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East Bay | Environment & Forest Defense

UC/FEMA East Bay fire control project generates huge reaction, part II
by environmental activist
Sunday Jun 2nd, 2013 1:33 AM
The article “UC/FEMA East Bay fire control project generates huge reaction”, generated a big reaction,
in the way of comments, and I will try to answer some of it here, as I think it needs a separate posting.
As I said before, falsehoods are being spread.
Though there are some good reasons for not approving the 3 plans proposed to FEMA – see the article, UC/FEMA East Bay fire control project generates huge reaction (part I) , http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/05/25/18737331.php , among them the use of herbicides, which are toxic, and whose use can expand way beyond the minimum proposed; the removal of trees in one fell swoop, perhaps, rather than in sections; and the possible result that more housing will be built on steep slopes where building should not take place or continue.

However the point is that changes have to be made to prevent another massive firestorm this dry year.

If these plans submitted to FEMA are not instituted, then the work will probably have to be done by volunteers.
The community will have to pull together for a solution, NOW, and stop demonizing those who have considered the widespread experience and preponderance of data that eucalyptus trees are prone to fire and its explosive spread, and that they spread as invasives, crowding out native plants (and the native animals which depend on them).

We are losing the energy for attracting people who will form the community to devote themselves, maybe long term, to restore a workable landscape. Restoration work is being carried out throughout the Bay Area, and in Claremont Canyon for many years now. It is vital and inspiring to get together with others on restoration projects in ones own community. It is a turnoff to see attacks on those familiar with prior research and long hands-on experience in restoration, on the basis of theoretical speculations and skewed research which some use to support their views that forests should be everywhere and trees placed anywhere regardless of their interactions with the environment. That no tree should be cut. That more carbon is released in cutting trees than in catastrophic firestorms.
And no recognition that toxic fire retardants will be used if and when there are huge spreading fires.

You may love the eucalyptus forests which replaced the redwood forests once here. Can you love the native grasslands, chaparral, and oak savannahs which were /are here, and can be spread when eucalyptids are removed, again as a home for native plant and animal species? Let’s keep the oaks in Oakland!
As for cleaning the air, catastrophic fires do not clean the air!

A gardener has to learn to prune. The natives of this region and others managed the landscape to prevent huge disastrous fires, provide forage for animals, and food and fiber for themselves, by removing trees and understories to form meadows and parklands. One native man, on observing a modern California landscape, commented that it was wild and uncared for. People are supposed to steward the land and the animals.

I will try to counter some of the false points that have been put forward.

Monarch butterflies need eucalypti.
The monarchs have moved on, and a 3 year study done in the Monterey area showed that they lost 20% of their population in storms when in eucalypti, and moved to native evergreens for the rest of the winter.

Birds use eucalypti
Some short billed bird species have suffocated from eucalyptus resin on their bills and were found dead below the trees. Many nest building native birds can’t and don’t use them; those who need holes for their nests can’t make them.

They provide a moist environment, from fog drip.
Blue gums and other eucalyps use a lot of water and can lower the water table considerably, causing other plants to dry up. They have been valued for draining swamps.

They are suited to our climate.
They are not suited to a climate which has even the occasional frosts we have experienced here (1922, 1931, 1949, 1972, 1990); in the last freeze in the East Bay hills many eucs died and had to be removed because of the fire danger. They sprouted back, with many slender saplings which were also a fire hazard.

They are not a fire hazard.
They are a fire hazard for the following characteristics:
-- using a lot of water, drying the soil, lowering the water table
-- terpenes in leaves which vaporize, causing a blue haze (hence “blue gum”) which can ignite spontaneously
-- they drop layers of terpene laden leaves which accumulate at the base
-- but their chipped wood doesn’t present the same easily ignited tinder, while acting as a mulch
-- strips of bark hang down toward the ground, where they can carry ground fires to the upper story
-- they can throw embers far, also because of their height, casting fire in front of them, in cases onto roofs
-- the crowns were seen to explode during the progress of the 1991 firestorm

While fire is an element of the California landscape, these hills can do without this source of tinder, in the interests of its inevitable fires being more readily controllable, and not having another 3000 buildings burned ,25+ beings burnt to death and 150 wounded.
Apparently there was a recent fire in the hills which took off in a little grove of Monterey pines, but which was stopped quickly; a local land steward who’d been removing the pines attributed the ability to control the fire to his prior removal of the grove. Monterey pines are very flammable and also slated for removal.
There were also fires on Angel Island which were stopped and didn’t destroy large trees or historic structures, which a steward and firefighters there attributed to the recent removal of eucalypti, though some are trying to say that fires there are a result of euc removal.

I believe any amount of herbicides is a hazard, so why exaggerate the amount the grants call for? It’s not true that “millions of gallons are to be poured/sprayed” on the area. The plan calls for painting the inside bark circle (cambium) layer; besides any amount being a hazard, there is a danger that more will be used, especially because it is allowed to be sprayed for follow up weed suppression.

And why call this “clearcutting”, when it is to be selective cutting? See the Clearcutting piece linked to below, for photos of the difference.

As for the attacks on proponents of a native flora and fauna as foolish and misinformed idealists, using the false fire danger argument as a Trojan horse to implement their ulterior motive, even the most vituperative of the native flora denyers, said “It goes without saying that native plants and animals deserve our protection. We should be prepared to defend our natural areas with our very lives if necessary.”
Which brings us to another reason for planting natives: we do not want species to go extinct, and that has been happening with alarming speed. As for as plant species, urban gardens can threaten native species, because exotics are planted where natives once grew. As James Roof the horticulturist pointed out, with regard to San Francisco, this area and Marin share a unique ecological area we call the Franciscan, where most of the plants inhabited the SF part –“And they planted a city in the midst of it”, he said. So some of us plant m natives in our gardens to preserve them and the animals which they foster.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS: I could not link them all but I think you can find those I others with a google search.
Fire danger & eucalyptus removal -
* Eucalyptus fire danger
      faqs final v2.pdf
* The Eucalyptus of California- Problems
http://wwwlibrary.csustan.edu/bsantos/section3.htm
* http://oaklandnorth.net/2011/10/31/after-1991-fire-oaklanders-debate-growth-of-eucalyptus/
* Sierra Club supports East Bay plan for fire management and native restoration
http://theyodeler.org/?p=7539
* Sierra Club on opposition from the Hills Conservation Network
http://theyodeler.org/?p=1901
* Ongoing vegetation control in Claremont Canyon by volunteers
http://baynature.org/articles/east-bay-hills-tree-removal/
* Wildfires On The Rise – news video
http://news.yahoo.com/video/just-explain-wildfires-rise-202627177.html?pb_list=26b8970e-9767-4d75-b991-7552a5360c45
* What makes Eucalyptus fires in Australia so dangerous?
http://tree-species.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-makes-eucalyptus-fires-in.html
* Angel Island fire contained without large tree & building fires
http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_10713017?source=pkg
* firemanagement_eucalyptus_brochure.pdf (NPS-GGNRA brochure)
* http://ClaremontCanyon.org/issues.php , see the fire article
* Eucalyptus Removal on Angel Island
eucalyptusremoval,AngelIsland.pdf
* Lowering Fire Potential on Angel Island State Park
http://angelisland.org/2013/03/lowering-fire-potential-on-angel-island-state-park-crowned-jewel/

WATER USE
http://online.sfsu.edu/bholzman/courses/Fall99Projects/Eglobulus.htm See section “Natural History”

WILDLIFE
* Eucalyptus Trees May Now Be a Danger to Migratory Birds
http://www.fws.gov/contaminants/examples/lerp.cfm
* Monarch butterfly use of eucalyptus and native trees
Big Sur Ornithology Lab of Ventana Wilderness Society

CLEAR CUTTING?
*http://ClaremontCanyon.org/issues.php,
see the Clearcutting article

QUOTED above -
* “Natives vs. Exotics: the Myths . .” David I. Theodoropoulos
Natives Vs Exotics Essays Theodoropolous.html

INVASIVE PLANTS
* Economic and Environmental lmpacts of lnvasive Species & Their Management
David Pimentel, Ph.D.

The 4 EIS proposals to FEMA:
* FEMA EIS for Hazardous Fire Risk Reduction
http://ebheis.cdmims.com/Home.aspx
* Read FEMA’s proposal for yourself.
http://ebheis.cdmims.com/Documents.aspx - see Executive Summary
* See a map of the treatment areas (blue):
Map-EBRPD-fire-mgmt.pdf

Articles in Bay Nature magazine:
* Excellent explanation of the issue and featuring comments from 5 people with different roles in the Claremont Canyon area. Includes instructions on how to comment.
http://baynature.org/articles/east-bay-hills-tree-removal/
* Article showing volunteer restoration successfully carried out in Claremont Canyon by volunteers starting 12 years ago, before the current grant proposal.
http://baynature.org/articles/oaklands-claremont-canyon-20-years-after-the-fire/

* The Claremont Canyon Conservancy, formed 2001. A local effort to protect their hill neighborhood from fire, and their site has the best explanation of the fire issues and rationale for the selective tree cutting (no, not a clearcutting program!), the use of chip mulch, the use of native plants, and the successful management of fire after some of these practices were adopted.
I would say a must-read. This page may answer all your questions:
http://claremontcanyon.org/issues.php
* A model of how to manage this area locally:
http://goldenhour.org
A Cooperative project between the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, the East Bay Regional Park District, and Golden Hour Restoration Institute

* This article from SF Gate covers the issues, gives the plans’ detractors the first say, so read the whole article.
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/UC-Berkeley-s-eucalyptus-removal-3252677.php#photo-2401541
* Article from the Berkeley Daily Planet, long. lots of detail
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2013-05-24/article/41086?headline=Berkeley-is-Burned-Up-About-the-Big-Tree-Brouhaha--By-Becky-O-Malley

Hill communities supporting the proposals for Claremont Canyon:
* North Hills Community Organization
http://www.northhillscommunity.org/index.php?page=about
* Claremont Canyon Conservancy - see above

Supporting herbicide use: see why some think it’s ok.
And “pouring 1400 gallons of herbicide” is an exaggeration.
http://claremontcanyon.org/ccc_from_the_board.php