Mount Sutro Forest: Logging a Lovely Forest

I was in the forest and it looks like a lumber company came in…” wrote one of our correspondents.

pics3 016 looks like a logging site

UCSF has been aggressive about cutting down trees this winter. These are not evaluated as *hazardous* trees, as Jim Clark of Hort Science explained at the TAC meeting. They’re merely trees that don’t look to be in great condition. They’ve been cut down in the name of “safety” – which means they are an exception to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which would otherwise require and Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Though parts of the forest are still lovely, too much of it looks like a logging company went through.

pics3 023 log pilejan 2016 sutro forest logsToday in Sutro Forest above Medical Center Way 2 smWe’ve asked UCSF how many trees were cut down this winter, and we’ll update this when we know.


We think they have now stopped, as the bird-nesting season is here. But it’s only the beginning. Once the new Plan is developed and approved, we can expect more healthy trees to be cut down.  We expect that only a small portion of the forest will remain a forest.

And even that will not be the densely forested magical place that so many people loved, but something more like a garden with some trees in it. Here’s an excerpt from our notes on the hearing UCSF held in February 2013:

The appeal of Sutro Forest as an untamed forest. People love the forest, and the unexpected wildness in the heart of the city. These were comments that spoke to the sense of wonder and magic, even a sense of emotional and spiritual connection. They recalled childhood games in the forest, decades ago. Some spoke of the wildlife in the forest habitat.”

That’s what we would be losing. For now, there’s still this:

pics3 028 riderIt’s a place where hikers, pets, and cycle-riders can enjoy a unusual treasure: an urban Cloud Forest in the heart of our city without fear of toxic pesticides.

pics3 021 dogs and people and mountain-bikes leave a trail

Canines and bicycles leave their tracks

pics3 042 still green


Every so often, we’re  asked if  the Sutro Stewards, the organization active in bringing volunteers to Mount Sutro,  are helping us in our battle to save the forest. In a word, no. In fact, Craig Dawson, the Executive Director, has gone on record saying he supports the removal of a huge number of trees and the use of herbicides. Their vision of Mount Sutro is quite different from the dense naturalized cloud forest that has been here for a hundred years.

The Sutro Stewards, who UCSF name as their partners in managing this place, are careful to refer to the forest as “Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve” – the official name given it by UCSF. Their website’s front page makes no reference to a forest. Their focus is on native plants (they manage the Native Plant nursery on UCSF’s Aldea campus). And trails, (which we also like so long as they are not used as an excuse to fell trees and tear out understory).

They appear to be on a charm offensive, leading walks in the forest for bird-watching and (presumably native) wild-flower viewing.  Of course, the birds were there all along. They’re more visible now with less understory to hide in.  But a reduced forest is worse for migratory birds.

We hope the people who join these walks will take a moment to enjoy what’s left of the forest where trees still are dense and the under-story hasn’t been destroyed.

Dusk, mist, Great Horned Owl

Dusk, mist, Great Horned Owl – The forest in 2010


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1 Response to Mount Sutro Forest: Logging a Lovely Forest

  1. Loss of trees is a loss of oxygen and loss of trees is an increase of ultra-violet light.
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    Commission when you need them. And NOW we need them more than ever after the
    disaster they produced with the loss of Mr. Lester. ACLU and others must intervene.
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