Back in July 2014, we wrote about the California Invasive Plant Council’s draft reassessment of eucalyptus. It had produced the same “Moderate” rating as before, but for different reasons. But last month, they came out with the final reassessment. Cal-IPC actually reduces the rating to “Limited” – their lowest rating. We are impressed.
“The California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) designates eucalyptus as “moderately invasive.” Land managers all over California have used this designation as an excuse to cut down thousands of trees. Recently, people wrote to Cal-IPC citing evidence that eucalyptus forests in California are shrinking, not expanding, and they decided to revisit the assessment. However, their new Draft assessment comes to the same result – “moderately invasive.” Only the reasons are different.
“Most people think Cal-IPC is a government body. It’s not. It’s a not-for-profit organization with a 501(c) 3 designation. So if it’s just another non-profit, why does it matter?
“Here’s why: It’s in the business of designating plants as “invasive” (and by implication, bad.) Its assessments are repeated far and wide by land managers, repeated on the UC Davis website, and used by government agencies as a standard. (For example: In a 2013 letter from the Fish and Wildlife Service to the CA Department of Transportation, it requires the Department to avoid planting “invasives” as determined by Cal-IPC: fws dot letter mentioning Cal-IPC) It clearly has been given a great deal of weight. Although Cal-IPC doesn’t explicitly ask land managers to eradicate “invasives,” that’s how the list is used.
“Unfortunately, since Cal-IPC not a government body, it isn’t subject to the same rules or accountability to the electorate.”
You may rightly gauge that we were pessimistic about Cal-IPC actually making a reassessment. In that, we were wrong.
In the preface to the final reassessment, Cal-IPC notes: “Management decisions for stands in urban areas will necessarily involve consideration of a range of factors, such as recreational and aesthetic values and the trees’ much-debated role in wildfire risk. For these stands, the information provided in this assessment can help assess impacts on native habitat, which may also be a factor in management decisions.”
We still don’t agree with all their points, and think they downplayed research showing the environmental value of eucalyptus, particularly in carbon sequestration and to wildlife. But we are pleased they have actually made this reassessment.
“Decay-resistant wood offers limited nesting opportunities for woodpeckers and birds that excavate their own holes.” (Not really!)
You can read the entire paper here: Eucalyptus_globulus – final reassessment by Cal IPC. Perhaps another time, we’ll point out where we think better data would be useful. Meanwhile, we’d like to thank readers who took the time and effort to offer feedback to Cal-IPC when they sought public comments.