Glen Canyon with Stairs and Coyote

This is one of our “park visitor” series – first person accounts of our parks, published with permission.

Escher's_Relativity

Source: Wikipedia (fair use)

It was dusk when I climbed down into Glen Canyon from the Christopher Playground. It’s been some months since I visited it last, and I was saddened by the changes stemming from SF Recreation and Parks “trails” project.

All the hillside trails have been made into staircases.  It reminded me of a drawing by Escher: they’re nearly as as difficult to walk. The risers of the box steps are high and the pitch not suited to everyone. Tiring and hard on the knees, and so it will effectively restrict access to many people.

COYOTE…

But then a coyote came out of the bushes. I was delighted, though not surprised.  Coyotes inhabit most of the city now, and the park has coyote-spotting signs up at the Christopher playground. But what followed was a surprise (to me, anyway!)

The park is surrounded by urban areas, and an emergency vehicle was racing by on the street above, siren wailing. “Watch,” said my companion. “He’s going to howl with the siren.” And sure enough – the little coyote raised his muzzle to the sky, gave a few barks, and then howled along with the siren.

I managed to get a blurry photograph. coyote howlingA few dogs from nearby homes responded with a woof or two, but they weren’t serious. The siren-coyote duet continued until the vehicle raced away and the sound faded. The coyote sat down, convinced, I thought, that it had told off the intruder into its territory and announced who really occupied this space.

The dusk deepened, and this magical moment was broken by  flights of mosquitoes. I’ve been to Glen Canyon many times over many years, and these are a new thing for me. Wonder if it’s anything to do with the Islais Creek – and the felling of the bat trees.

Lawsuit to Block Funding for East Bay Deforestation

lake-chabot cropped Photo credit MillionTrees dot meThe new Plan to cut down hundreds of thousands of trees in the East Bay hills of the San Francisco Bay Area  is as bad as the previous one. (See: East Bay Trees to be Destroyed.) Trees fight climate change, and removing these trees will negative environmental impacts. It will also increase fire hazard.

Now, the Hills Conservation Network is suing to stop the funding for this destruction of the trees. The article below is republished with permission and minor changes from Death of a Million Trees, which fights unnecessary tree-destruction.

———————

HILLS CONSERVATION NETWORK FILES SUIT TO STOP FEMA GRANTS IN EAST BAY HILLS

Ten years after UC Berkeley, City of Oakland, and East Bay Regional Park District applied for FEMA grants to fund the destruction of hundreds of thousands of non-native trees on 1,000 acres of public open space, FEMA announced its final decision on Thursday, March 5, 2015.

FEMA’s announcement of that final decision, which was sent to those who commented on the draft plans, implied that the projects had been revised to be less destructive. In fact, those who take the time to read the final version of the plans will learn that the original plans are fundamentally unchanged in the final version. East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) will destroy about 90% of the trees in its project area, as originally planned. “Thinning” is not an accurate description of EBRPD’s project. UC Berkeley (UCB) and City of Oakland will destroy 100% of all non-native trees on their project properties.

On a small portion of UCB and Oakland property (29 of 460 acres), tree removals will be phased over the 10-year project period. In other words, the final version of these projects will destroy as many trees as originally proposed by the grant applicants. However, FEMA has refused to fund tree removals on Frowning Ridge (185 acres) because UC Berkeley removed hundreds of trees there before the Environmental Impact Statement was complete, in violation of FEMA policy.

UC Berkeley destroyed hundreds of trees on Frowning Ridge in August 2014, before the Environmental Impact Statement was complete.

UC Berkeley destroyed hundreds of trees on Frowning Ridge in August 2014, before the Environmental Impact Statement was complete.

The Hills Conservation Network (HCN) filed suit to prevent the funding and implementation of these projects on March 6, 2015. Below is the press release announcing HCN’s suit. Please contact the Hills Conservation Network if you wish to contribute to the cost of this suit: http://www.hillsconservationnetwork.org/HillsConservation3/Blog/Blog.html or email inquiries@hillsconservationnetwork.org


Hills Conservation Network

Preserving the East Bay Hills

March 6, 2015

For Immediate Release

HCN announces lawsuit against FEMA EIS

Today the Hills Conservation Network, an Oakland, CA based environmental non-­‐profit, filed suit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also naming the Regents of the University of California, the City of Oakland, and East Bay Regional Park District in the suit.

The suit was filed in opposition to the Record of Decision released March 5, 2015 finalizing FEMA’s decision to award approximately $7.5 million in fire risk mitigation grants. The suit contends that the Environmental Impact Study used as part of the grant process was significantly flawed, and as such cannot be used to justify awarding these funds.

The lawsuit argues that FEMA did not consider a reasonable range of alternatives and reached unsupportable conclusions in deciding to allow the three agencies named in the suit to remove large numbers of healthy trees, with the goal of eradicating certain species of non-­‐native trees (acacia, Monterey pine, eucalyptus) by the end of ten years. HCN proposed a more nuanced approach that would have resulted in higher levels of fire risk mitigation at a much lower cost and with far less environmental damage than the current plan that calls for the removal of well in excess of 100,000 healthy trees that provide shade canopy (preventing the growth of highly flammable weeds) as well as storing tons of carbon that contribute to the greenhouse gases warming our planet.

This step marks the latest chapter in this process that began in 2005. During the Draft EIS review in 2013 approximately 13,000 comment letters were received by FEMA, 90% of them opposed to the proposed projects. In response to this public outcry FEMA reworked the EIS, and while the Final EIS is somewhat less destructive than the Draft EIS, it essentially calls for the same level of environmental damage, but over a longer time period.

The Hills Conservation Network is an Oakland, California based 501c3 comprised of residents of the Oakland hills that were directly affected by the 1991 fire. Several members of the group lost their homes in this conflagration and have committed themselves to driving change in Oakland to ensure that similar events never happen again. Members of HCN have been involved in the Grand Jury investigation of the ’91 fire and in developing enhanced emergency response capabilities in Oakland. Please direct inquiries to Dan Grassetti at 510-­‐849-­‐2601.

################

Restricting Access to San Francisco’s Parks

snramp sign STAY ON THE TRAILAccess to our parks and especially our Natural Areas is one of our key concerns with the Natural Areas Program – and the values that underlie it, now being spread to all open lands. (Click here for our article on Natural Areas Program restricts access.)

Sadly, despite a deluge of phone-calls and emails from all of you, the Supervisors did pass the ROSE Policy 4.2 which will extend the same thinking to all open areas. The Biodiversity Plan is intended to document all the areas in the city where native vegetation could grow – and hopes to extend the Plan to all those areas.

MORE RESTRICTIONS

Recently, it seems that San Francisco Recreation and Parks found money to pay for a whole host of new restrictive signs. They’re even worse than the old ones.

We’ve heard the most complaints from McLaren Park, where besides restricting people to trails, they have prohibited bicycles and tree climbing.

mclaren park 2 sign 2015

mclaren park sign 3a 2015

THOU SHALT NOT…

SFRPD logo1The sign starts with “San Francisco Recreation and Parks welcomes you” and then goes on to tell you just how unwelcome you are. What you can’t do:

  • Go off the trails. If your kids want to explore or run around, or you want to picnic on the ground –  better not go to a park.
  • Ride your bicycle. There’s a flat prohibition: “No Bicycles.” If you were one of the bike-rider volunteers who thought you were building trails that you and your family could use – nope.
  • Off leash dogs. Doesn’t matter if they’re well-behaved or that dogs need a place to run around. Not here.
  • Climb trees. If your kid wants to clamber up a tree that looks made for climbing – well, we have climbing structures for that.
  • Tie a swing on a tree.Affixing items to trees is prohibited.” The only tree-swing SFRPD is okay with is on their logo.
  • Pick flowers or mushrooms or interesting leaves. “Gathering vegetation is prohibited.”
park with non-native tree and off-trail recreation

Prohibited activity – picnic

ALIENATING OUR KIDS FROM NATURE

muddy kid

Not permitted

We’re sympathetic with the bike-riders who put in all those volunteer hours and now have been evicted from the trails. But we’re even more concerned about the kids (who may also be bike-riders).

Most kids don’t like hiking along a trail and just looking at stuff. If we want them to enjoy the outdoors and care about the parks, they need to explore. How many of us got hooked on nature climbing trees, chasing butterflies, wading in ponds or streams or puddles, picking flowers, throwing rocks into streams, feeding ducks and other birds, building forts, tying swings to trees?

All these activities are prohibited.

Those little screens everyone complains kids are hooked on these days? They have one major advantage over our parks – you can interact with them.

If you have a car and can drive out to actual wild lands – or if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard with a tree the kids can climb, and can put out a bird-feeder at home – you can provide your kids with some of these experiences. If you live in an apartment, these parks are your backyard. And you can’t do any of these things.

Tree 22 with kids

They’re not allowed. And this tree has been cut down.

You can’t say, “Let’s go to Stow Lake and feed the ducks” – that’s prohibited. You can say, “Let’s go to Stow Lake and look at the ducks” but first, that’s a lot less appealing to a child, and second, once feeding stops, all you see are not-very-many birds swimming along at a distance. In some cultures, feeding ducks and fish and turtles has a significance beyond just bonding with animals… but too bad.

There are thousands of kids in our city who are learning that parks are mostly about not being allowed to do anything interesting.

notice satire

Satire that’s dangerously close to the truth

 

Two Cheers for NAP’s Herbicide Use in 2014

[Note: This article has been edited to add a section on dead birds near Kezar Stadium.]

NAP Herbicide use by active ingredient 2014We’ve been following the use of hazardous herbicides by the Natural Areas Program (NAP) for some years now – and it’s been rising steadily. We recently compiled the data for 2014. For the first time since 2009, 2010, NAP’s use of Tier I and Tier II herbicides actually declined. (San Francisco’s Department of the Environment – SFDOE – sorts acceptable herbicides into three tiers. Tier III is Least Hazardous; Tier II, More Hazardous; and Tier I, Most Hazardous.) It’s even below 2010 levels, though considerably higher than 2009. We consider this an encouraging development.

The main herbicides NAP uses are:

  • Garlon 4 Ultra (triclopyr),
  • Stalker (imazapyr)
  • Aquamaster, also called Roundup Custom (Glyphosate)
  • Milestone VM (Aminopyralid)

Garlon is Tier I, and the other three are Tier II. NAP uses no Tier III herbicides. All these herbicides have downsides, but Garlon is the most problematic. SFDOE considers it a ‘high priority to find an alternative.’ Why?

  • Risks to humans – and the risk to women of child-bearing age is 20 times higher than to men
  • Risks to birds – relatively small amounts can reduce birds’ breeding success
  • Risk to animals – dogs may be especially sensitive to Garlon because their kidneys take longer to process the chemical.
  • Persistence – it can remain in the soil for years.

In 2008, Marin Municipal Water Department made a thorough review of several pesticides. The triclopyr chapter chapter from their draft report is linked here: Chap4_Triclopyr_8_27_08

A presentation from the California Invasive Plant Council (which supports the use of herbicides) has an interesting assessment of risk factors for various herbicides – including triclopyr. It’s linked here: Law_Johnson 2014 presentation toxicity

McLaren Park's Flowered Grassland and Forest

McLaren Park’s Flowered Grassland and Forest

The Natural Areas program is still the largest user of  Tier I herbicides in the SFRPD, (with one exception we’ll discuss below). It’s mainly Garlon used on oxalis, the yellow-flowering plant that covers San Francisco hillsides in spring, and which they consider an invasive non-native plant (together with about 35 species of plants, including fennel).

Oxalis flowers early and spectacularly in Spring, providing abundant nectar to bees, butterflies and other insects. It then dies back, making way for other plants. In any case, knocking back the oxalis merely opens the niche to the next most adapted plant, most likely also non-native, to expand into the vacated area.

OTHER MEASURES OF HERBICIDE USE

number of herbicide applications by NAP 2014The first graphs showed a comparison based in the volume of the active ingredient, which is the metric the Department of the Environment prefers. This second graph show NAP’s herbicide use in terms of number of applications (which is a proxy measure of breadth of exposure to the herbicides). The number of applications in 2014 rose slightly from 2013, but not close to the 7-year high in 2012.

NAP herbicide applications by volume 2014The third graph shows the volume of herbicides used (which includes both the active ingredient and the so-called ‘inert’ compounds that are not always in fact inert). Here too NAP has reduced its usage in 2014. By this measure, NAP still hasn’t dropped back to 2010 levels, mainly reflecting the changed product mix with less Garlon in 2014.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER SFRPD

In 2013, NAP used nearly as much herbicide as all of the rest of SFRPD put together. (We exclude Harding Golf Course, which is managed by the PGA Tour under contract and not by SFRPD.)

In 2014, NAP actually used a lot less herbicide than SFRPD. (Not as low as the 4% quoted by Mr Ginsberg, but only 26%. Since NAP has about a quarter of the total acreage owned by SFRPD within the city, this is more or less in line with the rest of the park.)

SFRPD overall (ex NAP and ex Harding) used a lot more herbicide than in 2014 than in 2013. Here’s why:

  • A mistake in Gleneagles.  In March 2014, Gleneagles golf course used a huge amount of triclopyr (512 fl ounces), while its normal usage is little or nothing. In fact, except for NAP, triclopyr is little used by SFRPD. Gleneagles also used 36 fl oz of Sapphire, a golf-specific product that is supposed only to be used when getting ready for a tournament. At the annual pesticide review meeting, SFRPD’s Integrated Pest Management Coordinator confirmed that it was a mistake by an outside contractor.
  • Kezar Stadium soccer field’s new herbicide. Kezar Stadium used Drive XLR8 (quinclorac) on the soccer field in November and December 2014.  This required an exception, because it’s not approved for use on city-owned property. The stadium was closed for three months, so SFDoE considered the risk acceptable. We wondered why, if the stadium was closed, they could not just plow the thing under and start anew, but apparently that would be a capital budget issue. We hope these kinds of questions do get asked somewhere in SFRPD. Coincidentally, Golden Gate Audubon reported a number of dead birds showing up in the area, but Drive XLR8 is not considered especially toxic to birds and there’s no indication the two things are related. [Edited to Add: Actually, they may be related. See section at the end.] Anyway, Chris Geiger of SFDOE confirmed Drive XLR8 was a Tier I pesticide that would not be moved on to the approved list; this usage was a one-off.

Adjusted for the two incidents above, SFRPD reduced its non-NAP herbicide use by about 20% from 2013 to 2014. In fact, its usage this year was below NAP’s herbicide usage for 2013, and it used only a tiny amount of Tier I herbicide. But for exceptional incidents like the ones described about, NAP remains the single largest user of Tier I herbicides in SFRPD.

NAP vs other SFRPD 2014 n 2013

We applaud NAP’s reduction of herbicide use in 2014, and call for it to eliminate use of all Tier I and Tier II herbicides.

DEAD ROBINS NEAR KEZAR

[This section was added 22 Feb 2015.]

As we mentioned above, there were reports of dead birds around Kezar Stadium. We learned that they were mostly robins (but Golden Gate Audubon also mentioned blackbirds and sparrows), and the person who found them spotted several dead birds where ordinarily even one is unusual. We assumed that the relationship with the Drive XLR8 used on the turf was unrelated, because our research indicated no especial threat to birds.

But further investigation suggest that the problem chemical could be not the active ingredient, but ethylene glycol used in the formulation. Ethylene glycol is better known as anti-freeze, and it’s toxic to mammals and birds. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says the following on its “Consultant” website:

“Ethylene glycol, antifreeze, toxicity is often fatal in birds. Oxalate crystals are found in renal tissue at necropsy.” It lists the signs, which include sudden death: “Anorexia, Ataxia, Diarrhea, Dullness, Dysmetria, Neck weakness, Seizures or syncope, Sudden death, Torticollis, Trembling, Tremor.”

Robins love digging in the grass for worms and such, and with the stadium closed they would have had undisturbed access. If the worms on the field were poisoned by ethylene glycol, so would the robins.  There’s no way to tell for sure, because as far as we know none of the dead birds was kept for a necropsy (like an autopsy for animals).

But anyway, the good news is that the Department of the Environment does not plan to use this product again.

 

 

 

Over 1700 Signatures to the Mayor!

Fairytale forest on Mt Davidson

Our supporters will recall that last year, we ran an online signature campaign specifically addressed to Mayor Lee, asking him to:

Stop NAP from destroying trees and thickets, spraying dangerous herbicides, disrupting healthy ecosystems that support hundreds of species, and restricting access to our city parks.

twin peaks - jan 2015 - imazapyr and garlon for poison oak cotoneaster oxalis

Stalker and Garlon on Twin Peaks – Jan 2015

NAP is the Natural Areas Program under San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department.  It is essentially a “native plant program.” It prioritizes native plant introduction (using the dog-whistle term “biodiversity”) over other values, whether environmental, ecosystem services, or recreational.

We had learned the Mayor’s office would respond to petitions directed to him via Change.org. That petition got over 1700 signatures, and is now closed.

However, our ongoing petition continues, and if you have not signed it, please do? (It currently has 1500 signatures as people shifted their focus to the newer petition.)

Stop NAP buttonWe need to keep sending the message that people want public parks preserved for the public, with trees, trails and no toxins.

Wishing You All a Good 2015!

The year end 2014 marked the third full year for this site, which was started in December of 2011. Now we’re well into the beginning of 2015 and the continuing fight to save our forests and natural spaces for the sake of the environment and for families who visit these places.

We’d like to wish all our readers a great year ahead by reprising these children’s drawings that we first posted in January 2014.

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

Whoos For Us? – Tacy Prins Woodlief

no-more-homeless-owls sm

No More Homeless Owls – Blake Bogert

poisoned-water

Poisoned Water – Ayumi Beeler

East Bay Trees to be Destroyed – How You Can Help

Our readers may recall that an extremely destructive project is planned for Berkeley and the East Bay Hills of the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s going to fell nearly half a million trees. The land managers sought Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding for this project, and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was published. We wrote about this project HERE.

The good news is that people responded: There were around 13,000 comments on the draft EIS. The bad news is that the Final EIS, released recently, is not a significant improvement. It will still destroy hundreds of thousands of trees, increase fire hazard, destabilize slopes, and use huge amounts of herbicide.

The fight to save the trees and environment is not over. We ask you to support the Hills Conservation Network, which is spearheading the effort.

The article below is republished with permission and minor changes from Death of a Million Trees, which fights unnecessary tree-destruction.

FINAL EIS FOR FEMA PROJECTS IN THE EAST BAY IS NOT AN IMPROVEMENT!

On December 1, 2014, FEMA published the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the projects in the East Bay Hills which propose to destroy hundreds of thousands of non-native trees. FEMA’s email announcement of the publication of the EIS implied that the projects had been revised. Two of the agencies applying for FEMA grants—UC Berkeley and City of Oakland—had originally proposed to destroy all non-native trees on their properties. The third agency –East Bay Regional Parks District—had proposed to thin non-native trees in most areas and destroy all in a few areas. FEMA’s email announcement of the final EIS implied that both UC Berkeley and City of Oakland would be required to use the same “thinning” strategy as East Bay Regional Parks District.

After reading the final EIS, the Hills Conservation Network (HCN) is reporting that FEMA’s email announcement was rather misleading. In fact, both UC Berkeley and City of Oakland will be allowed to destroy all non-native trees on their properties. In a small sub-section (28.5 acres) of their total project acres (406.2 acres), UC Berkeley and City of Oakland are being asked by FEMA to destroy the trees more slowly than originally planned. However, they will all be destroyed by the end of the 10 year project period.

HCN has analyzed the EIS and consulted legal counsel. The following is HCN’s assessment of the EIS and their plans to respond to FEMA. We publish HCN’s assessment with their permission. Note that HCN is asking the public to send comments to FEMA and they are raising funds to prepare for a potential legal suit.

HCN LETTER

“After having reviewed the Final EIS in depth and having consulted with various stakeholders, HCN has concluded that the Final EIS, in spite of FEMA’s efforts to improve it from the Draft version, remains unacceptable.

“While FEMA has made some modifications to portions of the EIS in response to the enormous number of comments submitted last year [more than 13,000], the fact remains that if implemented in their current form, these projects would remove essentially all of the eucalyptus, pines, and acacias from the subject area. While for portions of the area FEMA is now proposing that there be a phased removal of these species, the fact remains that the objective is ultimately to convert the current moist and verdant ecosystem into one dominated by grasses, shrubs, and some smaller trees. This will forever alter the character of these hills that so many of us have grown up with, know and love.

“But worse than that, these projects would actually increase fire risk, destabilize hillsides, cause immense loss of habitat, release significant amounts of sequestered greenhouse gases, and require the use of extraordinary amounts of herbicides over a large area for at least a decade.

“Additionally, by preemptively clearcutting 7 acres of Frowning Ridge in August of this year, UC not only made a clear violation of FEMA rules but also essentially negated the accuracy and relevance of the EIS. While FEMA acknowledges this in the EIS, they still want to move forward with a document that may no longer accurately reflect the reality of the current environment, the cumulative impacts of these projects, and any of the other factors that underpin the EIS process.

“For these reasons, HCN will be submitting a comment letter to FEMA asking that the EIS be pulled back, reworked, and recirculated….at a minimum. Additionally, we are currently exploring legal options should the EIS be finally released on January 5, 2015 in its current form. One way or another, we are committed to ensuring that the will of a small number of influential people doesn’t result in the loss of a treasured resource to the vast majority of us (both human and other).

We ask your support in sending additional comment letters to FEMA [ebh-eis@fema.dhs.gov] and most importantly that you consider making a tax-deductible contribution to HCN. While we wish we did not have to do this, the fact is that the only way we can have a shot at preventing this irreparable harm from happening is by hiring lawyers, and that is what we will do. This takes money, so please do what you can either by sending a check to HCN at P.O. Box 5426, Berkeley, CA 94705 or by making a donation through our website at http://hillsconservationnetwork.org/HillsConservation3/Support_HCN.html.

“Thanks again for all your support,

“Hills Conservation Network”

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