It’s a while since we posted about Sutro Forest conditions, so we’d like to record pictures and observations from the last few weeks. Much of the forest is still very beautiful, especially in the fog. But around 1200 trees have been removed in the last year to contain an “urgent fire hazard” that was not very credible; and to remove trees in poor condition, most of which were not hazardous. It shows.
If you love the place as a forest, this would be a good time to visit. More tree removal is planned. The forest’s character is changing, with many gaps. The Sutro Stewards are planting these gaps not with trees but with native plants.
THE SUMMER FOREST
It’s summer in the forest now, with frequent overnight or daytime fog.
Lower down – and in places where the forest has been opened up, it’s much more dry, even dusty. And the areas where the “urgent fire safety” work was performed last year by removing all the trees under 6 inches in diameter, all the ivy, and all the understory, are not able to hold as much moisture as they did before.
The Native Plant Garden is past its best, but the meadow of orange flags actually had flowers. It’s still got orange flags, but California poppies outdid them for sheer orange color.
BIRDS ARE EASIER TO SPOT
Paradoxically, it’s become easier to see birds in the forest. Before, the forest was so dense that you could hear birds but not easily see them.
Now, they are not as many as before, going by the amount of birdsong, but you can spot them – and even a point-and-shoot camera can capture some photographs. The bird above is a juvenile American robin – perhaps a native Sutro Forester.
In addition to the 45 birds already on our list, there’s one more: A house wren we saw nibbling at the fluff of a dandelion plant. Unfortunately we didn’t get a photograph. We also heard a flyover of red-masked parakeets.
SLUGS AND BUGS
We removed a loose strip of bark from a tree, and found a nursery of pill-bugs. Bird food.
The first round of tree-cutting is over, and as we feared, another round is likely. A lot of trees along the trails are marked with white dots. Though the marked trees are mostly in poor condition, those are the trees that offer superb habitat for birds and animals. In a forest setting, only those that are actually hazardous should be removed; the others should be saved for wildlife.
Also, removing even the snags (standing dead trees) opens up the forest, which dries it out. These trees are not being replaced; instead, the open areas created are being made into Native Plant gardens, currently full of plastic flags.
The worst-affected area is below Medical Center Way.
The path that joins the Historic Trail from Stanyan to the Fairy Gates trail is no longer the shady tree tunnel that it was before; it’s a full of logs instead.
This is what the area looked like before – the picture below was taken in the same area in July 2012. Coincidentally, this area is one the Stewards have been seeking to open up as part of their “restoration” plans centering on the seasonal creek that runs down to Cole Valley.
Someone with a sense of irony or art has memorialized it with a chainsaw carving resembling an Easter Island moai figure. It recalled an island that has become a symbol of ecological disaster from the loss of its trees. We thought it was appropriate.
The method that UCSF employs is to cut down the trees and leave the logs lying. The smaller branches may be chipped and used for mulch, but in this area they don’t seem to have done that; instead, they have left brush piles. It’s fortunate that fire hazard is low in this forest; otherwise these would be kindling.
One of the trees destroyed was a bee tree. The bees are still hanging around; we hope they can transition to another tree. Though with USCF’s vendetta against snags and other trees suitable for habitat, this may be only a temporary solution.