2008, and are not being used at Aldea pending an evaluation of a herbicide commonly known as “Roundup”. UCSF is evaluating Roundup as a result of recent studies on the active ingredient in Roundup and similar glyphosate-based herbicides.”

But in the years since 2009, to the best of our knowledge, UCSF has not used herbicides either in the forest or in the Aldea campus. Sutro Forest may be the only herbicide-free wild land in the city, since the Natural Areas Program (NAP) of the SF Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) uses a considerable amount of toxic pesticides in the so-called Natural Areas. (Thanks, UCSF, and well done!)


This was all set to change under the UCSF Plan for the forest that was published as part of its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in January 2013.

Sutro DEIR pesticidesInstead of being pesticide-free, the forest would potentially have been sprayed with 5-15 times more toxins on 61 acres than NAP used on all its 1100 acres. (In the graph above, the yellow band shows NAP pesticide level for 2012. The brown columns show the projected pesticide use in UCSF’s 2013 DEIR .)


This planned pesticide use is what UCSF has walked away from, with this statement:

“…as a health sciences university, we believe the right thing to do is not to use herbicides in the Reserve.”

UCSF logo with herbicide statementKudos, UCSF.  And thank you from all of us who care about the environment.

We hope San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department will follow your lead – especially the NAP, which uses more pesticides than all the other SFRPD departments put together. Including all city golf courses except Harding.

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6 Responses to UCSF: No Pesticides for Mount Sutro Forest

  1. Tony Holiday says:

    Good to hear! Thanks much for the news.

  2. Mary says:

    Wonderful news! Glad to have some positive news on Sutro Forest!

  3. Dee seligman says:

    Yes to UCSF! Now the City of San Francisco should rise to the occasion and do the same in our parks.

  4. If true, this is the best news I have yet received regarding our urban wild areas. I have long been concerned of the use of these chemicals throughout the city. especially in the highest areas where they can percolate through and run off the hillsides and eventually move into our ground water. I know the city government wishes to eventually use our underground reservoirs as a source of drinking water and I have been very surprised that the city government has not been more active in protecting out underground aquifers.

  5. Pingback: ‘Natural’ Areas Program Using Pesticide in Sutro Forest | Save Mount Sutro Forest

  6. Pingback: UCSF Sutro Forest Update | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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