This year-end , we’d like to light a symbolic candle. We hope you find it meaningful as we do.
To everyone who reads this post:
Season’s Greetings! and Best Wishes for 2017.
This year-end , we’d like to light a symbolic candle. We hope you find it meaningful as we do.
To everyone who reads this post:
Season’s Greetings! and Best Wishes for 2017.
“In August, UCSF published a draft management plan for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve. The plan was developed with the guidance of the Mount Sutro Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), comprised of experts in forestry, fire hazard reduction, biology, and habitat restoration. TAC members volunteered their time to provide guidance on the scope, techniques, and best practices for a long-term management plan for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.
“UCSF has hosted three TAC meetings and two community meetings in this public process. We have added a fourth TAC meeting to share UCSF’s proposed revisions to the draft vegetation management plan with TAC members and the public before publishing a final draft of the plan and beginning the environmental review process. The proposed revisions are based on TAC and community feedback.
“We invite the public to attend TAC meeting #4 and join in the discussion.
“Mount Sutro TAC Meeting #4
Monday, January 23, 2017
6:30 to 8:00 pm
500 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94122”
[EDITED TO ADD (DEC 15, 2016): UNFORTUNATELY, THE PLAN WAS APPROVED DESPITE CONSIDERABLE OPPOSITION.]
The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department has been pushing a Management Plan that will cut down 18,400 trees in San Francisco and Pacifica; close 9 miles of trail; and reduce dog-play areas in the so-called “Natural Areas.” The adoption of the Plan has awaited the the completion of the Environmental Impact Report. This is about to happen tomorrow, Dec 15th, 2016. The article below is reproduced with permission from SFForest.org, the website of the San Francisco Forest Alliance (SFForest or SFFA). SFFA is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving our trees, eliminating the use of toxic pesticides in our parks, and preserving access.
On December 15th, 2016, San Francisco’s Planning Commission and SF Recreation and Parks Commission will have a joint meeting that will impact our urban forests for the next 20 years. This is a meeting regarding the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the Significant Natural Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP or N-RAMP).
It’s on December 15, 2016 at 1 p.m. in City Hall room 400. [Note this information is different than some emails going out, though the date is the same.]
Here’s the PDF we were sent: 121516-special-joint-meeting-with-planning-final
Public comment is allowed, and a lot is expected. We think the public will get only one minute each to speak. This is your last chance to say anything in support of our treasured urban forests. Let us know if you’re planning to attend (if you haven’t already done so) by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click Here to see the City’s online link for the final EIR. It was dismissive of all our comments. Comments for changes to the project did not matter because they were deemed “environmentally insignificant“. Support of an alternative to the project, such as the maintenance alternative, or criticism of the maximum restoration alternative were deemed “irrelevant” (see the Responses to Comments section).
TWO THINGS IN ONE MEETING
Whenever there’s a major project, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, pronounced seek-wa) requires the project’s sponsor to make an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department wants to implement a plan in the “Natural Areas” which will require cutting down thousands of trees, closing trails, and using toxic herbicides. The EIR is for this Project.
This meeting has two objectives.
1) First, the Planning Commission has to decide to certify the Environmental Impact Report. To do this, they have to determine that it is accurate, adequate, and objective. We think it’s deeply flawed and should not be certified.
Here’s our article on what’s wrong with the EIR: Ten Reasons Why the Environmental Impact Report for Natural Areas is Flawed
2) Second, after the EIR is certified, the Recreation and Parks Commission will vote whether to approve the Plan, and in what form. The EIR describes alternatives to the Project, and we think that if they must approve the Plan, they should implement the Maintenance Alternative. This is a “lite” version of the Project, which allows the Natural Resources Department to continue its current activities but not chop down 18,400 trees, reduce access to the natural areas, and use much more herbicide than at present. We ask the SFRP Commission make a motion to approve the Maintenance Alternative for the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Project
Here’s our article on Ten Reasons to Oppose the Natural Areas “Project”
We will keep asking for your support in the hope that we, the voices for the trees, are heard by those with the power to unleash destruction on our beautiful old stands of trees.
We want to maintain access to the Natural Areas, not lose 95% of the parks which become prohibited areas with a “stay on the designated trail” requirement. And we want herbicide use in Natural Areas to stop.
In September 2016, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNR) started planning a grant program for Urban Greening. It sounds good at first: The money, 3/4 of which must be used in economically disadvantaged communities, is for planting trees to store carbon and to shade buildings. (It’s also for bike paths and walkways.)
Unfortunately, as it’s drafted now, the Grant Program apparently only supports the planting of “native” trees. But many urban areas in California had no native trees – like San Francisco. Even where there are native trees, they don’t work in urban conditions. The recommended street-tree list from Friends of the Urban Forest has no native trees on it at all. Over 90% of California’s urban trees are from elsewhere – for the simple reason that native trees don’t do well in urban environments.
An urban environment is difficult for trees. We need to be able to tap the huge variety of trees from all over the world to find the ones that work as street trees and park trees, in all the different growing conditions in cities.
Trees are a crucial part of our green infrastructure. They’re the only practical way to reduce carbon that’s already in the atmosphere. They help regulate water flows, reduce particulate pollution, and provide wind barriers, all of which can reduce the energy used to mitigate those problems. They’re also habitat for insects, birds, and animals – and this is why we would prefer new plantings to be “organic.” Trees that have been treated with systemic pesticides can be toxic to wildlife.
Restricting ourselves to native trees is like having no trees at all. Only a few pockets are suitable for native trees. Oak trees, which are native trees in much of the Bay Area, are dying of Sudden Oak Death. The disease is spreading from year to year, and planting more oaks only spreads it further.
A more detailed article is available here: California’s Urban Greening Grant Program: An opportunity to speak for the trees
Please write in to CNR and ask them to remove the restriction on non-native trees and plants. Public comment must be submitted by December 5, 2016, by email, mail, or phone. (If you leave a phone message, you may want to follow up with an email.)
Mail: Urban Greening Grant Program c/o The California Natural Resources Agency Attn: Bonds and Grants Unit 1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311 Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 653-2812
UCSF presented its new Draft Plan for Sutro Forest at the Third Technical Advisory Committee meeting on Aug 18, 2016. This plan will be implemented in three phases: Year 1-5, Year 6-10, and Year 11-20. However, it is heavily front-loaded, with much of it being done in the first five years. The last ten years only continue what was done earlier. The end result is supposed to be a greatly thinned “see-through” forest with open areas between 0.5 and 5 acres in size. The forest will look and feel very different, (though UCSF says it intends to retain the sense of a forest).
The Plan divides the forest into four areas, each with different characteristics and tree density. Of the four areas, three are characterized as being in “Fair” condition, and the fourth in overall better condition. (That would be the Western side, where the steep slope has discouraged too much interference.) The brown blob in between Type 1 and Type 4 is the Native Plant Garden at the summit
Type 1 is what most people experience as the core of the forest. It has the highest density, at 279 trees per acre, and also the highest number of snags (standing dead trees) that are so valuable to wildlife, about 100 per acre. (See the Trail Map above for comparison.) Type 2 has the least density, with around 45 trees per acre. Type 3 and Type 4 have 110 and 128 trees per acre respectively.
(See the whole 64-page draft plan HERE: Sutro-Management-Plan-TAC-Draft-081216 )
Phase 1 of the Plan: Initial 5 years (probably 2017-2021)
This phase would cover about 39 acres of the 61 acre forest (or possibly even 57 acres), and would involve extensive removal of trees and understory vegetation (mainly ivy, blackberry).
Phase 2 of the Plan: 6-10 years (probably 2022-2026)
Phase 3 of the Plan: 11-20 years (probably 2027-2036)
Monitoring: The Plan recommends ongoing monitoring. Specifically: checking on the sites the consultants sampled to establish initial conditions every ten years; monitoring “treatment” areas at 1, 3, and 5 years; keep a plant inventory, and ideally an inventory of birds and other wildlife.
TIMELINE TO THE PLAN
Now that the third TAC meeting is over, UCSF’s planned timeline is as follows:
UCSF is planning to hold its final Technical Advisory Committee meeting on August 18th, 2016. These are a series of meetings in which two consultants, who have been retained by UCSF to write a plan for Sutro Cloud Forest (or, officially “Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve) consider input from a team of advisors assembled by UCSF. Public comment is welcomed, so please feel free to attend and speak for the forest.
Here are the details:
Thursday, August 18, 2016
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Aldea Center on Mount Sutro
155 Johnstone Drive
There are some parking spaces available near the Aldea Center.
Meanwhile, we were recently sent two photographs from 1906 and 1910 that show this forest over a century ago.
This picture, from the Library of Congress collection, was taken from an airship and is said to be from around 1906. The round white building in the foreground is the Tank on Tank Hill – before any trees were planted there. Much of Cole Valley was empty land, transitioning from pastoral to residential use. On the left side of the picture, Sutro Forest is visible with Clarendon Avenue running into it.
The picture below is from a colored postcard dated 1910, and it shows UCSF’s predecessor – the Affiliated College and University Hospital, nestled at the foot of the beautiful forest.
This picture is similar to the one at the top of this article, which dates from 2010. (We repeat it here below for comparison.) It underlines how fortunate we are to have this wonderful forest, now a century and a quarter old, in the midst of our glorious city.
Someone sent us a really interesting article about Sutro Forest in a recent San Francisco Chronicle (25th June, 2016).
Titled “New battle over managing Sutro Forest trees,” the article is by well-known journalist Carl Nolte. It starts with a wonderful description of the forest:
‘The forest, 80 or so acres of wild land in the heart of San Francisco, is almost a mystical place. It is a woodland of tall eucalyptus trees, and a green, almost impenetrable, undergrowth of ivy, blackberries and brush, laced with 5 miles of trails. A ﬁve-minute walk into the woods takes you away from the city. The only sounds are the wind in the trees, and the only sights are the trees and the trail ahead. “There is a sense of tranquility,” said Morley Singer, a retired physician who loves the forest. “You kind of disconnect from the world.” ‘
Enhanced by some atmospheric photographs by Liz Hafalia, the article captures both the character of the forest – and the controversy.
It mentions the history of the 80-acre forest – that it’s 130 years old, and was planted by mining magnate (and philanthropist) Adolph Sutro; that it’s mostly owned by UCSF, but for the 20 acres or so owned by the City as the Interior Green Belt. It quotes Dr Singer again:
‘Everyone agrees what he planted is a civic treasure, and none more than Singer, who took a reporter on a walk through the woods, pointing out the trees, the fog canopy, and listening to the silence. “It is a forest surrounded by 7 or 8 million people,” he said, “But when you are up here, you are in magic territory. You could be up in the Sierra on the Muir Trail.”’
It also mentioned the threat: That thousands of trees will be cut down, destroying the forest. UCSF was interviewed, as was Craig Dawson, executive director of the Sutro Stewards. It’s an organization that works in partnership with UCSF. Dawson wants the forest “managed” – a euphemism for chopping down trees.
When the story started, 16 years ago, UCSF said the trees were old, in bad health and nearing the end of their life. [None of this was actually true – they thought the trees had a life of 100 years, instead of the 300-500 that is actually the case.]
‘It was also noted that the woods were an artiﬁcial forest, that the trees were not native, and therefore it was somehow inferior. Singer calls that view “plant racism.”’
UCSF is restarting its plans for the forest. [We reported on that: UCSF Restarts Sutro Forest Plans in 2016; First UCSF TAC meeting 14 Jan 2016; UCSF’s second Sutro Forest Meeting 28 April 2016.]
Craig Dawson argues that a “sustainable forest” (as though 130 years is not enough!) has 16-28 trees to an acre, while Sutro Forest has 200-400 trees per acre. “It’s a sick forest” he says, implying that thousands of trees must be cut down.
Dr Joe McBride, Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley and the Bay Area’s leading authority on eucalyptus, doesn’t agree. The article reports him as saying the forest is not unhealthy, though stressed by drought. It has its own ecosystem, and could last for 200-300 years.
We think it’s well worth reading. Look for the June 25, 2016 Chronicle. Or read it in the (imperfect) PDF below.
On the basis of the most recent information we received under the Sunshine Act, the Twin Peaks population shows no sign of becoming self-sustaining. Even though some breeding occurs on on Twin Peaks, it’s not enough. The population would likely die out without injections of new butterflies from the larger population in San Bruno.
In the graph below, the dark bars show the butterflies spotted each year before the new batch from San Bruno are moved in. Those would be the ones known to be born on Twin Peaks. The light bars show the number of butterflies transferred from San Bruno.
[Edited to Add: This graph has an error for 2015; the native-born number should be 19. The others were spotted only after transfers from San Bruno had started and should have been excluded from our count.]
WHAT ARE MISSION BLUE BUTTERFLIES?
The Mission Blue butterfly (Aricia icarioides missionensis) is a subspecies of the quite widespread Boisduval’s Blue (Aricia icarioides). The species is not endangered, but the subspecies is found only from San Bruno to Marin, at a very few sites. The largest population is on San Bruno Mountain.
Lupine is the nursery plant of the Mission Blue. It’s the only plant on which it’s known to lay its eggs and which the caterpillars eat. (Specifically, it’s three varieties of lupine.)
Mission blue eggs hatch into caterpillars which eat the lupine, shedding their skins as they grow. The larger caterpillars are tended by native ant species, who protect them from predators while benefiting from “honeydew” – sugary caterpillar pee.
When they’ve grown to their full size, they form their pupae near the base of the plants, or even on the soil beneath, and remain there for months (in diapause). They hatch into butterflies in spring, sip nectar from a range of flowers (including the “invasive” non-native Italian thistle: Carduus pycnocephalus), mate, and lay eggs on lupines.
These butterflies have only one generation a year and an 8-10 week flight season, becoming visible in April and May. The males live an average of 7 days, and females for 8 days. The males usually hatch before the females do, so they are ready to mate when the females appear.
THE TWIN PEAKS MISSION BLUE BUTTERFLY PROJECT
Twin Peaks at one time had a population of Mission Blue Butterflies, but a fungus killed most of the lupine in the area. By 2008 they hadn’t been seen in years – 1997 was the last year any substantial number was spotted. The project was initiated in 2009 with the transfer of 22 female butterflies to Twin Peaks. (In fact, the project actually started earlier, with three kinds of lupine being planted on Twin Peaks.)
The project team – San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s Natural Areas Program (NAP) and outside consultants Creekside Center for Earth Observation – catch butterflies on San Bruno Mountain and bring them to Twin Peaks. A USFWS permit governs how many butterflies they can move, and from where. Most years, they can’t reach this limit.
The project team considers it a continued success, based on limited objectives that include observing evidence that caterpillars are feeding on lupines; that male and female free-flying butterflies are seen both in and outside the release areas; spotting eggs. The other objectives are entirely about habitat management – more lupine, more nectar plants (preferably native ones), managing grass and other unwanted plants around the lupine.
(You can read the whole 2015 report here as a PDF: TwinPeaksProgressReportmbb2015 )
[Edited to Add: This graph has an error for 2015; the native-born number should be 19 – 16 males and 3 females. The others were spotted only after transfers from San Bruno had started and should have been excluded from our count.]
MAINTAINING A MISSION BLUE POPULATION ON TWIN PEAKS?
The only way to have Mission Blue butterflies on Twin Peaks, is to intervene continually in two ways:
Regularly importing Mission Blue butterflies from elsewhere
Though the Mission Blue butterfly does breed on Twin Peaks, it is only moderately successful. A bad year, or just plain attrition, could quickly drop numbers below a sustainable level. (If there are too few butterflies, many males will die before finding mates.)
So the only way to have Mission Blue butterflies at Twin Peaks is to keep bringing them from San Bruno (or maybe other areas if strong numbers pop up). In addition to San Bruno, an effort is being made to introduce them into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Populations have also shown up spontaneously in other areas.
Gardening for lupine
Twin Peaks will need continual work to maintain the Mission Blue garden. Without ongoing effort, the area will naturally change to other vegetation.
The program continues: gardening for lupine on Twin Peaks, and transferring in butterflies from other locations. The most recent report (Feb 2016) says they’re stopping butterfly counts as a way of surveying the population on Twin Peaks, but instead just going by whether the butterfly is present or absent at specific locations. The main population estimate will be based on whether the lupine is being eaten.
This may not be very accurate, since other insects – including the closely-related Acmon Blue butterfly that also occurs on Twin Peaks – also eat lupine and it’s difficult to tell what’s causing the leaf-damage. Also, most caterpillars will not survive to become butterflies, which means they will not reproduce. The attrition rate exceeds 80% and may be quite variable depending on predators like rodents and parasites – especially certain wasps.
But perhaps accuracy is not very important; unless the number is very large, they will continue to transfer in butterflies from San Bruno mountain. Their USFWS permit is valid through 2020.
On the whole, though, the project seems harmless. Aside from the continuing use of pesticides, and some diversion of resources, there seems no reason not to continue. Some concerns were raised as to whether San Bruno mountain’s Mission Blue population would be affected, but Creekside thinks these transfers are entirely sustainable.
This year’s foggy butterfly count day – June 4th, 2016 – yielded fewer butterflies than usual, though the number of species was around the same. The Common Buckeye was the most commonly spotted butterfly in 2016, with the Cabbage White almost as frequent. These two butterflies accounted for 40% of the individuals seen.
WHAT’S THE BUTTERFLY COUNT?
Each year, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) sponsors the July 4th series of butterfly counts at locations all across the US. Volunteers go out up to one month before or after July 4th to count butterflies in specific locations. We’ve followed the San Francisco butterfly count since 2010, with a gap in 2015 when we found no published data. (If there’s data available, we’ll be happy to publish it.)
The San Francisco count, managed by Liam O’Brien, is tricky; San Francisco gets fog in summer and butterflies tend to lie low on foggy days. The 2016 count, on June 4th, had bad luck with the weather, with a persistent fog and only sporadic sunshine. The spotters were able to find 24 species, the same as in most years, but only 499 individual butterflies.
THE TOP THREE AND THE TOP TEN BUTTERFLIES
The highlights of this year’s observations:
The Common Buckeye was in first place in 2016 by a small margin of just 3 individuals more than the next closest, the Cabbage White (102 to 99). It was in the top three in 2014. The Acmon Blue, a tiny blue butterfly similar to the endangered Mission Blue butterfly (and its close relative) came in third.
Here’s a graph of the top ten butterflies for 2016’s count, compared with how many were seen in previous years. (This year’s data are in the red bars.) This year, the top ten species accounted for 87% of the identified butterflies, the highest percentage in 6 years.
Finally: for data nerds like us, here is the list of butterflies spotted in each count from 2010 (excluding 2015). It’s interesting to look at each species across the years.
Edited to Add: Some of the changes in species visibility is due to adding Angel Island and Yerba Buena Island as locations to the San Francisco count circle a few years ago. In 2016, three of the species were counted only on the islands: The Pipevine Swallowtail on Angel Island and Yerba Buena (though other, non-count reports say it has been seen on Mount Sutro!); the Common Wood Nymph and the Rural Skipper on Angel Island.
UCSF held its second Planning Meeting for Sutro Forest on 28 April 2016. The two hired arborists, Jim Clark of Hort Science and Matt Greene, presented the direction they were taking the Plan, and their evaluation of the forest. The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) offered comments, and then later, so did the public.
Moderator Daniel Iacafano noted that this was just the start of the process, and more inputs would be sought from the TAC and the public. This means things could change, but it indicates the current thinking.
THE PRESENTATION AND TAC REMARKS
For anyone who is interested in delving into details, here are photographs of the presentation. Daniel Iacafano, who has moderated Sutro Forest meetings for years, also moderated this one. As usual, they took notes on a huge board. They need to update their technology with audio and/ or video recordings. It’s so easily done now there’s no reason not to.
The members of the TAC are:
(Our thoughts on all the participants are HERE: Who’s Who.)
The goals were defined as:
The key assumptions were that the Plan would improve safety, protecting lives and structures; addresses hazard reduction and promotes a sustainable ecosystem; includes a replanting strategy to promote biodiversity; and utilizes a phased-in approach. Safety of people and structures would be the top priority.
They also committed to transparency and community planning principles, and to encourage public access via the trail network they partnered with the Sutro Stewards to build. (This makes the Sutro Stewards officially partners of UCSF.)
The two consultants evaluated around 600 trees in four main areas of the forest. They looked at how many trees were dead, and how many had crowns of 20% or less.
Joe McBride of the TAC asked what benchmarks they were using. Why did a 20% crown matter? And Peter Ehrlich pointed out that dead crowns don’t necessarily mean the tree is dying; crown retrenchment was a protective mechanism in eucalyptus during droughts, and didn’t mean a tree needed to be condemned. In some places, they saw trees declining where tree removals took place upwind, exposing the remaining trees. Lew Stringer suggested the understory should also be monitored.
Richard Sampson asked about the basal area of the dead trees. Matt Greene said they were mostly small, as the forest was self-thinning. (We think this is actually the best kind of thinning – the trees best suited to the site will thrive, the others will die out.)
They planned to remove most of the dead trees, leaving perhaps 3-4 per acre as habitat. Some dead trees would be felled and left in the forest. They also wanted to come up with a plan for tree removal – whether individual trees, or groups of half an acre.
Peter Brastow asked if Area 4 got more moisture. Matt Greene said yes, and thought they should consider ways to get more moisture to other areas – like opening up corridors for the fog.
(We think the best way would be to retain the density of the forest, so the moisture caught by the trees is retained.)
He also wondered if the last three years were a window into the future with global warming. More fog or less? Matt Greene said his experience was with coast redwoods, also fog dependent, and they were actually doing pretty well. He emphasized the importance of monitoring the forest.
Richard Sampson said that there were a lot of dead trees up and down the coast, so he was concerned about the eucalyptus canopy. (In comments, a member of the public pointed out that eucalyptus forests were not fire hazards, and provided extensive references. She suggested getting David Maloney to talk about this.)
A number of the public made comments, some in support of the Plan and others concerned about some of the directions.
On the general direction and process:
Fire hazard is still being used as an excuse, even though forests are not as hazardous as grassland or shrublands – or the actual homes and buildings. Thinning could increase the fire hazard by reducing moisture retention. Recommended reading Dave Maloney’s report.
On “thinning” the forest”
This post is to take a look at all the people who will be involved in the new Sutro Forest plan for 2016. We may edit it to update it with more information as we get it.
Jim Clark, of Hort Science, wrote the original 1999 assessment of Sutro Forest. He has been involved since then in identifying trees as “hazardous” in the Interior Green Belt (the city-owned section of the forest). We’re not sure if he’s also responsible for the trees identified as hazardous in the UCSF portion, the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve. His process for addressing hazard in the forest has been more aggressive than for trees in urban areas.
In the forest, they just eyeball the trees, and mark for removal any that are in poor condition or are leaning. We think this is a poor approach for a naturalized forest. It’s destructive of a forest’s ecology; dead and dying trees are important to a forest, and ones that lean add interest to the landscape.
Matt Greene is a forester. We are less familiar with his work. His bio from his consultancy website is here: Matt Greene. According to a directory entry, “Forest and land management activities include harvest plan preparation and implementation, forest management plans, timber inventories, road management plans and other forest planning activities. Biological surveys and wildlife habitat restoration projects.” At the second TAC meeting, he said he was involved with assessing coastal redwoods, and they were doing pretty well.
We are somewhat concerned that this will mean a bias toward aggressive tree removal.
THE TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE (TAC)
Members of the TAC include:
UCSF’s STEERING COMMITTEE
UCSF has assembled a large team from Campus Planning, Community Relations, and Facilities – together with Police, Fire … and Legal. Evidently they wish to be prepared.
Here is the list of UCSF Internal Steering Committee members, in alphabetical order.
Though the Sutro Stewards and its Executive Director, Craig Dawson, are not officially part of the process, the two meetings have made it clear that UCSF considers them “partners” and as such we think they will have considerable influence on the Plan.
THE TIME LINE
For the present, the planned time line is as follows:
Project Overview/ Project Timeline
Dates are approximate and subject to change.
This article is reposted with permission from CoyoteYipps, a blog about San Francisco’s urban coyotes. We republish it here as an interesting story – and a lesson in how difficult it is to see a bird’s nest even if you are looking for it. (Emphasis added; all pictures copyright Laurel Rose)
We urge UCSF and SF Recreation and Parks Department to trim or remove trees and bushes only in the safe Fall months: September to December
MY HUMMINGBIRD ADVENTURE by LAUREL ROSE
I learned a valuable lesson this weekend: Do Not Prune or Remove Trees in Spring!
Over the past couple years, I’ve been removing a row of unattractive honeysuckle trees along the fence line to let more light into our shady yard and plant some ferns & other foliage. The trees all had long skinny bare trunks with foliage starting at about 15- 20 feet up so all I could see was fallen leaves on top of compacted dirt and 8 pencil-thin tree trunks.
This weekend 7 and 8 were scheduled for removal. After getting 7 out of the ground, root and all, my friend and & I were getting ready to start breaking the trunk & branches down to 4 foot size segments required by the city for the green waste bins. I had a hand saw and my friend was using my mini electric chain saw for the job. I kept a safe distance in a far corner of the yard and we got to work. 2 branches into it, the chainsaw turns off and I hear “Oh Noooo! Oh my god! Nooo!” then, “chirp, chirp chirp”!
The tree had a hummingbird nest camouflaged and expertly woven very securely onto a few twig size branches. Both my friend and I love & respect nature so we were a little frantic and horrified at the thought of nearly chainsawing through this little womb-like nest cradling 2 chicks. I found a little box and cushioned it with soft material scraps and toilet paper and placed the nest inside very carefully. It took a good hour for us to calm down and stop focusing on how thoughtless we had been to choose April to remove a tree. Even ugly trees with sparse foliage provide habitat and serve a s food source. My friend, a somewhat burly guy named Terry but whose friends call him “Bubba” was on the verge of tears telling me, “I searched for a nest before sawing off each branch. . .” . Even if one of us has noticed it, it did not resemble a typical storybook nest.
I called every organization and person I could think of for help on that Saturday evening: Golden Gate Audubon Society, Wild Care, and Janet. I was able to listen to a recorded instructions for caring for a injured chick. I kept them inside for the night in a warm dark spot away from my curious little dog who likes to be a part of everything I do whenever possible. As soon as it was light outside, I placed the box up high in the area where the tree had been. Within 20 minutes, mom showed up and fed her hungry babies and I watched as she gathered nectar from the flowers overhead on tree number 8 (which will stay in my yard).
We estimated the age to be between 2 & 3 weeks and were told that hummingbird chicks leave the nest at 23 days old. A couple days before this happens, a stronger chick pushes the weaker out of the nest and it dies because mom will not feed it on the ground. The reason this happens is because the nest is very small and is needed as a “launching pad”. Once the other chick takes flight, mom will continue to feed her baby for several days, teaching how and where to find all the best nectar & bugs before she chases it away to find its own territory. Since they are in a box, neither one will be pushed out of the nest and mom will continue to feed them both. I’m not sure if this may have any negative or unforeseen consequences but I like that idea!
Day 2: I secured a new box in the other Honeysuckle tree because we were having some very windy days.
Day 3: I wasn’t sure if Mama was feeding her chicks with the new placement of the box with a different type of access, but I caught her in the act (see video below)
Day 4: They changed so much from one day to the next
Day 5: Just before I left late Thursday morning, I went to check on the chicks and snapped this photo. They looked like they were ready to spread their wings. I might have made them a little nervous putting the camera up so close but wondered if they were contemplating their first flight.
When I came home in the early evening, the first thing I did was check the box and it was empty. I stood there for several minutes wondering how such a tiny creature with only 23 days of life can survive on their own. That’s when I heard chirping above and looked up- there was mama with 1 chick shoulder to shoulder on a branch.
Maybe the little guy didn’t feel quite ready, or maybe he wanted to say goodbye. He let me get real close and looked at me with that one little eye as I said some encouraging words and slowly reached in my back pocket for my camera. I snapped one photo and he flew to the branch up above where his family was.
Today would be Day 8. I’ve been seeing what I believe to be this same little chick hanging out in the honeysuckle tree where the box was. A few hours ago, I observed the mama arrive and feed the chick patiently waiting on a little branch.
If you would like to invite hummingbirds to your yard I would not recommend those feeders with sugar water because they must be cleaned every 3- 4 days or they can make the hummingbirds very sick. It’s much better and healthier to provide their natural food sources and plant things like honeysuckle, sage, fuchsia, Aloe vera and other long tubular flowers that provide both nectar as well as habitat for insects that serve as protein. Hummingbirds also need a place to perch during the day & sleep at night that offers some protection from wind & rain- usually trees. You can also hang a perch up high in a tree near the flowers and you can encourage nesting by providing materials by hanging a “Hummer Helper” you can purchase and fill with store bought material or even dog and cat hair — the “Hummer Helper” is actually just a “suet feeder” which you can buy for a lot less. The best time to start is May. The Hummingbird Society has a lot more tips and information on their website.
*One last note about trimming trees- the safest time is in the Fall during the months of September- December
“On Thursday, April 28, UCSF will convene the second meeting of the Mount Sutro Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC is comprised of volunteer experts in forestry, fire hazard reduction, biology and habitat restoration. The TAC’s mission is to provide guidance on the scope, techniques and best practices for a long-term management plan for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.
“We invite the public to attend the TAC meeting and join in the discussion.
Mount Sutro TAC Meeting #2, Thursday, April 28, 2016, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Aldea Center on Mount Sutro
155 Johnstone Drive”
We notice they call it the “Mount Sutro Technical Advisory Committee” – not the Sutro Forest Technical Advisory committee. If you can attend, please emphasize the importance of preserving the forest as a forest, not merely an open space.
We’ve labeled them to clarify the position of the two mountains.
He also sent us this one – a classic San Francisco vista. “The point I was trying to make,” he wrote, “is San Francisco is so built out that we cannot afford to loose any more large parcels of land that have magnificent tree forests, like Sutro and others.”
We couldn’t agree more. Mount Sutro Cloud Forest is a unique treasure, and so is Mount Davidson. Not many world-class cities can boast having functional cloud forests over a century old in the center of the city.
And here’s a video from Sherry, who loved the forest and is saddened by all the changes in recent years. (Click on the picture below to go to the video on FaceBook.)
This article is slightly modified and republished from a post on forestknolls.info
UCSF is going ahead with plans to add three new trails to Sutro Forest. While we don’t object to trails as such, they all cost us trees – if not immediately, a year or two later when tree lining the trail are declared hazardous. If they’re not felled to build the trail (as happened with the Kill-Trees Trail), trees are later marked as hazardous and removed. Over 1500 trees have been removed since 2013, with around 350 being felled this last winter.
Also, the entire forest is only 72 acres, divided already by Medical Center Way, a paved and motorable road. Once it’s crisscrossed with trails and the understory torn out, it will lose the seclusion and enchantment that once made entering it like stepping through a portal into some place outside the city. There’s such a thing as too many trails for a 72-acre forest.
The three trails planned are: A new trail on the South Ridge #2 on the map above, in addition to the Quarry Road Trail that was built with no notice to the community. And a long and complicated trail will be built from the northwest side of the forest (#1 on the map above). While access from that side is useful and a benefit to the community, it’s clearly more than needed there. It could easily have ended at the hairpin on Medical Center Way – as the social trail did before it was blocked.
THE CLARENDON CONNECTOR TRAIL
The Clarendon connector trail (#3 in the map above) would run inside the screen of trees that divides Forest Knolls from UCSF’s Aldea Housing. They hope to finish it by November 2016.
This is, coincidentally, the area that was severely thinned in August 2013. (“Before”picture at the top, “after” picture below.) This means that the actual trail probably will cause less destruction than it would have before. This is not necessarily true of the two other trails.
The Clarendon trail would start on the Clarendon- Christopher corner, go into the narrow alley behind the pump house and fence, and continue on parallel to Christopher. (That’s the orange line on the map below.)
NEW TRAIL HEAD PLANNED
On March 14th 2016, UCSF and the Sutro Stewards had a meeting to design a formal new trail head at Clarendon x Christopher. (The red labels aren’t original to the picture, they’re just to orient you.)
The initial designs showed a seating area of granite, a kiosk with maps and signs, and gravel. The idea was to provide a well-marked entrance to the forest from the UCSF side (there is already one from the Stanyan side) that would avoid the campus, connect to new trails across Clarendon Avenue being built by San Francisco Recreation and Parks (SFRPD) near Sutro Tower, and have street parking available since UCSF has no plans to provide additional parking for this. They were looking for public input on what they wanted at the Trail Head.
Some of the ideas – seating, some kind of shelter from the wind that blows up Clarendon, a water-fountain, an earthen berm along the Christopher side to provide wind protection, permeable pavers on the ground instead of gravel.
So far, no funds have been set aside for this. It seems to be a fund-raising opportunity for the Sutro Stewards, who plan to write grant proposals for the money. UCSF may provide some funding too, but it is unclear how much. The team – the Sutro Stewards, and Julie Sutton of UCSF, seemed to want people to think big. Maybe that would justify a bigger grant?
CONNECTING TO OTHER SFRPD TRAILS
Lisa Wayne of SFRPD attended, to show how the new trail would link to three other trail projects SFRPD is working on: The Creeks-to-Peaks Trail from Glen Canyon to Twin Peaks (already being built); the plan to turn half of the figure 8 on Twin Peaks into a bicycle/ pedestrian area by restricting cars to the other half (in design); and trails to connect Twin Peaks to Mount Sutro via trails past Sutro Tower (yellow dotted line below – in planning).
She’s hoping to get work started this summer, for an opportunity to use VOCAL volunteers. Hope this doesn’t mean cutting down trees in the nesting season. Actually, not cutting down trees at all would be better, but trees are apparently the casualty of every SFRPD project, especially near any “Natural Area.”
CONNECTING TO THE BAY AREA RIDGE TRAIL
Several people from the Bay Area Ridge Trail group came, and Bern Smith spoke about how this new trail would connect to other trails and become part of a 550-mile trail system around the Bay. The Bay Area Ridge Trail actually sounds quite amazing, and we admire the effort and commitment the group has put in to make it happen.
COMMENTS AT THE MEETING
The gallery below shows the comments from people at the meeting – which included a few members of the public, but no neighborhood representatives. If you click on the pictures, they should become legible.
UCSF is taking comments. You can send them to Christine Gasparac: email@example.com
This is republished with permission from the San Francisco Forest Alliance website. We think it’s important. Please do vote if you’re a Sierra Club member.
If you’re a Sierra Club member, you’ve probably received a message asking you to vote for the Board of the Sierra Club in the 2016 elections before April 27th 2016. There are 8 candidates for 5 positions: see them HERE.
There are some questions that the Club asked the candidates at the same site, none of which speak to our concerns. But a Sierra Club member wrote to the candidates asking the important questions. So far, 5 replies have come in. The questions:
The San Francisco Forest Alliance stands for trees and habitat, and against pesticide use in parks. We also believe in access, and in sensible priorities and transparency in use of public funds. The Sierra Club, horrifyingly, supports projects in the San Francisco Bay Area that would cut down hundreds of thousands of trees, and use tons of pesticides on high ground. Here’s our subjective assessment (the actual candidate statement is given below) on a scale of 1-5 (Bad to Good).
Susana Reyes: On trees 4; On Pesticides 5; Total 9 – Recommend
Judy Hatcher: Trees 3; Pesticides 5; Total 8 – Recommend
Robin Mann: Trees 2; Pesticides 2
Mike Brien: Trees 1; Pesticide 3
Luther Dale: Trees 1; Pesticide 1 (Since his response takes no position, we can only assume he would not oppose the appalling East Bay projects.)
You can see their detailed responses below, and decide for yourself.
There’s been no response so far from Chuck Frank (an incumbent up for re-election), Joseph Manning, or David Scott.
We have joined a petition to ask the Sierra Club not to support this egregious project. If you have not signed the petition, it’s HERE: Sierra Club must STOP advocating for deforestation and pesticide use in San Francisco Bay Area. Please sign if you haven’t already. It’s got over 2,500 signatures! (In comments, please mention if you are a Sierra Club member, present or past.)
Susana Reyes (currently Secretary of the Board)
“Just the mere thought of cutting a tree upsets me greatly. I can’t offer a position about destroying non-native trees without considering the different factors that may come into play – like climate conditions, types of landscape, threats to biodiversity, invasive or not, fire threats – just to name a few. It also depends on the land management practices in the areas where non-native trees exist. There ought to be other options to destroying non-native trees. I would think very carefully about destroying non-native trees especially if only a fraction display traits that harm or displace native species and disrupts the ecological landscape”.
“I strongly oppose pesticide use in our parks and open spaces. I am all too familiar with herbicide “Roundup” for example and its use to stop unwanted plants. Another one is rodenticide which is used to kill rats in parks/open spaces. In Los Angeles, our beloved mountain lion, P22, who calls Griffith Park home, was sickened last year with mange as this poison worked its way up the food chain. Many of the chem Research has shown links to certain types of cancer, developmental disorders, and physical disabilities. Pesticides end up in our drinking water, watersheds, and rivers/lakes. The use of toxic pesticides to manage pest problems has become a common practice around the world. Pesticides are used almost everywhere and therefore, can be found in our food, air, and water.”
“As you probably noticed from my candidate profile, I’m the Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network, so I’m not in favor of pesticides–especially highly hazardous ones–in public spaces or anywhere else. I think the issue of non-native trees is specific to particular contexts and environments. But it’s unfortunate that the damage non-native plants and animals cause lead communities to demand increased use of pesticides and herbicides, which have negative consequences for human health as well as for the natural environment. PAN focuses on industrial agriculture, so we don’t do a lot around non-native plants except for how they impact farming (hello, RoundUp!).”
Robin Mann (currently Vice President)
“Let me just note that I am running for reelection to the Board because I believe I can contribute to the Club’s progress towards its major goals for the environment and for ensuring a strong and effective organization into the future.
Being a strong and effective organization, in the case of the Sierra Club, requires among other things ensuring a broad and engaged grassroots presence everywhere. And we know that strong grassroots engagement necessarily means people coming together to resolve local issues that often have competing considerations. Our policies and our approach generally allow some latitude to ensure the local context is being taken into account. I wouldn’t want to try to dictate the solution for all situations.
My understanding from my work with the Club’s efforts to strengthen resiliency in the face of mounting climate change impacts is that restoring native vegetation is desirable, and can contribute to restoring greater ecological balance. And my understanding from my work on the ground with organizations doing habitat restoration is that sometimes HERBICIDES are needed as a last resort to enable newly planted natives to become established.
If you are speaking of herbicides being used in public parks and open spaces, my view is they generally should not be used for maintenance purposes as non-toxic alternatives are available. For habitat and vegetation reestablishment I would defer to those designing the project with the expectation that herbicides would be minimized, used responsibly, and any exposure to park users avoided.
If you are speaking of pesticide use for insects or other “nuisance” species, I expect that in most instances a non-toxic management alternative is available, and so the burden should be on the public entity to justify use of a pesticide for maintenance purposes.”
“I have strong concerns about invasive species crowding out and changing native ecosystems in detrimental ways. That said, we have already made significant and irreversible impacts to many ecosystems. I don’t believe a policy of eliminating all non-native trees simply because they are non-native makes sense at this point. Rather, it should be taken on a case by case basis where we consider what the impacts are of the non-native species and any work should typically be done in conjunction with a plan to restore native trees and habitat.”
“Strong preference to zero use of pesticides. There have been occasions where serious threats from invasive species have proved practically impossible to overcome without targeted use of pesticides, but this should be a rare exception as opposed normal operating procedure.”
“I have to say I do not know the context of these issues nor knowledge sufficient to give you a good answer. There are so many environmental issues and I accept that I can’t be knowledgable about them all. I do know a lot about some issues and know how to listen and learn about issues new to me. Thanks for your passion about these and other environmental problems and for your work to care for the earth.”
You can also email them at:
Susana Reyes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Judy Hatcher Judyh08@gmail.com
Robin Mann, email@example.com
Mike O’Brien, firstname.lastname@example.org
Luther Dale, email@example.com
Joseph Manning, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Scott, email@example.com
ABOUT SF FOREST ALLIANCE
The San Francisco Forest Alliance is a 501(c)4 not-for-profit organization that works to preserve public parks for the public. Our mission:
Though our focus is San Francisco, we support organizations and individuals elsewhere with missions similar to our own. It’s all one world.
“I was in the forest and it looks like a lumber company came in…” wrote one of our correspondents.
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.
ENJOY THE BEAUTY WHILE THERE’S STILL A FOREST
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:
WHAT ABOUT THE SUTRO STEWARDS?
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.
In view of discussions of biodiversity and mosaics in ecosystems, we are republishing a post from May 2010 that addresses this issue. Mount Sutro Cloud Forest is part of a mosaic of biodiversity in the Western part of San Francisco. We’ve updated the pesticide use information.
We’d like to put Mt Sutro Cloud Forest in the context of the bio-diversity in the Western part of San Francisco.
This is an 80-acre forest (including both the UCSF portion and the Interior Green Belt). That’s fairly large for a garden or a park. But in fact, it’s only one small habitat among many in the western part of the city.
The Westside habitat is quite varied: It has grasslands and meadows, chaparral and open woodlands, lakes and creeks – and dense forest. In particular, Sutro Cloud Forest. It’s this biodiversity that supports a range of plant and animal (including insect) life. (Unfortunately, much of it is subject to toxic herbicides, but Sutro Forest has been clear of the chemicals since 2008, and the Aldea Student Housing from 2009. Thanks, UCSF!)
This is a rough map (based on a 2005 USGS picture) of some of the major habitat areas of this part of the city.
1. Sutro Cloud Forest – a relatively dense eucalyptus forest, with a well-developed understory and year-round damp conditions. (Free of pesticides since 2008.)
2. Laguna Honda lake – Mature chaparral and shrubs, fairly dry, sloping down to a year-round lake with little human access. (Occasional pesticide use.)
3. Twin Peaks – native and non-natives grasses, forbs, and shrubs. (Garlon, Roundup, imazapyr. Multiple times.)
4. Mt Davidson – eucalyptus woods, open shrubland. (Garlon, Roundup, imazapyr. Multiple times.)
5. Glen Canyon – open shrubland and grassland, wooded creek, sparse eucalyptus. (Garlon, Roundup, imazapyr. Multiple times.)
6. Buena Vista Park – grass, shrubs, open stands of trees. (Some pesticide use)
7. Golden Gate Park – multiple habitats including open grassland, lakes and ponds, stands of trees, shrubbery. (Herbicides used, mainly Roundup.)
8. Stern Grove – open eucalyptus and redwood groves, meadows, water. (Herbicides used.)
This list does not include the beach, Lake Merced, the open woods and grassland on the grounds of the Laguna Honda Hospital. It excludes all the backyard habitats (mostly lawn, shrubs and flowers, with varying levels of pesticide use) and street trees.
But none of them are old-growth cloud forests like Mt Sutro Forest.
Some creatures – like migrating birds and butterflies – can access all these areas (which fall into the radius of a few square miles) and choose territories or terrain that suits their needs. Others – including some reptiles and flightless insects – may live and breed in a restricted but suitable place. Sutro Cloud Forest adds to the biodiversity of the area, providing dense forest cover for the creatures that need such forests and damp conditions. It’s worth preserving the integrity of its ecosystem.
More trees are being cut down in Sutro Forest, and machinery is being used that could damage the roots even of the trees left standing.
This is the area the Sutro Stewards have referred to as the “Redwood Bowl” where the plan called for removal of all the existing trees, and planting of a few scattered redwoods. More recently, they have written about realigning the North Ridge Trail.
WATER RUNOFF FROM FELLED AREAS
The previous day, we had driven by Johnstone Drive, where the East Ridge tree-felling has nearly been completed. Water raced past, and we wondered if a pipe had burst. Being curious, we drove up to see.
It was coming from the forest, where the trees had been removed. Normally, the forest holds the water for days and weeks after rain. But in this area, the trees and bushes are gone, and the water flows right out. We drove around to see if the same thing was happening elsewhere, but saw very little flow.
We couldn’t get back to take pictures until late in the evening. The water was still running off though the flow had substantially lessened. But clearly all the changes are altering the hydrology of the forest.
We’re saddened by all this, and are concerned that by the time the “Plan” has been developed, the Forest will already have been changed beyond recognition. The tree-felling from August 2013 onward has already started it in that direction.
THE “BEFORE” PICTURES
From our archives, we bring you two pictures of the area of the Forest above Medical Center Way, taken in 2011 and 2013.
They’re a fond memory now. The forest still would heal itself if allowed, but it does not look as though that will happen any time soon.
At the meeting on January 14th, 2016, UCSF announced it was trying again to develop a plan for Sutro Forest. UCSF hope to have a draft Plan in May 2016. They think they may be able to “start work” in Fall 2017, after the March-August bird nesting season. They said they hoped for a plan everyone could support. We hope so too.
UCSF has hired two foresters, Jim Clark (of Hort Science) and Matt Greene to write the plan. They also instituted a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to provide input to the Plan.
The first meeting of the TAC was January 14th, and was apparently intended to discuss scope, issues and metrics. The meeting was a lively one, with the TAC asking a number of questions. Many of the issues that came up were fundamental to how the forest will be managed. We will report on that later.
The next meeting will be in March or April to discuss alternate management strategies, and a field trip to the forest will be scheduled before that. (Some TAC members have never visited Sutro Forest.) In May, they will publish the Draft Plan, and in June the TAC will give its recommendations. In August and September, they will have two community Open Houses.
THE TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE (TAC)
Members of the TAC include:
[EDITED TO ADD section on UCSF’s steering committee.]
UCSF’s STEERING COMMITTEE
UCSF has assembled a large team from Campus Planning, Community Relations, and Facilities – together with Police, Fire … and Legal. Evidently they wish to be prepared.
Here is the list of UCSF Internal Steering Committee members, in alphabetical order.
We hope that the new plan will be better than the destructive 2001 Plan, the FEMA-grant-based Plan, and the revised 2013 Plan that would still have cut down thousands of trees.
This New Year, we’d like to go back over 100 years to 1911, when Sutro Forest was 15-25 years old, time enough for the trees to have grown large enough to establish it as a forest. This is the story of Ishi, whom we’ve written about earlier. He was the native American man who was brought to the Affiliated Colleges (which later became University of California San Francisco – UCSF) and was said to have found a sanctuary in Sutro Forest. This article, from the San Francisco Call newspaper (Volume 110, Number 98, 6 September 1911), gives a contemporaneous account of how that came to be.
At the time this was written, he had not yet been dubbed “Ishi” — which was not actually his name, but a title meaning “man.” The photographs accompanying the article were not clear enough to reproduce here; we’ve used other public domain pictures of Ishi.
Though we’re re-publishing this public domain article, we ask our readers to recognize it as a first impression from his contemporaries soon after he came into the urban world. It reflects both the attitudes and the information of its time, including the reference to “savage” even though the complex culture and sophistication is evident even in the biased descriptions.
Subsequent research indicated he wasn’t actually the last of his tribe but was related to the Yahi/ Yana tribes of Northern California. More research is available in Wikipedia’s article on Ishi.
INDIAN ENIGMA IS STUDY FOR SCIENTISTS
Tribe’s Remnant Awed by White Mans Life
“UPLIFT” DELIGHTS SAVAGE FOUND IN NORTHERN WILDS OF STATE
by MARY ASHE MILLER
Deciphering a human document, with the key to most of the hieroglyphics lost, is the baffling but absorbingly delightful task which Dr. A.L. Kroeber and T. T. Waterman of the University of California have set for themselves. The document is the Deer Creek Indian captured recently near Oroville, who should by every rule and reckoning be the loneliest man on earth.
He is the last of his tribe; when he dies his language becomes dead also; he has feared people, both whites and Indians to such an extent that he has wandered, alone, like a hunted animal, since the death of his tribal brothers and sisters. The man is as aboriginal in his mode of life as though he inhabited the heart of an African jungle, all of his methods are those of primitive peoples. Hunting has been his only means of living and that has been done with a bow and arrow of his own manufacture and with snares. Probably no more interesting individual could be found today than this nameless Indian.
FRIGHTENS HIS DISCOVERERS
He was captured at the slaughter house about three miles out of Oroville, where he was trying to steal some meat. The dogs barked so ferociously one night that the men employed there went out to discover the cause of the trouble. They found the Indian, wearing a single shirt like garment made of a piece of canvas, crouched in a corner, frightened half to death.
His discoverers were as badly frightened as he was and telephoned to the sheriff in Oroville to come and get what they had found. The lndian was taken to town and lodged in the jail and a search for an interpreter began. Hundreds of Indians from all the: surrounding country came and every Indian tongue was tried, but to no avail.
Finally Waterman, instructor in the anthropological department at the University of California, went to see him. He had a list of words of the North Yana speech and found that the unknown one recognized some of them with greatest delight. Sam Batwee, one of the oldest of the remaining score of Indians of the North Yana tribe was sent for from Redding. Batwee frightened the Indian more at first than did the white men, but now they have become very friendly.
LIVED IN DENSE JUNGLE
The unknown is a South Yana, it is said, and Doctor Kroeber said the “two languages were related probably as closely as Spanish and Portuguese, so that communication, while possible, is by no means easy. It has been proved that the Indian is one of four who lived for some years in a patch, of thickest brush in the heart of Tehama county. Practically on the great Stanford ranch, within two miles of a ranch house, these Indians lived without being discovered. The wooded bit was between a high cliff and a stream, Deer Creek, and was about three miles long by one mile Wide. So dense was this jungle that not even cattle penetrated it, but in it was the Indians’ camp.
Two years ago a party, of surveyors ran a line which passed through the camp, and after the manner of surveyors they proceeded to chop their way through the brush primeval. This frightened the Indians away; they fled to the mountains and this man, the sole survivor, has probably lived by hunting, creeping up to ranch houses and stealing bits of food, finding deserted camps and foraging there and eating berries and roots.
When he was captured he had a few manzanita berries and on those he had lived for some time, he said. It is difficult to realize that he is absolutely aboriginal, yet seeing must be believing. He is without trace or taint of civilization, but he is, learning fast and seems to enjoy the process.
IS LIKABLE OLD INDIAN
If he may be considered as a sample, man has not been invariably improved by the march of time. The Indian is wonderfully, quick and intelligent, he has a delightful sense of humor, he is docile, cheerful, and amiable, friendly, courageous, self controlled and reserved, and a great many other: things that make him very likable sort of a person. Waterman says he has learned to sincerely admire and like the old fellow during their intercourse. Although he is probably about 60 or 65 years old, he doesn’t look it by 15 or 20 years.
In appearance he is far superior to the average California Indian. He is nearly six feet tall, well muscled and not thin. His face is rather the pointed type, with a long chin and upper lip and a straight nose. His eyes are large, very black, of course, and exceedingly bright and wide-awake. His eyelashes are the variety that bring to mind the idea that he bought them by the yard and was rather extravagant about it. His thick hair is jet black and short, he having burned it off after the death of his family. His hands are long and narrow, with very long fingers. The palms show that he has never done manual labor of any kind, as they are as soft as a woman’s.
His ears and the inner cartilage of his nose are pierced and this, Sam Batwee explains, is “what he b’lieve.” It is “medicine” or religious faith that by this means he is saved from going to “bad place” and will certainly go to “good” place” after death. Little knotted strings, apparently sinews of animals, are in the holes which are of considerable size. Coming down on the train from Oroville was a great ordeal for the Indian, but he showed his fear only in the tenseness of attitude maintained and by his closely clenched hands.
“MUCH TO SEE HERE”
Crossing the bay was a wonderful experience and yesterday morning as he stood in front of the Affiliated colleges he asked Batwee as to the direction of where he crossed the big water. Batwee said: “First, yesterday, he frightened very much, now today he think all very funny. He like it. tickle him. He like this place here. Much to see, big water off there” and he waved his hand toward the ocean, “plenty houses, many things to see.”
The first time that the unknown refused to obey orders was yesterday. He was to be photographed in a garment of skins, and when the dressing for the aboriginal part began he refused to remove his overalls. “He say he not see any other people go without them,” said Batwee, “and he say he never take them off no more.” Nor would he, so the overalls had to be rolled to the knees: and the skins draped over them as best they might be.
He was taken to the west end of the museum building and on edge of the Sutro forest he was posed. The battery of half a dozen cameras focused upon him was a new /experience and evidently a somewhat terrifying one. He stood with his head back and a half smile on his face, but his compressed lips and dilated nostrils showed that he was far from happy. “Tell him, Batwee, white man just play,” said Waterman, and the explanation seemed to reassure him.
After the camera men left he squatted in the sand and seemed happier than when in a chair under a roof. He was given a couple of sticks used by some tribe for fire making, taken from the museum, and he was delighted, showing at once that he knew what they were for. After a few seconds of twirling the sticks and making them smoke, he gave it up and told Batwee that it was the wrong kind of wood.
Then he did some most delightful pantomime-bits. Folding a leaf between his lips he sucked on it so strongly that a wailing sounds closely resembling the bleating of a fawn resulted. This was an illustration, of his mode of deer hunting. When he hid himself and bleated the deer were sure to come. He was like a child “showing off” yesterday. Smiling delightedly, he showed how, after he had called the deer, be drew back his bow to the farthest limit and let the arrow fly. Then he galloped away with his hands, indicating that the deer had escaped, making tracks in the sand with his two fingers.
Then he bleated again and showed another deer approaching from the other side. Again he drew his bow and that time the deer was his. Rabbits he hunted with a queer sound, resembling more the popping of gigantic corks than anything else. Queer tracks were made in the sand, and strange gestures — all of which indicated rabbits. Bear he described by growls, more tracks in the sand, and finally by raising his arms high and lowering his head, bringing to mind by his mimicry the terrible “Truce of the Bear.” He did not shoot the bear, but ran away and climbed a tree. Salmon fishing he illustrates; too, with prayers and the tossing of roots into the stream.
HE HAS NO NAME
He talked to Batwee freely, but would tell little that was personal. His name, if he knows it, he keeps to himself. It is considered bad form among aboriginal tribes, I am told, to ask anyone’s name, and it is, seldom divulged until a firm basis of friendship is established. The unknown, however, declares he has no name. In reply to Batwee’s questions, he shows by a wandering forefinger that he has been all alone. There was no one, he says, to tell him his name and he has none.
He is so desirous of “doing as the Romans do” since he arrived in civilization that it was thought he might be induced to tell his name when he knew that all white men had them. Batwee told him it was customary in the best circles, or words to that effect, and in response he declared his entire willingness to have a name. He had none, he reiterated, but if any one had one to give him he would gladly receive it.
Batwee calls him John, but Doctor Kroeber declared that lacking in individuality. “We must have a name for him, though,” said Waterman. “We can’t go on calling him ‘Hay, there.'” For the present his christening will be deferred, in the hope that some name may develop later.
WON’T TELL ABOUT WIFE
All questions as to his wife he evades. He has a word, “maeela,” which was at first mistaken for “mahala,” which the Indians use for “‘wife,” but that is not the meaning. Waterman says. When he is asked anything about his wife, he begins to tell Indian myths (or, legends: how the coyotes stole the fire; bits of stories of women’s work; imitations of a woman cooking mush, with bubbling sounds of boiling. This is perhaps because aboriginal tribes will never speak of the dead. Waterman said yesterday: “lt’s as though you asked a man when he got his divorce and he began to tell you the story of ‘Cinderella.’ ”
He will eat anything that is given him without much apparent preference. Sweets, however, he seems fond of, and doughnuts delight him. He knew nothing, of course, of eating with knives or forks, but he was taught in the Oroville jail to eat with a spoon. This habit he has adopted, and when given a peach proceeded to eat it with his spoon.
He has likewise learned to smoke cigarettes, and already his fingers are badly stained. When he was given chewing, tobacco he ate it. Batwee remonstrated with him and asked if it did not make him sick. This the unknown denied, and said that it made him strong, did him good. When he was wandering he used some sort of Indian wild tobacco, but his first taste of plug cut or its equivalent he received from the jailer at Oroville. He told Batwee that this man, ‘big man, all the same as chief,’ had given him tobacco and also the blue shirt and overalls which he was wearing.
Charles L. Davis of Washington, D. C. who is an Indian inspector, happened to be in San Francisco, and went out to see the Indian yesterday. ln parting, he presented the unknown with his knife, saying that he wanted him to remember him in case they ever met again. The Indian accepted it and seemed to know its use, opening the and finally putting it in his pocket. His newly acquired pockets, by the way, are as keen a delight to him as are those of a small boy, and he has a great collection of odds and ends in them already.
WHISTLE DELIGHTS HIM
I thought would give him a present, too, but found I had nothing either amusing or instructive with me save a white bone police whistle. This I blew for him which seemed to please him greatly; then I gave it to him. He tried to blow it, but was afraid to put it between his lips at first. When he understood the method of manipulating it and found he must blow it hard, he blew a mighty blast. Nothing that he has had since he left the wilds has pleased him more, Waterman said. He would blow with all his might, and then laugh heartily. Finally he fairly got the giggles, laughing out loud.
Doctor Kroeber was away when he first whistled, and when the former returned the Indian became suddenly shy and wouldn’t blow. At the noon hour a siren whistle, some place off across the city, sounded. He looked at me and smiled, and I nodded at the whistle in his hand. He laughed again and with a sly look at Doctor Kroeber, blew with all his might and main.
All of this sounds as though the absolutely primitive state of the man’s mind and life might be exaggerated. No one who sees him can doubt the statement of the anthropologists that he is the find of a lifetime on account of his lack of up-to-dateness. What he can tell will be of the greatest value to them. He will be kept at the museum of the Affiliated Colleges as long as the faintest scrap of information as to cave man manners and customs can be gleaned from him. With the aid of Sam Batwee, Waterman is compiling a sort of dictionary of his words and he will be induced to talk into a phonograph as well.
He has one Spanish word, “chiquita,” but Dr. Kroeber thinks it probable that he got that from his parents rather than by any intercourse with Spanish people. It was a sort of an heirloom in the tribe, he believes. The Indian used a word yesterday which Batwee says is a Chico Indian word. What will become of him eventually is still a question. If he wants to, he will be permitted to return to the mountains, of course, but it seems probable that a course of travel by trains, electric cars and ferry boats, making phonograph records, distinguished attentions from scientists and the newspapers—not to mention all the well cooked food he wants — will take the keen edge off of his enjoyment of thoroughly primitive conditions.
[In the end, the question of where he would go next did not have to be resolved. Ishi died of tuberculosis five years after this article appeared, still resident at the Affiliated Colleges.]
We’d like to wish all our readers a Happy New Year in 2016 and celebrate it with this tribute to Adolf Sutro, the philanthropist who gave so much to San Francisco including the forest we all love. It was written over 100 years ago and published in the San Francisco Call.
In this day of the “city beautiful,” one thinks of the man who first planted trees and flowers to beautify San Francisco, Adolph Sutro.
Adolph Heinrich Joseph Sutro was born at Aix-la-Chappel, Prussia, on April 29, 1830. At the age of 16 he left school to work in his father’s cloth factory. At the death of Mr. Sutro senior, the management of the factory was left to Adolph and his brother. The revolution in Europe affected their business, so the Sutro family migrated to America and settled at Baltimore. In 1850, during the gold excitement, young Sutro went to California on one of the first vessels bound for San Francisco. On the voyage Sutro wrote accounts of the journey and sent them to his mother.
November 21, 1851 marks the date when Mr. Sutro arrived in San Francisco. He had little money but much ambition, and soon went into the business of selling cigars on the water front. In 1856 he married. Of this union were born six children, one of whom is Mrs. Merrit, who spoke to us when our new school was first occupied. Formerly our school was called Point Lobos school, but during the time of John Swett was renamed in honor of Mr. Sutro.
In 1859 Mr. Sutro visited the Comstock lode in Nevada. The mines there needed to be drained of water and to be provided with better ventilation, so Mr. Sutro thought he could drain and ventilate the mines by building a tunnel. After interesting capitalists in his plan, and receiving permission from the state and national government, he began his work. It took 14 years to finish the tunnel and when it was finished Mr. Sutro became a millionaire many times over.
He now returned to San Francisco, his favorite city. He became interested in the sand dunes and purchased acres of sand hills, upon which he planted young trees, which one may see from many parts of San Francisco. Sutro Heights, a show place of San Francisco, overlooking the Farallones, Tamalpais and the Golden gate, is also one of his many public works. Mr. Sutro built Sutro baths and gave to San Francisco a fine library and art gallery. He also presented to the University of California 26 acres of land where the Affiliated Colleges now stand.
He reduced the car fare to the beach from ten cents to five cents for the sake of the people by building the Clement street car line. He was always kind and courteous to everybody, and as a result was very popular. This was shown in his election for mayor, when he received more votes than all his four opponents together.
Adolph Sutro was the first man to start a real Arbor Day in San Francisco county by having trees planted in Sutro forest and in other parts of our city, and by giving all the school children in San Francisco a tree to plant in the bare places of the city and one to plant in their own gardens at home. Many of these trees still stand, a fitting monument to Adolph Sutro, the originator of the city beautiful.
(First published in San Francisco Call, Volume 112, Number 1, 1 June 1912. Note: The pictures were not original to the article.)
We’re dismayed to bring you news of more tree removal in Sutro Forest. Walking through the forest recently, we found nearly every trail had stumps and logs.
Much of the character of this beautiful forest, once dense and green and lush, has been changed. More changes are coming. Those who remember how it used to be are privileged to have seen it. Below, for example, is a photograph from 2011.
The East Ridge Trail, is bleak and dusty.
It’s not finished. A large number of trees have been marked – usually a sign they’re to be cut down. All along the East Ridge Trail, and then along Johnstone Drive where the forest meets the Aldea Student Housing campus – trees are blazed with pink dots.
This beautiful stand of trees grows along Johnstone Drive, where the forest meets the Aldea student housing. If you look closely, you can see nearly every tree in this picture has been marked with the pink spots. It looks as though UCSF intends to clear the whole slope.
Apart from the loss of ecosystem services these trees provide – carbon sequestration, pollution reduction, habitat, wind-protection – this is precisely the wrong way to prepare for a wet winter if the El Nino hits.
NEW TRAIL COMING
A new trail from Clarendon has been roughed out. While trails are a good thing, it’s likely that this – like the other trails in the forest – will be a reason to cut down more trees.
One of the wonderful things eucalyptus trees do is provide wildlife habitat. In particular, they are crucial to supporting the Western Migration of the the Monarch butterflies, by providing a roost for the butterflies to spend the winter. A study by Dennis Frey and Andrew Schaffner of 300 over-wintering sites showed that three-quarters of them were in eucalyptus trees.
From November to February, monarch butterflies gather in thousands in tall trees by the coast. The season has started, and the butterflies are back.
CHILDREN DRAW MONARCHS
In celebration, we’re proud to publish these pictures from Girl Scout Troop #61902, sent to us by Alma Sorenson, Troop Leader:
From Ms. Sorenson:
“We are a troop of twelve 4th and 5th grade Juniors from five different San Francisco schools focused on learning and earning Girl Scout badges, and on serving our community.
“We have our donated time and our cookie money to My New Red Shoes, the SFSPCA, and Project Open Hand. This year we will continue our theme of helping kids in need and on the environment.
THE WESTERN MIGRATION OF THE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES
Unlike the Monarchs east of the Rockies (which migrate from Canada to Mexico and back), the butterflies in the West migrate between the interior and the coast. The butterflies east of the Rocky Mountains go south to Mexico in winter. The butterflies on the Western side come to the California coast in search of warmer, milder weather than the inland winters.
Most winters, you can see the butterflies at Natural Bridges State Park, about an hour and a half south of San Francisco. Some years they’re even found right in San Francisco, in places like the Presidio and Treasure Island.
The Sierra Club shocked the environmental community, including many of its own members, when it not only failed to oppose the horrible East Bay plan to cut down hundreds of thousands of trees, but actually sued FEMA to cut down more trees immediately. Of course there was a protest outside the Sierra Club Oakland headquarters. And there’s a petition out with over 2600 signatures. (If you haven’t already signed it, you can do so HERE.)
What was the Sierra Club’s reaction? Not to consider re-examining policies that were so clearly anti-environmental. Not to ask the opponents why they thought these policies were so devastating. It was to place an error-filled article in their own newsletter, The Yodeler, headlined: “Correcting the record on our vegetation management strategy for the East Bay Hills: Sierra Club’s preferred fire-prevention model would restore native habitat and increase biodiversity”
So why is the Sierra Club supporting this? The main reason seems to be that it’s an excuse to get FEMA to fund the removal of non-native eucalyptus and Monterey pine trees. From their article: “… an ecologically-and fiscally-sustainable model for fire management that not only reduces the risk of fires but also promotes healthy and diverse ecosystems.” Since the Sierra Club isn’t about fire-reduction, the second part of that statement betrays their real interest.
But of course the ecosystem left behind will not be healthy or diverse. The article spells out the Sierra Club’s Three Rs Model: Remove flammable non-native trees in select areas most at risk for fire; Restore those areas with more naturally fire-resistant native trees and plants; Re-establish greater biodiversity of flora and fauna.
We’ll explain why all three elements are wrong for these projects.
USING FIRE HAZARD AS AN EXCUSE
SC: “The preferred strategy for vegetation management in the East Bay hills entails removing the most highly flammable, ember-generating trees like eucalyptus in phases — only in select areas considered most at risk for fire along the urban-wild interface.”
Let’s parse that. “Highly flammable, ember-generating trees“? Research shows that eucalyptus isn’t any more flammable than any other tree.
The US Forest Service evaluation of the FEMA projects stated that the resulting landscape would be more flammable than the existing landscape: “Removal of the eucalyptus overstory would reduce the amount of shading on surface fuels, increase the wind speeds to the forest floor, reduce the relative humidity at the forest floor, increase the fuel temperature, and reduce fuel moisture. These factors may increase the probability of ignition over current conditions.”
They blame eucalyptus for casting more embers than native trees because they are taller than the oak-bay woodland. However, equally-tall redwoods also burned in the 1991 Oakland fire: On Vicente Road, “Two redwoods up the street caught fire like matchsticks.” Yet, the Sierra Club is not suggesting that redwoods be destroyed to eliminate the risk of casting embers. And in fact, leafy eucalyptus may protect against flying embers.
“In phases”? The Sierra Club’s suit against the FEMA grants is exactly because it objects to the phasing of tree removals! The main focus of their suit is opposition to the “unified methodology” which proposes to remove trees over the 10 year period of the grant on only 29 acres of the total project acreage of 2,059. Their suit demands that all non-native trees be removed immediately on all project acres.
“Select areas considered most at risk for fire along the urban-wild interface”? And the article also says elsewhere, “Our proposal only covers areas near homes and businesses where fire would be most costly to homes and businesses.”
Except, as you can see from the map above, most of the trees being removed are in the middle of parks and wild lands. They are far from houses or other areas in the urban-wild interface. CAL FIRE defines “defensible space” required around buildings to reduce property loss in wildfires as 30 feet -or 100 feet of structures in high fire hazard areas of the wildland urban interface. That doesn’t apply to these trees.
THE SIERRA CLUB’S RESTORATION FANTASY
The Sierra Club thinks the projects will “restore native habitat and increase biodiversity.”
There’s no provision for restoration in the project plans. The plan is to cut down the trees, chip them and leave the mulch on the ground. Herbicides will be used.
The image below, copyright Jack Gescheidt of the TreeSpirit Project shows an example of a clearcut area. The TreeSpirit Project, which respects all species of trees, opposes the project.
It’s really unlikely that there’ll be greater biodiversity in two-foot deep piles of mulch. Scientists evaluating the project said: “It is not clear how the mulch would prevent the proliferation of invasive species while simultaneously encouraging the growth of existing native species.”
Scientists also said: “Based on conditions observed during site visits in April 2009, current understory species such as English ivy, acacia, vinca sp., French broom, and Himalayan blackberry would likely be the first to recover and recolonize newly disturbed areas once the eucalyptus removal is complete. These understory species are aggressive exotics, and in the absence of proactive removal there is no evidence to suggest that they would cease to thrive in the area, especially the French broom which would be the only understory plant capable of surviving inundation by a 2-foot-deep layer of eucalyptus chips.”
Broom may be the only plant less popular with native plant advocates than eucalyptus.
The experience with trying to maintain native plant areas has been that they require as much care as any garden. This will mean planting, gardening and weeding over 2000 acres. Neither “Restore” nor “Re-establish” are feasible.
SIERRA CLUB DOESN’T OPPOSE TOXIC HERBICIDES
The Sierra Club could take a tough stand on pesticides, but it doesn’t. Instead, it tries to suggest they are not an issue. The Yodeler says that herbicide: “...would be hand-applied in minimal amounts under strict controls.”
Minimal amounts? East Bay Regional Park District has stated in the Environmental Impact Statement for the FEMA project that it intends to use 2,250 gallons of herbicide to prevent the regrowth of eucalyptus. This estimate doesn’t include what’ll be used by the other two managers, UC Berkeley and the City of Oakland. Nor does it include the herbicides needed to kill all the flammable non-native vegetation that will be take over once the trees and their shade are gone.
The Sierra Club continues: “Any herbicide application must undergo a full environmental review to prevent impacts on humans, wildlife and habitat.” In fact, an Environmental Impact statement (EIS) prevents nothing – it only describes the impacts. This EIS has already been completed and it says that the project will have “unavoidable adverse impacts” on “human health and safety” and that there will be “potential adverse health effects of herbicides on vegetation management workers, nearby residents, and users of parks and open space.” As far as we know, there are and will be no studies regarding impact on habitat or wildlife.
In fact, the Sierra Club has said in writing that they DON’T oppose pesticide use:
Here, we would like to thank UCSF, which has used no pesticides in Sutro Forest since 2008 (nor on Aldea campus since 2009). In 2013, they made a statement that they would not be using them at all in these area: “…as a health sciences university, we believe the right thing to do is not to use herbicides in the Reserve.”
PEOPLE LOVE THE TREES AND HATE THE PROJECT
There’s a lot of evidence that these projects are very unpopular. Though the Sierra Club has tried to say that the opposition is small – it’s not.
Over 13,000 public comments on the Environmental Impact Statement were sent to FEMA, of which 90% were opposed to this project according to FEMA. More recently, a petition in opposition to this project has over 65,000 signatures on it. This project is NOT the “preferred strategy for vegetation management in the East Bay hills.”
(For a detailed analysis of the Sierra Club article and the reality of the East Bay projects – including citations – please see the article: Sierra Club cannot hide behind its smokescreen on Death of a Million Trees, a blog dedicated to fighting unnecessary tree destruction.)
Most people think of the Sierra Club as an organization battling for trees and nature, for forested lands like the one in this picture. They believe it’s fighting to save the environment and opposing the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. So they’re shocked to hear the Sierra Club supports the East Bay projects to destroy hundreds of thousands of trees, and use thousands of gallons of herbicides to prevent regrowth.
There’s a petition to ask the Sierra Club to stop, to withdraw the lawsuit and its support for these projects. You can sign that HERE if you haven’t already. There are over 2600 signatures already. And there are comments, which we’ll discuss below.
FOSTERING A PRO-TREE ANTI-PESTICIDE IMAGE
The Sierra Club fosters this pro-tree anti-pesticide image. Look at the mailer they recently sent out. “You don’t have to be John Muir or Rachel Carson to save the world,” it said. “You just have to believe, like they did, that one person can make a difference.”
John Muir was of course the Sierra Club’s founder. He was the great nature lover who originated our National Parks – and planted eucalyptus trees near his home (which were later cut down by the National Parks Service for being non-native). Muir would have been angry:
“Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed, chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones.” –John Muir, ‘Our National Parks’ pg 364
He even sent a friend a greeting card featuring eucalyptus trees.
Rachel Carson was the famed author of Silent Spring, a passionate indictment of pesticide use. Described on its Amazon page as a landmark book, it’s considered the origin of the battle against pesticides. She left money to the Sierra Club, including royalties from her book
So when the Sierra Club sends out mailers like that, it clearly reinforces the message that it stands for all trees, and against pesticides. Only, if that were true, they wouldn’t take the stance they have on the East Bay projects.
THE REALITY IS THE SIERRA CLUB SUPPORTS TREE DESTRUCTION
The Sierra Club supports the destructive East Bay projects that would cut down some 450,000 trees and use thousands of gallons off toxic herbicides (Roundup and Garlon) on the stumps and plants they don’t want there.
And not only is the Sierra Club supporting this project – it’s currently suing FEMA, which is to fund this disaster – demanding it cut down more trees immediately. The Sierra Club wants them all gone, now. And they don’t oppose the use of pesticides, either; they claim that the projects will need minimal pesticides, hand-applied – when the project managers themselves admit they will use thousands of gallons. When people provided FEMA with evidence that pesticides were already in use where UC Berkeley has started the felling of trees, and FEMA wrote to UC Berkeley about it – Sierra Club demanded FEMA retract its letter.
We’re disappointed but not surprised that the Sierra Club tries to hand-wave the impact of herbicides. Some years ago, when we sought Sierra Club support in saving Sutro Forest from a plan that would have cut down some 30,000 trees and used hundreds of gallons of toxic herbicides to prevent regrowth, we got no help. Instead, we were told to “please moderate your thoughts. Think about whether you use dish detergent in a dishwasher or hair conditioner or hair shampoo.” We doubt any of those are as toxic as Roundup – a probable carcinogen and possible endocrine disruptor, or Garlon which is a highly toxic herbicide associated with birth defects in rats even at very low doses.
They also support the Natural Areas Program’s plans to cut down thousands of trees and use even more herbicides than it currently does.
SIERRA CLUB, ANGERING ITS FRIENDS
The people whom the Sierra Club is alienating are its would-be allies. If you go to the petition and scroll back through the pages of signatures, there’s an unusually large number of comments. They’re mostly from people who love trees and nature, and who oppose toxic herbicides on public land. They’re from environmentalists who worry about climate change, and know that trees sequester carbon. (In fact, eucalyptus is an excellent carbon sink: Its wood is dense, it grows fast, and it lives for hundreds of years. Unless its felled and chipped – then, like all felled trees, it stops sequestering carbon and starts to release it back into the atmosphere.)
These are people who are – or would like to be – sympathetic to the Club. In fact, many people who signed the petition are current or former or would-be future Sierra Club members.
Their reactions to this? We’re quoting a few of the comments here, edited only to remove typos and add emphasis. (There are many more, too many to quote all of them, but you can go to the petition and look. We didn’t have a way to ask permission to quote names – but they’re on the petition.)
SHOCKED, APPALLED, BEFUDDLED, SADDENED, EMBARRASSED
“I am a Sierra Club member and I will cancel my membership if you continue to support the tree removal.”
“I am in shock as I thought the Sierra Club was in favor of saving our forests and never using pesticides. I will be dropping my membership immediately from the Sierra Club. I was sure they were 100% for nature.”
“And we had just started supporting Sierra Club… it is hard to know who to trust!”
“Please stop this insanity. I am a former member of the Sierra Club, and I’m embarrassed by your advocacy of removing trees and poisoning the land.”
“I will not be renewing my membership to the Sierra Club, due in the next couple of months. The removal of millions of trees using dangerous pesticides is insane! It will endanger many animals and wildlife, poison the local environment AND leave the entire area vulnerable to ecological degradation. Any trees or other plants that the Sierra Club intends as replacements for those they wish to kill will take decades to serve the purpose that currently is being met by what is already there.”
“This is so short sighted…poison our soils, kill off the animals population that lives in these trees and destroy the water shed we need for the hills, and all that land areas. I’m glad I have not returned to the club….not worth watching the destruction-led ideology happening (as well as a waste of my membership monies).”
“I am a Sierra Club Member and serve on the Executive Committee of the Toiyabe Chapter. I grew up in the Oakland Hills, and those trees were part of my life. They protect the wildlife and provide needed shade. Cutting them down will NOT make the area safer from fire. I am very disappointed with the Sierra Club’s decision to support this action. The amount of pesticide to be used is unacceptable in an urban area (in any area, really). We need every tree we can get in California right now!”
“I am a former member of the Sierra Club and am appalled at the proposed wanton destruction of our Oakland woods! It is inexcusable because it is not backed by science or the residents!”
“Leave the trees. Use of pesticides to go back to the way it was and disrupt current life, not good. Sierra Club was the first group I belonged to because they helped the environment. I no longer renew my membership. They are known as the wayward children of stewards to the environment.”
“Former Sierra Club supporter. Used to live near there, my sister still does. Terrible idea…now, especially, is not the time for this genetic cleansing.”
“This is really important. Please stop doing this. I am a Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer survivor. I spent tremendous amount of time in the GGNRA before I got sick. Please stop this. It is not a garden. It is not YOUR garden. It is not to be manicured to design specifications. My Grandfather was a General, commander-in-Chief of the Presidio in the 1960s. His and all the men and women whose legacy left these beautiful lands certainly did not intend on you turning it into a garden and using pesticide to return it to the state before they were of service to fight for it. Best, Sandra”
“My family has supported the Sierra Club for years. I would like to still do so, yet this is surprising. I live here and have been watching the cutting. This forest is no longer new, despite being non-native. It is home many insects, animals, and native plants, and removes CO2 from our air. Removing it only increases the fire danger (from all that chipped wood left behind) and the risk of mudslides is huge.”
“I will not re-join the Sierra Club until they stop supporting this horrible plan to dump toxic chemicals right in our backyard. ‘Non-natives’ have been here for over 100 years now and are part of our ecosystem and support butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. Stop this destructive plan now!”
“Many Bay Area Sierra Club leaders are not in agreement with the Club’s position on this issue.”
“Member since 1980, but considering not being a member anymore, because of this extreme error filing this lawsuit.”
“Dear Sierra Club: This is exactly the kind of plan I expect you to be against — the cutting down of living forests and then pouring toxic chemicals into public lands. I’ve been a member in the past and usually think highly of the Sierra Club. Your goal to return the Bay Area hills to a state of grassland, scrub, and chaparral makes absolutely no sense in the time of global warming and drought Trees provide shade and lower high temperatures. They enable many wild animals to survive despite high human habitation nearby. Poisoning the ground poisons wildlife near or in those grounds. Please desist the slaughter.”
“This is racist, genetic cleansing, ideology taken to the extreme. I have withdrawn my support of the Sierra Club. Additionally, this adds to global warming and air pollution by burning, and poisons our environment by pesticides. Apparently FEMA has money which it refused to use for support of impoverished minorities damaged by the hurricane, and is now seeking the stamp of approval by the green faddists, who are ignoring the overall picture while following a sectarian eugenics program.”
“I oppose the deforestation of our hills – I was evacuated in the 1991 fire storm and I think that grassy hillsides would be MORE dangerous than eucalyptus and Monterrey pine. I am all for native vegetation but not at the cost of denuding our hillsides. I am a Lifetime Sierra Club member.”
“I am an active San Francisco Bay Chapter member. To be fair, there has been a lengthy chapter process on this issue. Unfortunately, I am convinced that the club’s radical position represents a huge mistake. The project’s certain harm to ecosystem services and exacerbation of climate change impacts will likely far outweigh any potential environmental or safety benefits.”
“I am a Sierra Club member and live in the Oakland Hills for the past 20 years. I have been through both the fire and the earth quakes. I hike the parks here every day and find this the most ill conceived plan imaginable. In the early morning hours the trees drip with much needed water. There are owls and monarch butterflies and raptors. What I see is clear cutting all along skyline and housing developments now everywhere that the trees have been felled. More houses being built every day. The use of toxic pesticides is outrageous to all of us who strive to live a healthy life. I am completely opposed to this outrageous plan.”
“As someone who has supported the Sierra club for over 30 year in various way including having a credit card with your name on it for years I feel betrayed by your advocating the destruction of where I live. I was here for the fire, I evacuated at the latest moment and I feel this deforestation will make it dryer and winder. We need to preserve every tree we can in this time of global warming! We are lucky we can get anything to grow on some of these hills and to clear cut and poison is stupid beyond belief.”
“I am a lifelong environmentalist and a longstanding member of the Sierra Club. I am appalled by the position the Sierra Club has taken on this critical issue. I plan to cancel my membership unless the Sierra Club stops advocating the insane, destructive policy of clear cutting and poisoning our beautiful Eucalyptus, Monterey Pine and Monterey Cypress.”
DOES THE SIERRA CLUB EVEN CARE?
We would expect an environmental organization to recognize they’ve made a mistake here, and that their plan is both devastating to the environment and a betrayal of their friends. So far, their response has been an error-filled article in their newsletter, the Yodeler. (We’ll post about that another time.)
Some suggest it’s too big to care, as hinted by the “hostile corporate takeover” comment above. Or that it’s allied with the chemicals companies, as the sonnet above states.
Another viewpoint is that the Sierra Club has some political axe to grind.