Relentless War on Eucalyptus – The Example of Glen Canyon

This article is reproduced from – the website of Death of a Million Trees with permission and minor formatting changes.

A new front has opened in the relentless war on eucalyptus in California. The drought has given native plant advocates an opportunity to develop a new narrative to justify their demands for eradication of eucalyptus. The opening gambit in this new strategy is an item in Jake Sigg’s “Nature News” of May 16, 2014:

“The prolonged drought of the last 2-3 years seems to be taking its toll. The Tasmanian blue gums in Glen Canyon along O’Shaughnessy Boulevard strongly show drought stress. The stress is more evident from the high cliffs above O’Shaughnessy than it is at ground level. Thinning crowns and discolored foliage was striking. And that was before the recent heat wave. Barring substantial rains–unlikely, but not impossible–the trees are in serious trouble. The City could have an emergency situation and no money to address it.”


When public land managers began the war on eucalyptus in the 1980s it did not occur to them that the public would object. So deep was their prejudice against eucalyptus, that they assumed the public shared their opinion. The first two massive projects in the 1980s on National Park Service and State Park properties were greeted with angry public protests. Land managers quickly learned that it was not going to be as easy to eradicate eucalyptus as they had thought. They developed a series of story-lines to justify their projects, which were designed to convince the public that the eradication of eucalyptus is both necessary and beneficial. This is a summary of some of their cover stories with links to articles that debunk them:

Based on our experience, we were immediately suspicious of the new claim that San Francisco’s eucalyptus forest is dying of drought. We know that our predominant species of eucalyptus—Tasmanian blue gum—grows successfully throughout California, all the way to the Mexican border in climates that are much hotter and drier than the Bay Area. We also know that the central and north coast of California is foggy during the dry summer months, which doubles the amount of annual precipitation in the eucalyptus forest. All reliable sources of horticultural information describe blue gum eucalyptus as drought tolerant. Frankly, we couldn’t see how our eucalyptus could be dying of drought.


The picture became clearer when Jake Sigg posted the following on his “Nature News” on June 12, 2014:

“The June 10 newsletter [see below*] included an editorial on an evolving catastrophe, mostly involving our numerous plantations of Tasmanian blue gums. The editorial focused primarily on the plantations on O’Shaughnessy Blvd in Glen Canyon and on Mt Sutro, and included a photo of a grove of Mt Sutro dying trees. Here is a photo of the Glen Canyon plantation, taken from above the high cliffs on O’Shaughnessy. The damage is most visible from high, looking down. The discoloration of leaves was very dramatic, but the foliage color and condition is not fully conveyed in the photograph. Some trees defoliated entirely in the prolonged winter dry spell. Look very closely at the juvenile blue leaves of the coppice shoots; anything that appears faintly bluish are new coppice shoots which grew in response to the late rains we had in February and March. Once you see coppice shoots on old trees you know the trees are in trouble. These trees are in double jeopardy, as they invested energy in new shoots, but were betrayed by another dry spell which, under normal circumstances, will last until autumn. Note that you can now see the grassland through the trees; that slope was not previously visible. Even a casual inspection of these groves reveals dead, dying, and stressed trees, and under normal circumstances we will have four or five months of dry. The fire situation is serious right now and is likely to become worse.”


View of west side of Glen Canyon Park from Marietta Drive, June 2014

View of west side of Glen Canyon Park from Marietta Drive, June 2014

With more specific information in hand about what Jake Sigg is looking at, we went to see for ourselves. We could see what he was describing from a vantage point on Marietta Drive, west of Glen Canyon Park. We could see lighter colored leaves, but they were more localized than Jake Sigg’s description implied. We didn’t feel qualified to speculate about why the leaves were lighter colored so we recruited an arborist to help us figure out what is happening there. We were fortunate to enlist the help of a certified arborist who has been responsible for urban forests on public lands in the Bay Area for several decades. This is what we learned.


Looking through binoculars from our vantage point on Marietta Drive, the arborist said immediately, “Those are epicormic sprouts.” The leaves of epicormic sprouts are distinctively lighter colored than the darker green of mature eucalyptus leaves. They are also a more rounded shape than the long, pointed mature leaves of eucalyptus. This is how Wikipedia describes epicormic sprouts: “Epicormic buds lie dormant beneath the bark, their growth suppressed by hormones from active shoots higher up the plant. Under certain conditions, they develop into active shoots, such as when damage occurs to higher parts of the plant. Or light levels are increased following removal of nearby plants.”

Epicormic sprouts on trees in Glen Canyon Park, June 2014

Epicormic sprouts on trees in Glen Canyon Park, June 2014

The remaining question was why some of the eucalypts, were producing these epicormic sprouts, when most were not. We went down to O’Shaughnessy Blvd to get a closer look, hoping to answer that question. This is what we learned:

  • The understory of non-native shrubs between O’Shaughnessy Boulevard and the trees with epicormic sprouts has been cleared in the past year. We could see the dead brush piled up next to the trees. We had to wonder how people who claim to be concerned about fire hazard could think such huge piles of dead brush were nothing to be concerned about.


Remains of dead non-native brush destroyed along O'Shaughnessy Boulevard, June 2014

Remains of dead non-native brush destroyed along O’Shaughnessy Boulevard, June 2014

  • We could see the stumps of some of the dead brush and we wondered if the stumps had been sprayed with herbicides after they were cut. Pesticide use reports for Glen Canyon indicate that O’Shaughnessy was sprayed several times in the past year, twice with products containing imazapyr. Imazapyr is known to be harmful to trees if sprayed in proximity to their roots. The trees with epicormic sprouts were downhill from the understory shrubs that were destroyed, in the probable direction of water and herbicide flow.
  • We found several trees that had been girdled in the past and are now dead.
Girdled tree in Glen Canyon Park, now dead, June 2014

Girdled tree in Glen Canyon Park, now dead, June 2014


Then we walked into Glen Canyon Park from its southern end. It’s not a pretty sight. Many huge, old eucalypts have been destroyed. When they were destroyed, their stumps were immediately sprayed with herbicide to prevent them from resprouting. The stumps are simultaneously painted with dye so that workers can tell which trees have been sprayed. The dye is no longer visible, but regular visitors took photos of the painted stumps before the dye faded. The spraying of the stumps do not appear on the pesticide use reports of the Recreation and Park Department. We assume that’s because the spraying was done by the sub-contractors who destroyed the trees.

Poisoned and dyed eucalyptus stump, Glen Canyon Park, 2013.  Courtesy San Francisco Forest Alliance

Poisoned and dyed eucalyptus stump, Glen Canyon Park, 2013. Courtesy San Francisco Forest Alliance

The arborist who walked in the forest with us said, “The painting of stumps with RoundUp or Garlon in proximity to trees that are being preserved can kill the neighboring preserved tree. Stumps near living, residual (preserved) trees should not be painted with RoundUp or Garlon if the stumps are within 40’ of mature, blue gums that are slated for preservation.” If the remaining trees are damaged by herbicides, their mature leaves fall and epicormic sprouts will then emerge as the tree recovers.

Some of the stumps of the trees that were destroyed in Glen Canyon Park in 2013.  Taken June 2014

Some of the stumps of the trees that were destroyed in Glen Canyon Park in 2013. Taken June 2014

While the trees were being destroyed in 2013, the Natural Areas Program was eradicating non-native vegetation in the Canyon. They sprayed ivy, blackberry, and valerian with Milestone, which is another herbicide that is known to damage trees if sprayed near their roots. In addition to these official applications of herbicide in this park, there is a long history of unauthorized, illegal herbicide applications by “volunteers,” more appropriately called vandals. We saw a lot of epicormic growth in the Canyon, sprouting from stumps that must be cut back and resprayed with herbicides. It usually takes several retreatments to successfully kill the roots of eucalypts that are destroyed. We also saw epicormic growth from eucalypts that had been severely pruned and were also exposed to a great deal more light because they had lost the shelter of their neighboring trees.

Epicormic growht, Glen Canyon Park, June 2014

Epicormic growth, Glen Canyon Park, June 2014


The trees in Glen Canyon are reacting to the traumas to which they have been subjected: the loss of their neighbors that were either girdled or cut down thereby exposing them to more light and wind, the loss of the shelter of their understory, the application of herbicides known to be harmful to trees. The good news is that there are still plenty of trees in Glen Canyon that have not yet been destroyed and they are in great shape. Here is the view of the tree canopy in Glen Canyon taken from the east side of the park near Turquoise Way. The first picture was taken in December 2012 (before the current round of tree destruction in Glen Canyon Park) and the second picture was taken in May 2014.

Eucalyptus canopy on east side of Glen Canyon Park, taken from Turquoise Way December 2012, before tree destruction began.  Courtesy San Francisco Forest Alliance

Eucalyptus canopy on east side of Glen Canyon Park, taken from Turquoise Way December 2012, before tree destruction began. Courtesy San Francisco Forest Alliance

Same perspective of Glen Canyon tree canopy, taken May 2014.  Courtesy San Francisco Forest Alliance.

Same perspective of Glen Canyon tree canopy, taken May 2014. Courtesy San Francisco Forest Alliance.

These trees are doing just fine because the Natural Areas Program has not yet gone that deeply into the park. But NAP intends to destroy many more trees in Glen Canyon (and elsewhere) when the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for their management plan (SNRAMP) is finally approved. Then we will see more consequences of the destructive practices of the Natural Areas Program and we will probably hear more bogus explanations for that damage. We expect the EIR to finally be considered for approval at the end of 2014. We will do whatever we can to convince San Francisco’s policy makers that they should approve the “Maintenance Alternative” which would enable NAP to continue to care for the native plant gardens they have created in the past 15 years, but prevent them from expanding further. We hope that our readers will help to accomplish this important task.

*Jake Sigg’s Nature News of June 10, 2014, introduced the theories of Craig Dawson about the health of the Sutro Forest. Mr. Dawson’s speculations are different from Mr. Sigg’s and we will not address them in those post.

Wisconsin, Trees and Our Health

This is another of our first-person accounts. A reader visited Madison, Wisconsin and returned this report.

We were riding to the airport when traffic slowed on a tree-lined street owing to roadwork. I was reminded of a  friend’s comment about Minnesota: “We have two seasons – winter, and road repair.” Madison isn’t as extreme, but the warm days of spring are when this kind of  project gets done.

street lined with trees with yellow ribbons - madison WI

Necessary work, of course, but as I looked out the window I was saddened to see the trees on either side had yellow tape around their trunks. In San Francisco, colored tape  or paint spots usually mean the tree’s going to be cut down.

another tree with yellow ribbon in madison WINearly every tree along the road had a yellow ribbon. Madison’s a very green city with a lot of tree canopy, so perhaps they figured they could spare the trees that impinged on the road work or grew through power lines.

yellow ribbon tree in madison WI

But then, as we stopped completely, I could read what was actually written on the yellow ribbons. It said “TREE PRESERVATION ZONE.”

tree preservation zone madison WI


Perhaps they had paid attention to the research from University of Wisconsin (whose campus is only a few miles from where we’d paused). It showed less stress and depression in people who live in areas with more tree canopy. Here’s an excerpt from the UW-Madison press release on the research, which was published in April 2014.

“Across neighborhoods of Wisconsin, from the North Woods to the cities, the results are striking,” says Dr. Kristen Malecki, assistant professor of population health sciences at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “Higher levels of green space were associated with lower symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress.”

The study, published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, combines mental-health data from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) and Landsat 5 satellite data from July 2009 that analyzed how much vegetation was present in each of the SHOW census blocks.

About 2,500 Wisconsin residents from 229 neighborhoods answered an assessment that asked them to rate their symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. The research team, which was also led by Dr. Kirsten Beyer of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, adjusted the results to make sure they weren’t confounded by race, age, income level, education, marital status, employment and other factors.

They found that across all strata of society, people who lived in a neighborhood with less than 10 percent tree canopy were much more likely to report symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. So, for example, a poor person living on a logging road in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest was more likely to be happy than a wealthier person living on a treeless block in Milwaukee.

San Francisco has among the smallest tree canopies of any major city, and the number of trees is shrinking each year. The “Natural Areas Program” plans to cut down 18,500 trees. Every project, whether it’s a playground renovation by SF Recreation and Parks, or road improvements by SFMTA, or water system work by the SF PUC, becomes an excuse to cut down more trees. If they replace the trees at all, it’s with saplings that will take decades to become mature and provide those health benefits.

Wisconsin has to contend with the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle that is killing off ash trees as voraciously as California’s Sudden Oak Death is killing our oaks. San Francisco, with its windy climate, doesn’t have many oaks or Sudden Oak Death, nor does it have ash trees and the Ash Borer. The main pest killing off San Francisco’s trees is the chainsaw.

Fighting The NAP Nativist Agenda

Once in a while, we want to affirm the values that San Francisco Forest Alliance stands for. We’re a grass-roots organization of people who love nature and the environment, pay taxes responsibly, and want access to our parks and wild places – with our families.

Citizens care about their city Parks, and want to keep healthy trees and to open access to natural areas. Citizens expect city management to act responsibly and in the public trust, for FAIR allocation of 2008 Clean & Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond funds.

SF Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) and particularly the Natural Areas Program (NAP), obsessed with Native Plants, is cutting down trees, restricting access, using more toxic herbicides than any other section of SFRPD (excluding Harding Park Golf Course), and using financial resources that could better be used for things our city’s residents really want.


Watch our video on Youtube, (where you can also sign up for the SF Forest Alliance Youtube channel):


What we stand for can be summarized in four key areas: Trees, Access, Toxins, Taxes.


Improvements to the Glen Canyon Park Playground?

Last month we reported on the status of the Glen Canyon Park Playground Improvements.
We mentioned the new playground and that it will not be the same as it was:-  a steep staircase to the slide and bushes that were at the top – now gone. The kids loved that slide … they played games of imagination and adventure there. Instead of a quirky playground that used the advantages of the site, there’s a standard-issue place that could have been built anywhere. And the wonderful climbing tree the children loved, which was behind the Rec Center – it is now gone.

In honor of the Glen Canyon Park Playground re-opening on March 15th, we are re-issuing a relevant YouTube video

Help us save the urban forests in our San Francisco Parks

Glen Canyon Park: One Year after Start of Tree Destruction

The Glen Canyon Playground and Tennis Court Project – as the city is calling this – is nearly completed. In February or March 2014 there will be great fanfare at the completion of this project.

Video update to the Glen Canyon Park tree demolition project

Is it an improvement? Well, there is a new playground at least, but it will not be the same as it was: a steep staircase to the slide and bushes that were at the top – gone. The kids loved those; they played games of imagination and adventure there. Instead of a quirky playground that used the advantages of the site, there’s a standard-issue place that could have been built anywhere.  And the wonderful climbing tree the children loved, behind the Rec Center – also gone. The new kids will not know what they missed.

The City Arborist report stated that only 1 tree was truly hazardous, yet 42 trees were destroyed. Equally troubling is the deliberate relocation of tennis courts that destroyed 11 healthy and majestic Eucalyptus guarding the Park’s entrance.

Question: Why was there no attempt to incorporate these trees into the overall design goal that could have been achieved without sacrificing space for the playground and ball field?

Answer: San Francisco taxpayers “purchased” a native plant garden as part of the project and ensured all those “poor suitability / non-native” trees were eliminated.

Functional, Beautiful Ecosystems Should Be Left Alone; the Parks need maintenance, not destruction.


While you are on YouTube, why not Subscribe to our Channel and keep up with our latest videos by the San Francisco Forest Alliance?



Merely follow step one or two to Subscribe to our Channel:

Step 1) Do you have a YouTube account? OK then, its easy to subscribe …just click this link add_user=SFForestAlliance

Any users who are logged into YouTube already need only to click that link and then confirm the subscription and they’ll be added to our Channel.

Step 2) Not on YouTube account yet? All you need to do is watch one of our YouTube videos, click on the”Subscribe” button / link, which is directly across from the Name of our Channel: San Francisco Forest Alliance. Or, the “subscribe” button may appear below the video title.

The last step is to sign in to your Google account or register with a Gmail, YouTube or Google+ account.

Forest-Bathing on Mt Davidson

Another article in our Park Visitor series: First-person accounts of visits to our parks, published with permission. This one looks at the imperiled forest on Mt Davidson. Please help save these trees by signing our new petition to the Mayor. It crossed 1,000 signatures within 3 weeks! The link is HERE.

It was a golden afternoon, the summer-in-winter weather we’ve been having lately. My friends and I had been discussing the situation in Taiji at a cafe in Miraloma.  It’s a difficult topic, fraught with painful images of slaughtered dolphins. Afterward, I suggested a walk in the healing greenery of the forest. The Japanese speak of  shinrin-yoku “forest-bathing” as a way to relieve stress. It seemed appropriate.

entry to Mt Davidson Forest

We took the forest entry just down the road from the bus turnaround. The path there, wide enough for a car, is blocked by a substantial gate across it. On either side of the gate, there’s a small space where a person can enter.  Step through, and you’re inside the woods.

An array of Monterey pinesThe forest is eucalyptus with a mix of Monterey Pines. Even with the scant rain we’ve had, the scene was lush and verdant. mossy bank with ferns in Mt Davidson forest

A mossy bank beside the trail was draped in ferns and strands of ivy.

Mt Davidson woodland pathIt got even prettier deeper into the forest, the trees and understory almost glowing in the sunlight.

mt davidson forest - hiker on trailThe stone steps were built, someone said, as part of the Works Progress Administration of the Depression Era.
Now they’re weathered and part of the wonderful atmosphere of this forest.

path below the cross on Mt DavidsonWe walked upward, taking the path that led to the summit. You can just see the cross through the trees in this picture.

mt davidson jan 2014 ferns ivy blackberryThere were trees were covered in a harmonious mix of ivy and fern, tiny ecosystem of their own. And somewhere along the path, we found this single wild strawberry.

wild strawberryAreas of reed grass looked like the hillside was growing long thick hair.

pacific reed grass under eucalyptus

I’ve heard this grows under eucalyptus because the trees capture moisture from the fog and keep it watered.

mt davidson vista

At the summit, the forest gave way to an open plateau.  We sat on the bench there for a minute, taking in the view.

view from mt davidson

The city lay before us in the evening light. But a brisk wind was picking up, and we couldn’t stay. We headed back into the forest as the sun started to set,  coloring the trees.

mt davidson trees in sunset glowThis forest is incredible, and it’s wonderful that such a place exists in a major city. Sadly, the Natural Areas Program, which controls this forest, plans to fell  1,600 of these trees to expand the area available for native plants and scrub. I hope it doesn’t happen. They’re over 100 years old, tall and beautiful.

I’ll leave you with this last picture: Hikers in the forest. It gives some sense of the scale of these trees.
mt davidson forest path with two hikers

How Children Draw ‘Save the Eucalyptus Trees’

Someone sent us these amazing ‘Save the Eucalyptus’ posters, produced by the children in political artist and printmaker Doug Minkler’s art class. They’re used with permission. [Edited to add the artists' names.]

(If your kids are drawing pictures of San Francisco’s wild lands or its birds and animals and trees that you’d like displayed, we’d be happy to use them on this site. Please attach them to an email to SFForestNews at and be sure to give permission for us to put them up.)

Save-the-Eucalyptus sm

Save the Eucalyptus by Desiree Minkler

the-morning-before-the-loggers-came sm

The Morning Before the Loggers Came – Desiree Minkler


Whoos For Us? – Tacy Prins Woodlief

no-more-homeless-owls sm

No More Homeless Owls – Blake Bogert


Poisoned Water – Ayumi Beeler

Glen Canyon Park: Nine Months after Tree Destruction

Video update to the Glen Canyon Park tree demolition project

San Francisco’s Wreck and Park Department is now calling this “The Glen Canyon Playground and Tennis Court Project“.  This is only a continuation of the mis-information that have been provided as the Glen Canyon Park Improvement Plan (note: they are spending $5,800,000 of the 2008 Park Bond Fund for Glen Canyon “renovations”).

You will be seeing in this new video a bit more than just preparations for a new playground and 2 new tennis courts. The damage to Glen Canyon Park by the city is significant; we thought the project was the “removal and pruning of select trees”, but it is much more than that. And the wonderful children’s climbing tree is now gone; it once stood behind the Rec Center.

Here is a reminder [Beginning of Glen Canyon Park tree destruction] of what was once there. On January 10, 2013 we reported on the start of this demolition project by the city. The grand eucalyptus trees at the Elk Rd entrance, over a century old, were quickly destroyed. Hundreds of other trees in the canyon, the ones the children love and climb in, the ones the birds nest in and bats hide in, the ones that feed the and protect the wildlife of this canyon – all will be gone by the time this project is completed next year.

all the trees in this picture will be gone in a few days

All these trees are gone

Tree 22 with kids

There’s bare ground where this wonderful climbing tree stood

Before tree removal

Before tree removal and so different now


Update – “Unsuitable” tree removals on Creekside Trail, Glen Canyon Park

On October 24th we reported the planned tree removals along the Creekside Trial (west side of Islais Creek) in Glen Canyon. We are now submitting aftermath photos: the conditions now, after the Glen Canyon Trails project “tree work”.

Background: HORT Science, recipient of Park Bond funding, is used by the Rec and Park Park dept to assess the suitability of  trees located along the proposed trails. Their September 6, 20013 report for Glen Canyon Park is here. In summary they recommended that 30 trees be removed: 26 blue gums, 2 arroyo willows and one each of yellow willow and Monterey cypress. Ten (10) trees were identified as needing to be pruned including 6 arroyo willow, 2 blue gum, one Monterey cypress and one river red gum.

Trails are temporarily closed during the tree cutting

Trails are temporarily closed during the tree cutting

Park and Rec is calling this “…completing hazardous tree mitigation work”  but does not address how these trees could be saved by re-rerouting or narrowing trails, thinning the crowns, pruning and tipping, weight redistribution, limb removal, and cabling or bracing.

Cut stump along Creekside Trail

Cut stump along Creekside Trail

Even healthy eucalyptus trees are rated negatively by HORT and RPD as unsuitable for preservation merely because they are not native and therefore considered invasive.

tree workers cut limb by limb

tree workers cut limb by limb

cut limbs are tied and lowered to the ground

cut limbs are tied and lowered to the ground

Cut Stump along trail to Glenridge Co-Op Nursery School

Cut Stump along trail to Glenridge Co-Op Nursery School

Banana Slug Way - as this trail is known - will be transformed

Banana Slug Way – as this trail is known – will be transformed

A retaining wall is planned along here (steel posts,and wood planks)

A retaining wall is planned along here (steel posts,and wood planks)

A crane was used on Alms Road, (Tuesday, October 29) to take out a tree that had the misfortune of growing in the middle of Islais Creek.  A Blue gum, trunk diameter 50 inches, was deemed a potential hazard (said HORT: “Center of creek. Stands alone. Leaning & bowed E. over Alms Road.” ).

Replacing trees with concrete retaining walls to make a natural area more natural?

Eucalyptus Stump - middle of Islais Creek (did it impeded the flow of creek water? )

Eucalyptus Stump – middle of Islais Creek (did it impeded the flow of creek water? )

A 50 inch diameter Eucalyptus - likely one of the older trees in Glen Canyon Park

A 50 inch diameter Eucalyptus – likely one of the older trees in Glen Canyon Park

Mature trees absorb carbon and make our air cleaner. Dead ones release carbon and add to green house gases. 

Once trees, now logs (easy removal via Alms Road)

Once trees, now logs (easy removal via Alms Road)

Fallen Euchs near Silver Tree day camp

Fallen Euchs near Silver Tree day camp

Some of HORT’s reasons for the decisions to remove selected trees: “poor form & structure”;  “Sharp lean E. over trail”;  “upright but one-sided towards trail”;  “Leans over trail”;  “cracked branches”.

Let’s repair these trees rather than destroy them. It would cost less money and be better for the environment.

"poor form & structure"

“poor form & structure”

"Sharp lean E. over trail"

“Sharp lean E. over trail”

"upright but one-sided towards trail"

“upright but one-sided towards trail”

Ugly stumps left to remind us of how well are Park Bond dollars are being used to destroy our parks.

"Leans over trail"

“Leans over trail”

"cracked branches"

“cracked branches”

Per community requests, Rec and Park will allow the “Ticket Tree” to be a stump. This is a Monterey Cypress stump just west of the trail from the Rec Center to Silver Tree Day camp. They have cut it off higher than just a stump to accommodate popular children’s play with the slot in the tree; children use it as a mail box to deliver
letters to each other.

Are our children being taught by RPD that the best tree is a dead stump?

Ticket Tree before cutting

Ticket Tree before cutting

We did notice a larger than usual cutting of trees near the ball field.  This is how it looked before the recent cuts:

Prior view:  from small ball field

Prior view: from small ball field

And how it looks now.

Current view; from small ball field

Current view; from small ball field

View from Bosworth Street (cuts made for a paved walkway down to field)

View from Bosworth Street (cuts made for a paved walkway down to field)

The city’s Rec and Park Department is “excited to be starting this extensive capital improvement project, funded by the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond and by multiple Habitat Conservation Program grants.”

We, however, are less excited when we observe the tree damage to what was a wonderful, quirky trail on west side of Islais Creek in Glen Canyon Park.

Note that the 2008 parks bond allocated $900,000 of the $5 million Parks Trails Improvement Program
for this Glen Canyon project.  That’s alot of money for ADA compliant pathways, ‘turnpike’ parkways, retaining walls, split rail fences – from Bosworth St, all the way up to Portloa Drive, past the School of the Arts (SOTA).

Note: Photographs were taken recently, all are accredited to Ron Proctor.

Planned tree removals on Glenridge trail, Glen Canyon Park

Planned tree removals (between 31 and 33) were announced by SF Park & Rec on August 16th. As part of the Glen Canyon Trail Restoration project trails will be restored, at the expense of trees along the Glenridge trail. Tree work will begin after September 16th.

Here are pictures of some of the trees that have been marked for removal (do not expect that these trees will merely be pruned).

Notice posted on more than 30 trees

Notice posted on more than 30 trees

Octopus Tree along Glenridge trail

Octopus Tree along Glenridge trail

Along Glenridge trail

Along Glenridge trail

Glenridge trail, heading south

Glenridge trail, heading south

Marked tree, leans away from trail

Marked tree, leans away from trail

Looking north to Glenridge preschool

Looking north to Glenridge preschool

Pair of trees, marked for destruction

Pair of trees, marked for destruction

Marked trees along upper trail

Marked trees along upper trail

Marked trees on upper trail

Marked trees on upper trail

The City is saying they have made and will continue to make every effort to prune trees rather than remove them if they can do that to mitigate the safety hazard to park users.

Beautiful Mature Trees Being Felled in Golden Gate Park

Well before the Environmental Impact Report on the Significant Natural Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP, sin-ramp) has been certified, SF Recreation and Parks Department is felling beautiful, mature trees – because they’re non-native. It’s too late to save these trees… but we will not forget them. [Edited to Add: These trees are were in the Oak Woodlands area of the Golden Gate Park. They're adjacent to a Natural Area, though we can't tell if they're actually inside it. ]

golden gate park tree felling

Awaiting the chainsaw

GGP Tree felling

These tall and lovely trees will soon be gone

GGP Tree felling

An avenue of beautiful and doomed trees


Did you notice it’s called the Intimidator?

Butchering this tree

Butchering this tree

golden gate park trees

It was alive and tall yesterday

Our Statement About Saving Trees in San Francisco

Doomed trees in Glen Canyon Park

All these trees are gone, victims of a Rec Center Project

It seems that nearly every San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) project starts with removing trees – often mature ones that have taken fifty years or more to reach their current size. At a recent meeting of the Capital Committee of the San Francisco, the San Francisco Forest Alliance made a public comment about the importance of preserving these trees.

Glen Canyon ancient eucalyptus  trees doomed 1

These century-old trees are gone from Glen Canyon Park

San Francisco has one of the lowest canopy covers of any major city in the US – only 13.7% against a national average of 22%.

You are probably familiar the benefits of trees:

  • reducing pollution,
  • reducing the urban heat island effect,
  • reducing storm water runoff,
  • providing habitat for birds and wildlife, and of course
  • sucking carbon out of the atmosphere.

And they improve the quality of life: People love trees.

It seems that every capital project that San Francisco Rec and Park undertakes results in losing trees. There are many examples, but here are two that were mentioned here today:

- In Glen Park, between the renovation of the Rec center and the new Trails project, around 100 mature trees are being removed.

- In the Minnie and Lovie Ward park, there are 58 trees – and over a third of them are to come down. This isn’t even required for the main project.

SF Forest Alliance supports capital improvement projects. We also support remediation of hazardous trees. However, it seems that every project is an excuse to remove trees. If SFRPD is to be believed, a frightening number of trees in our city are “hazardous.”

There is talk about 1-for-1 replanting.  But in Glen Canyon those plans for include a large number of shrubs and really small trees, maybe 15-20 feet high while the trees removed are 50,60 or 100 feet tall. For Minnie and Lovie Ward Park, no replanting plan has been formulated, it’s just been stated in principle.

We ask San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission to be proactive in preserving trees. Capital Projects should be an opportunity to increase, not decrease, our tree cover and the number of trees in our parks. The question should not be, how many trees do we need to remove, but rather, how can we preserve and add to these trees?

They’re an amenity that people care about, and an asset that appreciates in value. We need to stop thinking about them as green things that stand in the way.

We should also note that not only does San Francisco have too few trees – it’s getting worse. Each year, San Francisco loses more trees than it plants.

$9000 tree in Seattle

Saving trees in Seattle

Glen Canyon Park “Trails”: 31 Trees To Be Cut in Sept

SF Recreation and Parks Department is stepping up the Trails project in Glen Canyon.

Glen Canyon Trails Project

By the time you read this, they may already have posted notices for removal of 31 trees that they say have been assessed as “Hazardous.” The trees can be removed any time from September 16, 2013. If they follow the map above, the hidden trail with the twisty willow trees on the west side of the creek will be a wide path possibly with bicycle access.

Here, in part, is the letter they sent out to their list:

We will be presenting a contract to the Rec and Park Commission Capital Committee on September 4 for approval of award and plan to mobilize soon after full Commission on September 16 pending approval.Tomorrow, August 16, we will be posting 31 trees adjacent to the trails that have been assessed as hazardous and are slated for removal.

We are moving forward with posting trees as we would like for hazardous tree mitigation to be done before the end of the year to avoid disruption to nesting birds.

Please see attached for a sample of the tree removal notices that we’ll be posting.For more information and details, please visit the project page of our website.

Please contact me at any time with questions or suggestions.


Melinda Stockmann, Assistant Project Manager/ Community Gardens Program Manager

San Francisco Recreation & Park Department | Capital Improvement DivisionCity & County of San Francisco | 30 Van Ness Avenue, 5th FloorSan Francisco, CA 94102(415) 581.2548 |

The Following Message will be Posted on Trees to be Removed:
Glen Canyon Trails Improvement Project

Posting Date: 8/16/13

Notice of Tree Removal

This tree has been assessed as hazardous as part of the upcoming Trails Improvement Project at Glen Canyon Park, and is slated to be removed. The project was vetted extensively through the community and includes trailside restoration planting.

For more information about the Glen Canyon Trails Improvement Project and the removal of hazardous trees, please visit our website at http : / / / project /glen-canyon-urban-trails-project /

and/or contact Project Manager Melinda Stockmann at 415-581-2548
Removal will not take place before September 16, 2013.

glen canyon park - how many of these trees will live

Glen Canyon Park: Six Months after Tree Destruction

Note: This article is re-published from SFGlenCanyon.Net

It’s been over six months since the trees were felled between Elk Rd and the Glen Canyon Rec Center.  Here’s what it looks like now.


The destruction part took no time at all: An avenue of majestic century-old trees, a hillside habitat for birds and animals – including insect-eating bats –  a wild bee-colony,  Those were all gone in days.

The construction part is harder.

Summer Walk on Mt Davidson

A group of 17 neighbors gathered for a summer walk on Mount Davidson …  in typical summer weather: super foggy. The group walked through the beautiful woods, shrouded in mist.

Mt D 6-17-2013

The paused on the road at the turn where 82% of the trees are planned to be clear-cut. It’s one of the loveliest areas of the forest.

Mt D 2 6-17-2013

One observer had never been there and was amazed at the wonder of the forest. No one could understand why 1600 trees should be cut down and the others more made vulnerable to wind-throw.  Instead SF Recreation & Parks Department  has plans for tree-felling, habitat destruction, and a vastly increased use of toxic pesticides under the “Natural Areas Program.”

Mt D 3 6-17-2013

Even the (native) Pacific Reed Grass growing there – that’s a native plant – is a forest species, and thrives in the shade and moisture of the eucalyptus. Nature is opportunistic, and native and exotic species are part of a web of life that’s adapted to the conditions of this site. Non-native plants have added bio-diversity; according to Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, California now has 25% more plant species than it had before.

Forests Store Carbon and Fight Climate Change

HillSideViewClimate change is upon us. Recently, we crossed the threshold of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere – higher than at any time since humans populated our planet.

Aside from reducing carbon emissions, trees are the only way to fight climate change. They pull carbon dioxide from the air and store the carbon in their wood, roots, and the soil around them. But instead of planting trees, Native Plant interests are trying to fell trees to recreate a different ecosystem of shrubs and grasses. Multiple projects now threaten our Bay Area trees, with different rationales but the same underlying objective – native plants.

San Francisco’s Natural Areas program may fell 18,500 trees; the Sutro Forest project – 30,000 trees; the East Bay Hills projects – 500,000 trees. In addition, SFRPD is felling hundreds of trees in Golden Gate Park as ‘urban forestry’ and there’s the ‘normal’ destruction of trees for construction and similar purposes.

For this reason, we think the article below – reprinted with permission from Death of a Million Trees – is extremely important.


We believe that addressing climate change should be our highest environmental priority because it is the cause of many environmental problems. For example, a recent study found that changes in climate accounted for over half of the significant changes in vegetation all over the world in the past 30 years: “The climate governs the seasonal activity of vegetation…In humid mid-latitudes temperature is the largest influencing factor in plant growth. In predominantly dry areas, however, it is the availability of water and in the high altitudes incident solar radiation.” (1) Animals are affected by both changes in vegetation and climate, as exemplified by the shrinking home of the polar bear as Arctic ice melts.

The consensus amongst scientists is that increases in greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of climate change and carbon dioxide is the predominant greenhouse gas. Although the burning of fossil fuels is often considered the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, in fact transportation is responsible for only 10% of emissions. In contrast, deforestation is contributing 20% of greenhouse gas emissions because trees store carbon as they grow and release it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when the tree is destroyed. For that reason—and many others– we are opposed to the destruction of our urban forest.

Mount Sutro Forest is threatened with destruction because it is noy native.  Courtesy Save Sutro Forest.

Mount Sutro Forest is threatened with destruction because it is not native. Courtesy Save Sutro Forest.

Because our urban forest is predominantly non-native, native plant advocates are committed to defending the projects that are destroying the urban forest, which puts them in the awkward position of claiming that its destruction will not contribute to climate change. Here are a few of the arguments used by native plant advocates and the scientific evidence that those arguments are fallacious:

  • Since the native landscape in the Bay Area is grassland and scrub, native plant advocates often claim that these landscapes store more carbon than trees. In fact, trees store far more carbon than the native landscape because carbon storage is largely proportional to biomass. In other words, the bigger the plant, the more carbon it is capable of storing. (Carbon storage in plants and soils is explained in detail here.)
  • In the Draft Environmental Impact Report for San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program, native plant advocates claimed that destroying the forest and restoring grassland would lower ground temperatures based on a scientific study about the arctic north at latitudes above 50°. In fact, the point of that study was that snow reflects more light than trees. The Bay Area is far below 50° latitude and it doesn’t snow here, so that study is irrelevant to the Bay Area. (That study and its misuse by native plant advocates are reported here.)
  • Since most of the urban forest in the Bay Area was planted over 100 years ago, native plant advocates often claim that only young trees store carbon. Since carbon storage is largely proportional to biomass, mature trees store more carbon than small young trees. That is illustrated by this graph from the US Forest Service survey of San Francisco’s urban forest.
Larger trees store  more carbon at a faster rate

Larger trees store more carbon at a faster rate

  • The claim that young trees store more carbon is often made in connection with the equally bogus claim that “restoration” projects in the Bay Area will replace non-native trees with native trees. None of the plans for these projects propose to plant native trees where non-native trees are destroyed because that wasn’t the native landscape. In any case, native trees don’t tolerate the windy, dry conditions in which non-native trees are growing. For example, a study of historic vegetation in Oakland, California reported that only 2% of pre-settlement Oakland was forested with trees. (2)


Now that science has established the reality of climate change, most scientific inquiry has turned to how to stop it and/or mitigate it. For example, a recent study reports that planting forests where they did not exist in the past, quickly stores far more carbon in the soil than the treeless landscape. Scientists “…looked at lands previously used for surface mining and other industrial uses, former agricultural lands, and native grasslands where forests have encroached….[they] found that, in general, growing trees on formerly non-forested land increases soil carbon.” (3)

Here are their specific findings on each type of previously non-forested land:

  • “On a post-mining landscape, the amount of soil carbon generally doubled within 20 years and continued to double after that every decade or so.”
  • “The changes after cultivation of farm fields was abandoned and trees became established are much subtler, but still significant…at the end of a century’s time, the amount of soil carbon averages 15 percent higher than when the land was under cultivation…”
  • In places where trees and shrubs have encroached into native grassland, soil carbon increased 31 percent after several decades…”

Mainstream environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club claim to be concerned about climate change, yet they are the driving force behind the destruction of the urban forest in the San Francisco Bay Area. When will they wake up to the fact that advocating for the destruction of the urban forest is irresponsible for an environmental organization in the age of climate change?


(1) “A Look at the World Explains 90 Percent of Changes in Vegetation,” Science Daily, April 22, 2013.

(2) Nowak, David, “Historical vegetation change in Oakland and its implications for urban forest management,” Journal of Arboriculture, 19(5): September 1993

(3) “Soils in Newly Forested Areas Store Substantial Carbon That Could Help Offset Climate Change,” Science Daily, April 4, 2013.

Spinning the Bee-Tree Fiasco

We received this letter from Scott Mattoon, a bee advocate who is concerned not just by the killing of the bee tree in Glen Canyon Park’s Natural Areas, but by the reaction of San Francisco Recreation and Parks. If, like us,  you were expecting a heartfelt apology – as when the first bee-hive was killed – it didn’t happen. Instead, there’s spin. We publish the letter below with his permission.


Rec & Park recently posted an update to their website on the Glen Canyon renovation that I found rather disturbing.

[That link is HERE: Glen Canyon Park Renovation: Progress update – work proceeding…]

In reference to the plan to preserve the colony of honeybees living in the trunk of a ponderosa pine originally designated for removal, Rec & Park claimed that “the bees … have been preserved“.  That’s an interesting spin on what I would describe as a fiasco and careless blunder.  The vast majority of that colony died, and with it the likelihood of propagation this year.  Rec & Park’s contractor, DeKay, mistakenly cut the trunk at a height of 5 feet, despite an agreement  with Rec & Park to cut it at 20 feet.  They cut right into the top combs of the colony’s nest, and split the trunk open in the process, leaving the entire nest of this majestic old honeybee colony exposed.

red arrow on bee tree (Photo - Scott Mattoon)

If not for the perseverance, vigilance, stewardship, and expertise of two local residents, the colony would have certainly been lost completely.  In particular, I commend Karen Peteros for rescuing the queen and a small retinue of nurse bees, and hiving them in another part of the city.  We hope they will pull through.

Before the cutting began, I was impressed with Rec & Park’s willingness to work with myself and Karen to come up with a plan to save these bees.  It felt like we had a true partnership in the making, and that Rec & Park recognized the importance of preserving these bees, especially since their department had recklessly exterminated another colony of honeybees in the vicinity less than two years earlier.

[Webmaster: For a link to a report on that unfortunate event, go HERE: When the First Glen Canyon Beehive Was Killed]

It’s easy to assume that losing a colony of bees from the park will have no significant effect on the health or recreational value of the surrounds – just the flap of a butterfly’s wings.   But the loss of confidence in Rec & Park’s ability to effectively manage contractors, to coordinate with residents, and to accept responsibility for mistakes is significant for me and others who followed this story.  It was an opportunity for collaboration and for preservation of a natural resource squandered.


exposed hive with bees (Photo- Scott Mattoon)

Alma Hecht, Certified Arborist: Saving the Trees

This is a 5-minute talk from Alma Hecht, Certified Arborist. She gave it at an SF Forest Alliance meeting in Glen Canyon Park before the Elk Street entrance trees were cut down. The trees are gone; the talk still matters. More trees are threatened in every park and wild land across the city.

Glen Park Trees – Week 2-4: The tree-felling goes on

Almost all the trees around the Recreation Center are gone now. The Elk Street entrance is bare. The felling continues. At least the bee-hive tree has been saved as a stump; let’s hope the bees agree. [Edited to Add: Unfortunately, the bee hive was destroyed.]

Here’s a video for week 2, courtesy Ron Proctor:

Edited to Add:  And here is  Ron’s video for weeks 3 and 4.


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