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- January 2019: Aggressive tree-cutting has started. UCSF plan to *finish* most of the work by March when the bird nesting season starts. They will also be removing much of the understory. We can expect thousands of trees to be removed in 2019.
- The 2017 Plan reduces the UCSF forest area by one-third, removes around 6,000 trees (new estimate!) and all the understory/ midstory shrubs. Our reports are HERE and HERE.
- UCSF has released the proposed Final Environmental Impact Report. They are not seeking any further public input. They noted: “CEQA does not require giving 10-day notice to private parties (only to public agencies) before the Chancellor makes his decision on the Final EIR and also does not require an additional comment period or hearing on the Final EIR. Once the Chancellor makes his decision on whether to certify the Final EIR and approve the plan, we will notify the community.”
- UCSF announced the Final EIR has been approved (May 5, 2018).
- Tree-cutting is now scheduled to start in Fall 2018.
- You can download the proposed Final EIR Document here (It’s a 2000+ page PDF): Mount Sutro Vegetation Management Plan 2018 Final EIR_Full Document
- This is instead of the 2013/14 Plan that UCSF shelved because of public opposition.
- Meanwhile, more than 1600 trees have been cut down between August 2013 and February 2016 and UCSF has hinted it will be removing trees more aggressively in future. (They currently evaluate trees on a two-year schedule. Between 2009 and 2013, they cut down fewer than 50 trees.) Trees have also been felled in the Interior Green Belt.
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(Photo credit: Paul Hudson; click on the name for more of his pictures)
IN THE HEART of the city, blanketing a steep hill, is one of San Francisco’s best-kept secrets: its very own temperate cloud forest. It’s a century-old forest of eucalyptus trees as tall as 200 feet high, growing on 80 acres of mountainside.
When you’re in there, it’s hard to believe you’re still in a big city. You can follow narrow winding trails through the dense trees filled with birdsong and get lost without a map. At dusk, you may hear the Great Horned owls who nest there. And on a foggy day, it may be the most beautiful place in the whole city, a real cloud forest experience.
Not only is the cloud forest strikingly beautiful, it has a 125-year history in this city, and is part of San Francisco’s heritage. It also has characteristics of an old-growth forest. Its ecology has not been fully studied. According to a 2001 report, it has 93 plant species. But not everyone treasures this amazing place; instead of a life-filled complex ecosystem with huge trees, a dense understory, they see 80 acres of weeds. The forest is at risk.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.”
– William Blake, The Letters, 1799
Sutro Cloud Forest is the single largest urban forest in San Francisco. Three-quarters (61 acres) of it is owned by UCSF, which officially calls it the Open Space Reserve. The contiguous 19-acre Interior Green Belt area to the east of it is city-owned.
(The map above is from the Free Association Design blog’s post: Constructed Forests and Contested Ecologies.)
THE FOREST AT RISK
Since 2002, UCSF has been attempting to put in place a plan that would effectively destroy the forest and replace it with “native plants.” The excuses have ranged from fire danger (which is minimal, owing to summer fog) to “forest health”, but the underlying story has always been cutting down trees and putting in native plants.
Public opposition has slowed the process. This website was set up in 2009, when UCSF sought FEMA funding to cut down thousands of trees – an attempt that did not go through.
Since then, there have been several iterations of the Plan. Originally, it estimated that there were 45,000 trees in the UCSF portion of the forest, and planned to cut down 30,000 of them, leaving 15,000 trees. In 2016, there was a surprise revision of the tree-numbers: They estimated there were only 13,500 trees instead of 45,000. But they still planned to cut down most of them: All the dead/dying trees and 6-7,000 of the healthy ones, for a total of 10,000 or so trees.
That doesn’t count trees that will be damaged and killed when they’re exposed to wind after being protected by other trees for over a century; or damage to the trees from the heavy equipment that will be brought into the forest.
In addition, they plan to mow down nearly all the understory habitat of the forest.
In the aerial picture below, the tree-covered hill is Mount Sutro (the tall buildings at the lower edge are in UCSF’s Parnassus campus). For contrast, Twin Peaks, bare of trees, is visible just above it.