Sutro Forest is being cut down. As a consequence of both UCSF’s “Vegetation Management Plan” and the new Comprehensive Plan for Parnassus, we expect that the forest will be gone within 2-3 years. The felling is happening now, and trees are being fed into the BANDIT Intimidator.
To understand what is being lost, scroll down for an essay on the forest that we wrote in 2009 when this website was originally set up to inform the public and advocate for the forest. There are more photographs in our Blog, as well as HERE
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THE BEAUTY THAT WAS SUTRO FOREST
(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.
The Plan that is currently being implemented is some variant of this – a reduction in the size of the forest, and the removal of most of its trees.
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.