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.


The Logic of Ecological Change

Recently, UC Davis Professor Art Shapiro gave a talk at the Commonwealth Club.  It was a tour-de-force. He described it as a very quick resume of a course he’s been teaching for 40 years at UC Davis.

The takeaway: The conventional wisdom about ecology is often wrong.


eco-jigsaw2Nativists idealize an ecosystem as a community of plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms that have evolved together over many thousands of years in a particular place so that they fit like a complicated jigsaw – the balance of Nature. (We’ve heard them use phrases such as “lock and key” to describe the effect of this co-evolution.) When non-native and invasive species enter, nativists believe, they destroy this intricate mechanism, resulting in an impoverished and simplified ecosystem with fewer species and no natural balance – and even the dire possibility of ecosystem collapse. They talk in terms of plants and animals that “shouldn’t be there” – usually, immigrant species brought in by humans.

But it’s not often true. What the scientific data show is that “communities” of that interdependent kind are unusual. Instead, most ecosystems are groups of plants and animals that happen to be in a place where they can thrive. When they interact, it’s usually because of “ecological fitting” – they can use the other plants and animals in that area to help them survive. Depending on how ancient they are, communities may include tightly co-evolved mutually interdependent multispecies systems. But these make up only a fraction of the community as a whole.

Anise swallowtail butterfly breeds on fennel

Anise swallowtail butterfly breeds on fennel

Here’s the evidence against the concept of tight-knit interdependent “communities”:

1. There’s no functional difference between a heritage ecosystem and one with exotic species. If there was, scientists should be able to tell an undisturbed “community” from an invaded one without knowing its history. In fact, they can’t. There are no consistent  functional differences once an “invading” species has been established. Some ‘invaders’ can drastically transform the systems they enter – an example is cheatgrass in the Western deserts, which greatly amplified fire risk there. But most do nothing of the sort.

2. Species recolonize open land at different rates.Species move, communities don’t.” If a landscape is wiped clean – say by glaciers or a volcanic eruption – nature begins to move back in almost immediately. The pollen record allows scientists to understand which species of trees arrived at which time. It shows that tree-species move individually, not as communities.

3. Species that now don’t exist in the same place did so in the past, which would not be true if plants and animals normally lived in fixed communities. One example: the wood turtle and the southern toad are not found in the same areas now – but the fossil record shows that in the past, the ranges did overlap. This couldn’t have happened if they needed to be part of different communities. Vast areas were occupied in the past by “no-analogue” communities – ones that simply don’t exist anywhere at all today.

He ended by pointing out that we – humans – are an invasive species. So are most things, at least at one time.

Read on for detailed notes from Professor Shapiro’s talk at the Commonwealth Club.



(The talk was dedicated to Prof Shapiro’s late neighbor, Steven Warnock.)

commonwealth club motto

Commonwealth Club motto

The talk was in three parts: The first laid out the historic context for two opposing schools of thought about ecology. The second examined the data, and concluded that the evidence supports Gleason. The third part looked at the future, which includes climate change.


Here’s the conventional wisdom about ecology, associated with Frederic Clements: Plants, animals, insects, fungi and microscopic creatures form interdependent groups, or “communities.” The process by which this happens is “co-evolution” (sometimes described as evolving a “lock and key”), leading to an ecology where all the species fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. (“Co-evolution” is associated with Peter Raven and Paul Ehrlich, who described it in butterflies and plants that evolved together.) If an area is disturbed, it will go through a predictable process of “natural succession” that will lead to a stable “climax” situation, with all its species again interacting as a community.

This stable ecosystem is sometimes called “the balance of nature.” Tamper with  it, this theory says,  and you could destabilize the whole community, even leading to ecological collapse.

assemblageThe opposing view, associated with Henry Gleason, is that plants and animals do not necessarily form ecological communities. Instead, groupings or “assemblages” of plants and animals occur mainly by accident. They happen to arrive in that space at that time, and find conditions that allow them to survive and thrive. The species in such an assemblage will interact, not because they co-evolved, but because they find an opportunity to do so.

These theories about how species fit within an ecosystem were quantified when several ecologists – including the famous Robert McArthur – introduced mathematical models that looked at populations of plants and animals and their interactions. They used these models to look at Species Packing – i.e., how many different species of plants and animals could live in a particular ecosystem.  Assembly rules says that the distribution of plant and animals species in a given area isn’t random: both competition and cooperation between plants and animals affect what you find. Competing species can’t all live in the same area, but their niches can overlap. Where they do overlap, the two species may evolve more differences (“character displacement“) so they compete less. These mathematical models assumed a condition of equilibrium, i.e. stability. Opponents have argued that ecological niches are seldom stable because the physical environment is not stable for very long.

R.H. Whittaker introduced the idea that the levels of dependency could vary within communities. For any two species, you could assign a number: +1 meant that the species needed each other to survive; -1 meant that they could not live in the same space.  He speculated  that these relationships tended to be distributed in a bell curve – meaning that most species in a group didn’t depend on the presence or absence of another species. But some subsets of the community were tightly integrated.

How adaptable are living things? They can evolve, but only in certain ways.  Niche conservatism is the idea that most species cannot change very much or very fast in response to changes in their ecological niches.

The idea of co-evolution was fine-tuned with John Thompson’s concept of Geographic Mosaics. Co-evolution between two species can happen differently in different  geographic areas. So, for example, a plant in one place might depend totally on one insect for pollination, but elsewhere, the same species of plant might find alternative pollinators available. Such Fine-Tuning is the opposite of Niche Conservatism – and both occur in Nature.


Cladistics (i.e., the system of showing how related species evolved from common ancestors) provided a way to test the Ehrlich-Raven co-evolution hypothesis. If one kind of animal or plant developed into a separate species (“speciation”) then did the plants and animals depending on it also co-evolve into a separate species? There was no evidence that this happened. Co-evolution was a lot sloppier and more unpredictable than that!

Every time you see two organisms working together, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are co-evolved. Dan Janzen, a great tropical ecologis, pointed out that organisms could be taking advantage of niches and resources that appear through  Ecological fitting, with no history of coevolution at all. We see this happen when introduced pests attack native plants, and native insects attack introduced plants, forming brand-new associations. It happens all the time.

pacific reed grass under eucalyptus

Pacific reed grass thrives in eucalyptus fog drip

Is there really a difference between “intact” ecosystems and ones that are disturbed or invaded? Mark Sagoff pointed out that if there really is a functional difference between “invaded” and “co-evolved” ecosystems, then scientists should be able to tell them apart without knowing their history.

“The theory that evolutionary processes structure ecosystems and endow them with a mathematical organization (e.g., rule-governed patterns that ecologists can study) has the following implication….scientists should be able to tell by observation whether a given ecosystem is heavily invaded or remains in mint condition…

“In fact, once non-native species have become established, which may take only a short time, ecologists are unable by observing a system to tell whether or not a given site has been heavily invaded. Invaded and heirloom systems do not differ in pattern or process, structure or function, in any general ways.”

There’s more evidence against the idea of stable interdependent communities as the norm in nature. For example: pollen core data shows that trees recolonizing lands after glaciation don’t move in “communities.” The tree species migrate at different rates. Only those species that have mutualistic relationships move together (for example, mycorrhizae and trees).

WoodTurtle public domain Ltshears sm“Communities” are like still shots from a movie. They show a set of relationships at a particular point in time. That doesn’t mean the relationships are stable or unchanging. Many species show different sets of relationships in the past. For instance: at present, the wood turtle and the southern toad have completely different ranges – but in the past, those ranges overlapped in places. In the UK, workers building Hadrian’s Wall nearly 2000 years ago left middens that have remains of beetles of species now found only in Lapland.  When an event that wipes out an ecosystem and recolonization starts, it takes trees 50-100 years to leave a pollen signature. Bufo_terrestris public domain Norman Benton smBeetles that can fly get there in  months to a few years.

If communities were stable groupings of interdependent co-evolved species, then we would expect to see the same communities repeated in similar conditions. But in fact, we often see different groupings in similar conditions.


Decisions about what ecosystems should look like are subject to human preferences. For most people, what they grew up with is “normal.” But the world has changed. The climate is changing.  The pool of available species has increased enormously. In terms of trying to “restore” an earlier ecosystem – there’s no going back.

The Natural Areas Program and Pesticide Use

Pesticide Application Notice - Mt Davidson (Nov 14 and 15th, 2013)

Pesticide Application Notice – Mt Davidson (Nov 14 and 15th, 2013)

We recently received a response from Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) , to our concerns regarding the “Natural Areas Program”  (NAP). We thank him for the detailed response, but we still have a number of points of disagreement.

One of them is herbicide use. His letter states, “As a percentage of our overall total, herbicide usage in the Natural Areas comprises only 4%.”

As readers of this website know, that’s very different from our own analysis. We find that NAP uses nearly as much of the ‘Most Hazardous’ and ‘More Hazardous’ herbicide as the rest of SFRPD (ex Harding Golf Course).

And the discrepancy is the more surprising since the source documents are the same – the Monthly Pesticide Use Reports each section submits.

The graph below compares NAP and other SFRPD (ex Harding Golf Course). Not only is NAP clearly using much more than 4%, it also is the largest user of the Most Hazardous (Tier I) chemicals. (The San Francisco Department of the Environment – SFDoE – produces a  “Reduced Risk Pesticide” list each year. This lists pesticides that may be used on city-owned lands, and gives them Tier ratings.)

NAP vs SFRPD Other 2013 by Active Ingredient


Since we don’t know how Mr Ginsburg’s percentage is derived, we can only speculate. Some possible reasons:

1)  Our numbers leave out Harding Golf Course, but they include it.

Here’s why we exclude it: Harding Park Golf Course is under contract to be maintained to tournament-ready standards. This means it uses a lot of pesticides; but it really is outside SFRPD control if San Francisco is to have a PGA-standard golf course. (The city’s other golf courses, where SFRPD actually can determine pesticide use, actually use very little.  Sharp Park, for instance, has used none since August 2010.)

2)  Our numbers are for the most recent year, 2013.

Though the phrasing of the sentence suggests that are considering current usage, they may actually have used historic numbers.  It’s possible that other sections of SFRPD reduced their herbicide usage, even while NAP’s herbicide usage went up. NAP herbicide use rose annually from 2009 through 2013.

B&W Herbicide Use - Natural Areas Program

3) We have only considered the chemicals that are most concerning – the “more hazardous” and “most hazardous” herbicides (those the San Francisco Department of the Environment classifies as Tier II and Tier I) and omitted the “least hazardous” ones (Tier III).   Possibly SFRPD has included Tier III herbicides. We think this would distort the comparison; it would be like comparing pineapples and hand-grenades.

4)  If it’s based on the SF DoE’s new database, it may have data-entry errors, especially for data since 2010 when the new database was instituted. We compiled the source documents Monthly Pesticide Usage reports ourselves, and re-checked them.


For anyone who wants to replicate our calculations, here’s how we made them:

  • We obtained Monthly Pesticide Usage reports from SFRPD under the Sunshine Act. If any of them were unclear, we got clarifications.
  • We compiled this data into a spreadsheet. Then we calculated Tier I and Tier II herbicide usage separately for NAP and for all other SFRPD (excluding Harding Golf Course), using SF DoE’s ratings.
  • We show “Greenmatch” separately – it’s rated Tier II, but it’s an organic herbicide that is less harmful than most Tier II products. Until 2013, it was rated Tier III, least hazardous.
  • [ETA:  We calculated the "Active Ingredient" quantity by using conversion factors provided by the manufacturer of each chemical. (These are available online.)]

In the first two months of 2014, NAP was still the major user of Tier I herbicides, using 8 times as much as all the rest of SFRPD ex Harding.




What is Biodiversity?

There’s been a lot of talk of ‘biodiversity’ in San Francisco recently. The city’s ‘Recreation and Open Space Element’ (ROSE) mentions it without clearly defining it. The Natural Areas Program claims to preserve it. There’s a new position, the Director of Biodiversity Coordinator (currently Peter Brastow, formerly of Nature in the City) within San Francisco’s Department of the Environment.

One of our readers, puzzled by all the discussion, asked a simple question of UC Davis Professor Arthur Shapiro, who gave a talk at the Commonwealth Club a few days ago. Instead of the two-line answer they expected,  he sent this detailed response — which he kindly permitted us to publish.

Mt Davidson woodland path


A buzzword.
Biodiversity means whatever you want it to mean. I hate the word. Here’s why.

The following is from the introductory biology textbook we use at U.C. Davis, Life: The Science of Biology, (10th edition, Sadava et al., p.1229 — yes, I said p. 1229!):

“…the term BIODIVERSITY, a contraction of ‘biological diversity,’ has multiple definitions. We may speak of biodiversity as the degree of genetic variation within a species….Biodiversity can also be defined in terms of species richness in a particular community.  At a larger scale, biodiversity also embraces ecosystem diversity—particularly the complex interactions within and between ecosystems….One conspicuous manifestation of biodiversity loss is species extinction…”

Got that?

The glossary at the back of the book defines “biodiversity hot spot” (itself ambiguous, conflating numbers of species and degree of endemism), but NOT biodiversity itself. One can see why.

Where did this verbal monstrosity come from?

Anise swallowtail butterfly breeds on fennelThe raw number of species in a defined area or system – what many of us call “species richness”—is a useful number. There are more species of butterflies in Brazil than in California, and more in California than in Alaska. That is true even if we pro-rate species number by area, and it is not trivial to ask why.

But there is more to biodiversity than mere numbers of species. Ecologists are also interested in how individuals are divided among species, that is, the distribution of commonness and rarity among species. You can have a “community” consisting of exactly two species.  It could have, say, 50 individuals of each species, or it could have 99 of one and 1 of the other—or any ratio in between. Does this matter? Why? What can those numbers tell us?


A century ago a Danish plant ecologist named Christen Raunkiaer observed that there was a statistical regularity to this; he called it the “law of frequency.” In subsequent years it was found to hold for bird censuses and moths collected at lights, as well as for old-field plants.  A whole series of mathematical models developed over the years attempted to account for this regularity by means of assumptions about how species interacted—competing for resources, for example. These exercises were at the core of community ecology for several decades, and were seen as immensely important.

During World War II an applied mathematician named Claude Shannon, working on war-related communications problems at Bell Labs, developed a formula that concisely expressed the information content of a message. Ecologists discovered the Shannon formula in the 1960s and realized it could easily be adapted to give a single number that combined the number of species in a community and their relative abundances.

Thus whole communities could be compared efficiently, a potentially informative and useful tactic in trying to understand how multispecies systems worked. The number generated by the Shannon formula came to be called diversity, and the formula became the first and most widely-used of several diversity indices. I learned it in high school and I still use it in teaching. Diversity had two components, then:

  • Species richness and
  • “Equitability,” (the difference between a 50:50 and a 99:1 community).

And we were off and running. Now everything could be quantified with a diversity index: “foliage height diversity” in a forest canopy, or “aspect diversity” in moth faunas (how many wing shape-pattern themes could be recognized?). The number of uses and abuses of the term multiplied like rabbits. By 1971 things had gotten so bad that a paper was published caustically titled “The nonconcept of species diversity.” It was widely applauded for its candor. Unfortunately, the author ended up inventing his own new measure of diversity—one he thought was better than the old ones.


But things could get worse. And they did. With the passage of the Endangered Species Act, which opened the door to protection of endangered subspecies (keep in mind that there is no concept of the subspecies; a subspecies is whatever some taxonomist says it is) and even “distinct population segments” (no one knows what that means), genetics got in on the diversity game. Now we would not be content with diversity at the species level; we needed to get inside species.

In the scramble to define what might be protectable, a search was launched for “evolutionarily significant units.” With modern molecular-genetic tools, we quickly learned that taxonomic subspecies may be genomically nearly identical, while organisms indistinguishable by the naked eye may be wildly different. Defining diversity at the genetic level is still, well, challenging.

One very useful dimension of biodiversity is known as alpha, beta and gamma diversity:

  • Alpha diversity is species richness at the local level.
  • Beta diversity is a measure of how much the biota of different localities within a region differ among themselves—that is, how quickly species composition “turns over” in space [i.e. when you have many different little ecosystems next to each other].
  • Gamma diversity is at a large spatial scale.

The Bay Area has phenomenally high beta diversity in almost everything.


So what is biodiversity? It’s species richness, plus the distribution of abundance and rarity, plus the geography of all that, plus the amount of genetic variation in selected species of interest, plus whatever you please.

Somehow or other concepts of “quality” have gotten mixed in, too. When you clear-cut a redwood forest (which has very low species richness), the early-successional communities that develop on the site, which may be dominated by “invasive weeds,” will have both much higher species numbers and a richer distribution of species abundances than the forest they replaced. But early-successional communities don’t get any respect despite being more diverse and despite the supposition that biodiversity is good. Because they’re made up of the ‘wrong’ species—whatever that means.

Because biodiversity, after all, is only a buzzword.

tony holiday glen canyon 7881491_orig


Good News on Rat Poison in California

dead barn owl found in Glen Canyon ParkAs our readers will know, we’ve been concerned about the use of second-generation rat poisons that cause death by slow internal bleeding. The poisoned mice and rats are likely to be captured and eaten by other animals – owls, coyotes, dogs, cats, hawks. When this happens, they can get poisoned too, and we’ve seen two owls die this way: a barn owl and a Great Horned Owl. These poisons are currently available in stores, and anyone can buy and use them – without knowing they could harm wildlife, pets, and even small children who pick up the bait by accident.

So here’s the GOOD NEWS! California is passing legislation restricting the sale of these products only to licensed applicators, which means that they won’t be available in stores for unthinking use by people who don’t realize their effects. (A link to the actual proposed legislation is HERE.)

The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDOE), which has been working on this for years, sent round a message about it, saying:

‘The California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has announced that it is designating the certain hazardous rat baits as “restricted materials.”

These are the products that the US EPA concluded (way back in 2008) pose an “unreasonable risk,” and tried to remove from the consumer market. The active ingredients affected by the DPR decision are brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone.

Restricting pesticide products means that they may only be applied by licensed applicators, or by those meeting the definition of “private applicator.” In essence, you will no longer see these products on the hardware store shelf. Considering all the data that has been amassed on poisonings of pets, wildlife and children, we consider this a very positive step.”

They asked for emails to be sent to the DPR thanking them to

If this is an issue you care about, please send them an email of thanks. We’d also like to thank all the organizations that have been involved in trying to get these restrictions, and all those that have campaigned against these rodenticides.

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

Ecological Communities and Time – Dr Arthur Shapiro, March 24 noon, Commonwealth Club

Earlier, we alerted you to a series of lectures that may provide thought leadership  important thought leadership that could shift the way San Francisco manages its wild spaces. It’s the Science of Conservation and Biodiversity in the 21st Century series, from three professors each giving one talk in San Francisco.

“This series of lectures will present a new way of looking at public issues in conservation. The things we’ve assumed as facts often are not. Traditional approaches are losing ground as science illuminates new pathways for framing and achieving conservation goals for open space and Natural Areas.”

A good turnout would encourage the Commonwealth Club to have more such talks.  The first lecture, by Dr Scott Carroll, was completely booked, with standing room only. Please do attend the other two if you can.

  • The next one, by Dr Art Shapiro, is on “Ecological Communities and the March of Time,” on Monday, March 24 at noon.
  • After that, Dr Joe McBride will speak on April 9th about eucalyptus.

All lectures are at the San Francisco Club Office, 595 Market St. Registration: or call 415.597.6705

More details below.


MARCH 24, 2014, 12 NOON: DR. ARTHUR SHAPIRO ON  “Ecological Communities and the March of Time”

Dr. Arthur M. Shapiro is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences, at UC Davis.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly emerges on passiflora plantFrom the website: “Ecological communities as we know them are similar to freeze-frames from a long movie. Associations among species are very dynamic on millennial scales, as demonstrated by the evidence since deglaciation 15,000 years ago. Coevolution of species occurs locally in geographic mosaics, and can be extremely dynamic as well. Frederic Clements, the father of American community ecology, had a holistic vision. He saw communities as super-organisms. He was wrong.”

Please register at:

Flyer_Arthur M Shapiro_3.24.2014
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, NOON, DR. JOE R. MCBRIDE ON “The History, Ecology and Future of Eucalyptus Plantations in the Bay Area.”

Please register at:

ferns and blackberry and poison oakDr. Joe R. McBride is Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley. His talk is about The History, Ecology and Future of Eucalyptus Plantations in the Bay Area.

The website says: “McBride will explain the ecology of the eucalyptus forest in the Bay Area. He will discuss its structure, the variety of plants and animals that live within it, its health and the ecological functions it performs. There will be a description of the dynamics within these forest stands (such as whether they are successional or a climax-species that replace themselves over time without human input) and about their invasive potential.”

Flyer_Joe McBride_4.9.2014

Poisonous Meatballs in Twin Peaks – reposting recent article

Editor Note:
This is a re-posting of  a recent article in sfist about poisoned meatballs being discovered in the Twin Peaks neighborhood of San Francisco. At least 3 dogs have been injured as a result.  We want to ensure that this matter is adequately publicized. Original article here

Warning: Poisonous Meatballs Return To Twin Peaks [Updated]

This Dachshund named Oskar being treated for poisoning in July of 2013 at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services.


Animal Care & Control spokesperson Deb Campbell confirms the return of the tainted meat, noting that “the meatballs were well-hidden in bushes and shrubbery, and the highest concentration were found in the vicinity of Crestline Drive and Parkridge Drive.”

San Francisco Animal Control Officers spent four hours this morning scouring a Twin Peaks neighborhood for poisoned meatballs that could sicken or kill pets. Lieutenant BonGiovanni of San Francisco Animal Care & Control discovered twenty-one meatballs that appear similar to ones found last summer in the same location. The meatballs were well-hidden in bushes and shrubbery, and the highest concentration were found in the vicinity of Crestline Drive and Parkridge Drive. Animal Control Officers posted over fifty warning signs in the area to alert pet owners to the situation.

Animal Care & Control officials are not aware of any pets that have been sickened or killed by the meatballs, but they are not 100% certain that all of the poisoned meatballs have been recovered. Animal Control Officers are encouraging pet owners to keep cats indoors and dogs on a short leash – and away from shrubbery – until the situation is resolved. The San Francisco Police Department is asking the public for assistance. If anyone has information that could help the investigation, they are encouraged to call the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444.
We’re getting word from a Twin Peaks resident that poisoned meatballs, which injured at least three dogs, are possibly back. The latest alleged sighting was at 80 Crestline.

While, yes, this story is still in the unconfirmed stages, SFist thought it would be best to let you know in case it’s real and you plan on taking your pooch for a walk in the area tonight.

Below, the urgent Nextdoor Twin Peaks posting:


Following are meatballs plucked from the sidewalk last June:

Picture of the meatballs found on Wednesday.


One resident notes via Twitter:

SFist has contacted SFPD for more info. We’ll update as soon as we hear more.

When the tainted treats began to appear in Twin Peaks, vets suspect that the meatballs are tainted with strychnine, a rat poison. Strychnine can causes seizures and muscle spasms 10 to 120 minutes after ingestion.

Any suspicious activity or tips about anyone trying to poising pets should call the SF Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444.

Comments from our Petition to the Mayor

mt davidson forest - hiker on trailBack in October 2013, we saw a report on SFGate (the online presence of the SF Chronicle) saying that Mayor Ed Lee would be responding to petitions addressed to him on if they crossed a certain (unspecified) number of signatures. The interview wasn’t with Mayor Lee, but with Jake Brewer, his Director of External Affairs. (The link to the relevant page was included in the article. It’s HERE.)

We’ve had a petition up for a while now, asking Mayor Lee to rein in the Natural Areas Program (NAP) that is destroying trees, restricting access, and using toxic herbicides in Natural Areas. (That petition is HERE.)  It has over 1500 signatures on it. But though that’s still live, it’s at, a different (though similar) organization to

Mayor Lee Stop NAPSo we started another one on the proper page at that gained superb momentum, exceeding 1,000 signatures in the first month. (Please sign if you haven’t already done so – click on the yellow button to go to the petition.)

this scene will be gonePeople are passionate about these natural areas, and they don’t want San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department to fell trees, use toxic herbicides, or restrict access.

A  tiny selection from the hundreds of comments on the petition (with added emphasis):

  • “Our parks, like Glen Park and Sutro Forest, are beautiful. Please don’t let them become barren wastelands.”
  • “Our city parks are looking like war zones with so much destruction. Just look at Glen Park.”
  • “Mt. Davidson is beautiful and healthy the way it is. It has its own wildlife and ecosystem. It was nothing before Mayor Sutro had those tree planted. Pls don’t disrupt it. Also, it is definitely NOT a fire hazard.”
  • “We need more trees in our urban environment, not less. Herbicides are dangerous for the overall environment and often the consequences of use do not show for years to come. Greenery in urban areas is beneficial to our health and well-being.”
  • “Herbicides are dangerous to children, adults and animals. This space is enjoyed by all–keep it safe, keep it open, keep the trees and healthy undergrowth.”
  • “Stop messing with NATURE!!!”
  • “Trees are the lungs of the planet. We need them to help to slow down impending climate catastrophe. Don’t poison the earth with herbicides — they are toxic to all living things, especially young children and pregnant mothers.”
  • “There are 100s of people who have given scientific and emotional reasons to prevent the deforestation of the Sutro / Mt. Davidson Area. It is easy to destroy an area that took a hundred years to create. I can only wonder about the ulterior motive for this mindless plan. Obviously it is the desire to develop this land. So once again commerce and immediate financial gain is at the root of this mindless proposal. Please think again! Next you will want to uproot the inhabitants of SF that are not “native”. They have adapted and now fit in with our plan. Because these trees have been here longer than you or I, they no longer need a great deal of care to grow and thrive. ANYTHING new that is planted will require at least 10 to 15 years of very careful nurturing. I live on Warren Dr. where a neighbor cut down all the trees and shrubs, on his property and on the easement, in order to plant native plants. The result was that about 4 years later, after a heavy winter rain storm, one side of his car was buried in mud. Terrific!… that is native to California!”

glen-canyon-glyphosate aminopyralid june 2012

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?



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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

SFRPD Herbicide Use – A Correction

We recently reprinted an analysis of herbicide use by Natural Areas Program (NAP) compared with the rest of SFRPD. The conclusion, that NAP’s pesticide use increased in 2013, and it exceeded Other SFRPD (excluding Harding Golf Course) was not quite right. Use did increase in 2013, but Other SFRPD actually used more herbicides than shown in the initial calculation. Details below.

Recently, we published our analysis of the San Francisco Natural Areas Program (NAP)’s use of pesticide, and compared it with the rest of SF Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) . We said that NAP’s pesticide use had risen in 2013, and it had used more herbicide than the the rest of SFRPD put together (excluding Harding Park Golf Course).

That’s not quite true. They actually used only 84% as much by volume, and 78% as much by Active Ingredient, with one-quarter of the total area.

Here’s the corrected graph. This one is by volume of herbicide used.

NAP vs SFRPD Other by vol corrected

Here’s the graph we showed earlier:

NAP vs Other SFRPD 2013What’s the difference? In a word, Greenmatch.


Greenmatch is a herbicide based on lemongrass oil, or what is called a “botanical.” It’s actually considered acceptable for organic gardening. We’d known SF Department of the Environment (SF DoE) had rated it Tier III, least hazardous. We’d therefore omitted it from our calculations since we’re concerned with Tier I and Tier II (more hazardous and most hazardous) herbicides.

We hadn’t realized that in 2013, SF DoE had downgraded Greenmatch to Tier II. Thus, to be consistent, we needed to include it. The SFRPD used quite a lot of it – around 280 fl oz, because it is a good option compared to some of the synthetic herbicides. NAP didn’t use any Greenmatch in 2013.


Our earlier calculation also looked at simple volumes. We do this calculation because some of the “inert” substances that make up maybe half of the products applied are not necessarily innocuous, and so the total volume matters.

However, we also looked at the “active ingredient” – the amount of actual pesticide. Here’s that graph.

NAP vs SFRPD Other 2013 by Active IngredientAgain, it’s Greenmatch that makes the difference.


NAP was by far the largest user of Tier I herbicide -mainly Garlon 4 Ultra. (Other SFRPD used a small amount of Garlon, and one application of Cleary’s fungicide in the Golden Gate nursery, inside a greenhouse.)

Since NAP does not use Greenmatch, we haven’t changed our other assessment – that NAP’s overall herbicide use rose again in 2013. This graph shows volume of herbicide applied.

Volume of pesticide use by NAP 2008-2013This one shows amounts by Active Ingredient. [Edited to Add 6 Feb 2014: The earlier graph has been replaced with this one with corrected 2010 data. ]

B&W Herbicide Use - Natural Areas Program


For those who want to dig into how we got our numbers:

1. Under the Sunshine Act, we obtained the ‘usage reports’ – the monthly reports submitted by each department. This lists how much of each pesticide they used, where, for what purpose, how applied, under what conditions and by whom. NAP usually submits two, separately for pesticides it applies, and the pesticides used by their contractor Shelterbelt. These are what we used for 2011-2013. (For 2010, for NAP we had a mix of monthly reports and compiled data supplied by SF DoE, and for 2009 and 2008, it was compiled data from SF DoE.)

2. If any data were illegible, we requested -and got – clarifications. We entered these data into a spreadsheet. In 2013 we kept a record not only of NAP pesticide use, but also other SFRPD Departments’ herbicide use.

3. We calculated total herbicide use, by product, for NAP and SFRPD Other.

4. We excluded Harding Golf Course. It used a substantial amount of pesticides because it’s required to maintain the course in tournament-ready condition. There’s a contract that’s really outside SFRPD’s control, and so would distort the picture. But we do include the other city-owned golf courses -which are under SFRPD control and actually use little Tier II or Tier I pesticide.

5. We calculate four measures of usage for NAP:

  • Number of applications. This measures the number of opportunities for exposure.
  • Volume of applications. This takes into account that the other ingredients in a pesticide formulation could be chemically active, though not pesticides themselves.
  • Volume by active ingredient. This is the most common measure and the one SF DoE prefers to use; and
  • Volume by acid equivalent. This is largely significant when two or more products with the same active ingredient are being used.

To get the last two measures, we use a factor derived from the Materials Safety Data Sheets for each product.

6. To compare SFRPD Other (excluding Harding) we looked at volume, as well as active ingredient. Those are the graphs shown above. (We couldn’t do an acid equivalent because it doesn’t apply to lemongrass oil in Greenmatch EX.)

We try to be rigorous in our analysis, and offer reproducible results. If we discover errors, we will acknowledge and correct them here.

Rat Poison Killed the Glen Canyon Owl

We’ve just heard back about the results of the necropsy on the barn owl found dead in near Glen Canyon. As suspected, it died of consuming rodents poisoned with rat poison.  This is the letter we received.

Edited to Add: If you would like to spread the word to people not to use rodenticides, we have a flyer/ poster you could use. It’s here as a PDF: Avoid rat poison to save owls

The dead Barn Owl we found and took to WildCare for rodenticide testing, Patient #1754, was found, indeed, to have died of rat poisoning.

dead barn owl found in Glen Canyon Park

Many people don’t know that when a hawk or owl or other predator eats a poisoned rodent, that animal gets poisoned too. Please STOP using rat poisons (rodenticides)! These poisons are killing the very animals, like this Barn Owl, that naturally control rodents.

The Barn Owl was found to be internally toxic, diffusely discolored and badly hemorrhaged throughout. There was evidence of a heavy load of the rodenticide brodifacoum in her system — enough to kill her.

Shockingly, over 86% of tested WildCare patients show evidence of exposure to rat poisons! These animals are eating poisoned rodents and carrying varying loads of toxic poison in their systems as a result. Rat poison used by residents of San Francisco is having dangerous and detrimental effects on the wildlife of our area. A Great Horned Owl was found dead last year due to the same rat poisoning.

Rat poisons kill by making whatever animal eats them bleed to death internally – slowly and painfully. While the poisoned rats or mice are still alive, they (and their deadly load of poison) can be consumed by other predators including cats and dogs. Rodents are the basic food source for a number of different predators all the way up the food chain. It is a terrifying prospect; to kill many animals while targeting only one. We need to find better ways to live well with wildlife.

If you need help with any wildlife issues, please contact WildCare Solutions at 415.456.7283 (456-SAVE), or

Barn Owls are one of the most common owl species in the country, but seeing one, especially in the City, is always a treat. These silent nocturnal hunters often appear completely white against the night sky as they glide over open spaces in search of rodent prey. A family of Barn Owls can eat over 3,000 rodents in a single 4-month breeding season, which makes them a magnificent source of rodent pest control, but also one of the most common victims of secondary rodenticide poisoning. Barn Owls nest early in the season, usually producing eggs sometime between January and March.

A special thanks to everyone who made a contribution to the testing, especially to the San Francisco Forest Alliance for their substantial donation. 

Thank you for taking the initiative in finding out what killed her. It’s a first step in spreading the word to save other owls.

Thought Leadership in Conservation: 3 Commonwealth Club Lectures

This is re-posted with permission from

An email from the Commonwealth Club told us of an interesting new series of lectures in January, March and April of 2014. It’s the Science of Conservation and Biodiversity in the 21st Century series, from three professors each giving one talk in San Francisco.

According to the email: “This series of lectures will present a new way of looking at public issues in conservation. The things we’ve assumed as facts often are not. Traditional approaches are losing ground as science illuminates new pathways for framing and achieving conservation goals.”

This is important thought leadership that could shift the way San Francisco manages its wild spaces. A good turnout would encourage the Commonwealth Club to have more such talks. Please do attend if you can.


bumble bee on strawberry tree

Native bumble-bee on non-native Strawberry Tree

Dr Scott Carroll is the Founding Director, Institute for Contemporary Evolution and Department of Entomology at UC Davis. He will talk about Conciliation Biology: An Approach to Conservation that Reconciles Past, Present and Future Landscapes in Nature.

Here’s what the Commonwealth Club website says: Biologists are now considering the “conciliatory approach.” This approach recognizes that mutual adaptation of native and non-native species is changing best practices for promoting biodiversity. Dr. Carroll investigates how organisms respond to human-caused environmental change. Carroll advocates for interdisciplinary solutions to problems of environmental conservation.

Register HERE at the club’s website:


Dr. Arthur M. Shapiro is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences, at UC Davis. He’s speaking on Ecological Communities and the March of Time.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly emerges on passiflora plant

Gulf Fritillary butterfly breeds on non-native passionflower – wikimedia

From the website: “Ecological communities as we know them are similar to freeze-frames from a long movie. Associations among species are very dynamic on millennial scales, as demonstrated by the evidence since deglaciation 15,000 years ago. Coevolution of species occurs locally in geographic mosaics, and can be extremely dynamic as well. Frederic Clements, the father of American community ecology, had a holistic vision. He saw communities as super-organisms. He was wrong.”

Register HERE at:


ferns and blackberry and poison oak

Eucalyptus forest understory on Mt Sutro

Dr. Joe R. McBride is Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley. His talk is about The History, Ecology and Future of Eucalyptus Plantations in the Bay Area.

The website says: “McBride will explain the ecology of the eucalyptus forest in the Bay Area. He will discuss its structure, the variety of plants and animals that live within it, its health and the ecological functions it performs. There will be a description of the dynamics within these forest stands (such as whether they are successional or a climax-species that replace themselves over time without human input) and about their invasive potential.”

Register HERE at:


  • All lectures are at the San Francisco Club Office, 595 Market St.
  • The tickets cost $20 to the general public, $8 for members of the Commonwealth Club, and $7 for students carrying appropiate ID.
  • You can register to attend at the links we gave, or call 415.597.6705

Please Sign a New Petition?

New life in a park tree

New life in a park tree

San Francisco Forest Alliance has a new petition up to ask the Mayor to rein in the Natural Areas Program, and stop them from cutting down healthy trees, ripping out understory habitat, using growing amounts of pesticides, and restricting public access.

Wait, isn’t that what our existing petition does?

Polaris Herbicide warning signYes. But from an October 2013 SF Chronicle article, we learned that Mayor Lee has undertaken to respond to petitions provided in a specific format on provider, once they cross a certain number of signatures. So we think this is a more direct way to approach him. (Our other petition continues live.)

So we’re asking you to please sign this new petition in support of all our wilder parks, and to preserve our access to them. And please pass it on.


Mayor Lee Stop NAP

We especially request San Francisco residents to sign this! But we’re a world class city, and depend on people from everywhere. So we think this issue affects people from all of the Bay Area, or beyond.

SF’s Natural Areas Program Beats Own Pesticide Record in 2013

This article is adapted with permission from

UCSF, which owns and manages most of Mt Sutro Forest, recently decided not to use pesticides there. This may make it the only wild land in San Francisco that is reliably free of pesticides. Most of the others  fall under the misnamed Natural Areas Program (NAP) of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SF RPD). NAP is responsible for around 1100 acres in San Francisco in 32 parks. It has a very different attitude to pesticides.

NAP Number of applicns 2008-2013NAP’s RISING PESTICIDE USE

We’ve been tracking NAP’s rising herbicide use, compiling reports we obtain under San Francisco’s Sunshine Act. (The report for 2012 is HERE; and for 2011 is HERE.) For a year or two, we hoped the rise was an anomaly. Apparently not. With the 2013 data in, the best things we can say are that the rate of increase is not as high as in the last four year; and that the number of applications fell.

But the volume of toxic herbicides used still rose.

People have asked us: But why complain about NAP? Surely a garden like Golden Gate Park with all those lawns and golf courses uses lots more herbicide than NAP? This year, we tracked that too. NAP also uses more pesticides than the rest of SFRPD put together.


NAP vs Other SFRPD 2013NAP, which manages one-fourth of the area under the SF RPD, uses more pesticide than the rest of SF RPD put together. That counts all the golf courses except Harding, which is apparently under contract to be tournament-ready.

Also, NAP is the main user of the most toxic pesticides. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment (SF DoE) – which watches out for pesticide use on city-owned property – rates the permitted pesticides into three Tiers. Tier III is the least hazardous; Tier II is more hazardous; and Tier I is most hazardous. NAP is the major user of the Tier I pesticide, Garlon.


As we mentioned earlier, NAP’s pesticide use continued to increase in 2013, though the number of applications went down. The lower number of applications slightly reduces the opportunities for exposure to freshly applied toxins. But this is more than offset by the fact that actual amounts of pesticides continued to rise – and that many of these chemicals are the ones that are most toxic and very persistent.

Volume of pesticide use by NAP 2008-2013


NAP currently uses four pesticides: Glyphosate (Roundup/ Aquamaster); Triclopyr (Garlon 4 Ultra); Imazapyr (Polaris or Stalker); and Aminopyralid (Milestone VM). They are all of concern. Of these, SF DoE rates Garlon as Tier I (most hazardous); the remaining three are currently rated as Tier II.

Three of the Four on Mt Davidson

Three of the Four on Mt Davidson

Despite the manufacturer’s claims, there is evidence that these herbicides are not safe. Our article summarizing this is HERE: Natural Areas Program: Toxic and Toxic-er.


Classified as a Tier II (More Hazardous) chemical by the San Francisco Department of the Environment, this is the most-used pesticide of the four. However, there’s been growing evidence that it’s not a safe herbicide.

  1. Toxic to human cells, particularly embryonic and placental cells. Here’s an article in Scientific American, about the effect of Roundup on human cells – not just the active ingredient, Glyphosate, but the “inert” one, POEA. (Aquamaster does not contain POEA.)
  2. Damage to liver, red blood cells, lymph system. Here’s a series of research articles detailing some of illnesses caused by Roundup.
  3. Link to birth defects. Here’s an abstract of a May 2010 article in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
    heart breaking

    heart breaking

    It indicates that Roundup increased retinoic acid activity in vertebrate embryos, causing “neural defects and craniofacial malformations.” The actual article, which we read elsewhere describes some of the birth defects: microcephaly (tiny head); microphthalmia (tiny undeveloped eyes); impairment of hindbrain development; cyclopia (a single eye in the middle of the forehead); and neural tube defects. Our summary of this article is HERE.

  4. Linked to cancer, specifically, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. A 1999 article on research linking Roundup to cancer, specifically non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and HERE is a follow-up published in 2008 in the International Journal of Cancer.
  5. Dangerous to amphibians. This article cites University of Pittsburgh research showing Roundup is highly lethal to amphibians.
  6. Suspected endocrine disruptor. Initial research suggests that it is an endocrine disruptor in human cell lines. It’s on the list of chemicals the EPA is reviewing for endocrine disruption.

GARLON (Triclopyr)

NAP accounts for 96% of the use within SF RPD of this Tier I (Most Hazardous) chemical. Garlon kills broad-leaved plants (not grasses or conifers) by sending them a hormonal signal to grow uncontrollably. This weakens the plant until it dies. Its breakdown products are triclopyr acid and then ‘TCP’ – both of which are, fortunately, somewhat less toxic than Garlon. (Imazapyr, by contrast, has a breakdown product that is neurotoxic.)

Our article is based on the Garlon chapter of Draft Vegetation Management from the Marin Muncipal Water District (which can be found here as a PDF file). It was a pretty thorough multi-source review of what was known about the chemical, and it clarified the risks: birth defects; kidney damage; liver damage; damage to the blood. What stood out, though, was how much is not known, particularly about the effects of repeated low-level exposure. There simply isn’t that much research out there, and few human studies. “Although triclopyr has been registered in the US since 1979, there are still very few studies on triclopyr that are not part of the EPA registration process.” Most of the research that exists is on Garlon 4. What NAP uses is Garlon 4 Ultra. It’s similar but isn’t mixed in kerosine. It’s mixed in a less flammable but apparently equally toxic methylated seed oil.

What is known makes uncomfortable reading.

  • Birth defects. Garlon “causes severe birth defects in rats at relatively low levels of exposure.” The rats were born with brains outside their skulls, or without eyelids. “Maternal toxicity was high” and exposed rats also had more failed pregnancies.
  • Damage to kidneys, liver, blood. Rat and dog studies showed damage to the kidneys, the liver, and the blood. It’s insidious, because there’s no immediate effect that’s apparent. If someone’s being poisoned, they wouldn’t even know it. In a study on six Shetland ponies, high doses killed two ponies in a week, and two others were destroyed.
  • Skin absorption. About 1-2% of Garlon falling on human skin is absorbed within a day. For rodents, its absorbed twelve times as fast.
  • Dogs may be particularly vulnerable; their kidneys may not be able to handle Garlon as well as rats or humans. “The pharmacokinetics of triclopyr is very different in the dog, which is unique in its limited capacity to clear weak acids from the blood and excrete them in the urine.” Dow Chemical objected when EPA said that decreased red-dye excretion was an adverse effect, so now it’s just listed as an “effect.”
  • Insufficient information. There was insufficient information about Garlon’s potential effect on the immune system, or as an endocrine disruptor.
  • Not quite carcinogenic. It isn’t considered a carcinogen under today’s more lenient guidelines, but would have been one under the stricter 1986 guidelines.
  • Probably alters soil biology. “There is little information on the toxicity of triclopyr to terrestrial microorganisms. Garlon 4 can inhibit growth in the mycorrhizal fungi…” (These are funguses in the soil that help plant nutrition.) No one knows what it does to soil microbes, because it hasn’t been studied.
  • Dangerous to aquatic creatures: fish (particularly salmon); invertebrates; and aquatic plants.
  • Some effect on honey bees. It doesn’t generally kill adult honeybees, but there are no studies of other insects. Some studies show slight “acute toxicity” to honeybees.
  • Garlon can persist in dead vegetation for up to two years.

Given all the information we do have on this chemical (and all the information we don’t have ) we have to question why native plant restoration is worth spraying poisons on some of the highest points in our city. Garlon must be used when the weather is wet; if the plants don’t have water, they will not grow and the chemical won’t work. But the runoff from these hills is enormous during the rain – it washes down in rivulets and streams, and it will end in the reservoirs, the groundwater, and the bay.


Classified as a Tier II (More Hazardous) chemical by the San Francisco Department of the Environment, this is another pesticide used mainly by NAP. In 2013, NAP accounted for 97% of the imazapyr used by SFRPD. NAP started using Imazapyr even before the SF DoE had approved its use. Now it’s being used in Sutro Forest. Here’s our article on Imazapyr.

The main issues with it are that plants push it out through their root system, so that it can spread and affect other plants; it is very persistent. Its breakdown product is neurotoxic. It’s banned in Europe.

According to a BASF Safety Data Sheet from Europe, it’s “Harmful to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.” However, a BASF Material Safety Data Sheet from the US says, “There is a high probability that the product is not acutely harmful to fish. There is a high probability that the product is not acutely harmful to aquatic invertebrates. Acutely harmful for aquatic plants.”


MILESTONE VM (Aminopyralid)

SF DoE originally classified this chemical as Tier I, Most Hazardous, because of its uncanny persistence. In 2013, it was reclassified as Tier II – More Hazardous. At the time, we protested that the down-classification would increase its use; SF DoE didn’t think so. But this year, NAP’s use of Milestone has risen 200% from 2012. (Only NAP uses Milestone in the SF RPD.)

Milestone is even more persistent that Imazapyr, and can survive being ingested by animals. Thus, if it is used to treat plants and animals eat and excrete them, they spread the poison. It is banned in New York for fear it will get in the groundwater, and was for a time banned in the UK.


For purists, we also calculated NAP’s pesticide usage based on “Active Ingredient” and based on “Acid Equivalent.” (The post explaining those measure is HERE.) By those calculations, it’s gone up even more.

NAP Pesticide by Active Ingredient 2008-2013NAP Pesticide by Acid Equiv 2008-2013 Index of NAP Pesticide Use 2009-2013

The graph above shows index numbers of the various indicators, with a base of 2008 (i.e, 2008 = 100). After a dip in 2009, NAP’s pesticide use has trended upward for four years. We cannot quite understand the need for the continuous rise in pesticide use in NAP. We can only wonder if it correlates to budget availability.

We call upon SF RPD to stop all Tier I and Tier II herbicide use in Natural Areas. It would make the Natural Areas more … natural. And it would halve SF RPD’s herbicide consumption, and nearly eliminate their use of Tier I pesticides.

NAP vs SF RPD Other 2013

Audio Talk (YouTube) Against the Needless Destruction of Urban Forests

You are invited to hear comments by Ariane Eroy, a supporter of Sutro Forest, trees, and the environment, on KPFA radio (broadcast date: 1/2/2014).

Ariane speaks in support of the effort to save the Sutro Forest and challenges East Bay residents to get UC Berkeley to scale back its destructive project tree-removal in East Bay hills, part of a huge program that threatens half a million trees.  This 2 minute, 30 second audio broadcast includes pictures of the Mt Sutro forest.


While you are on YouTube, why not keep up with our latest videos by the San Francisco Forest Alliance.


 Just 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

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.

Rehabilitated Owl Returned to Glen Canyon

It’s so wonderful to be able to post good news about Glen Canyon and its fauna. Wildlife photographer Janet Kessler recently sent around this item about a one-eyed owl that has been released in the Canyon after rehabilitation. This post has been republished from Saving the trees of Glen Canyon Park.


owl eye treatmentThe injured owl found in a Glen Canyon neighbor’s yard in September has been rehabilitated and returned! We now have a one-eyed Great Horned Owl living in the area.

The Peninsula Human Society (PHS), which rehabilitated the owl, found blood pooling in both of the owl’s eyes — something often seen with head trauma, and there was ulceration of one eye. However, unusually for trauma, there were no broken bones and the beak was not injured, so the cause of the injury still remains a mystery. The PHS treated the owl for a month with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain medication, and kept the owl long enough for the blood to drain out of the eyes.

When all was said and done, one eye had recovered, but the other will remain permanently blind. A friend suggested we name the owl “One Eyed Jack”!

2013-09-30 at 10-50-12 one-eyed great horned owlGreat Horned Owls have large eyes proportional to their bodies, so removing the blind eye was not an option since this could have affected the owl’s balance during flight.

Even with one eye, this owl will be able to perceive depth and hunt accurately. The asymmetrical ear positions on the sides of their heads help owls perceive the location of their prey.

Please call Animal Care & Control, WildCare (a rescue organization), or Peninsula Humane Society if you find an injured wild animal. There is a possibility the animal can be saved, and it definitely can be kept from further pain.

Thanks! Janet Kessler


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