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.

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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.

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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”

We Stand With the African American Community

black lives matterThis website normally focuses on issues relating to the environment, and more specifically to the damage being done by “nativist” thinking that destroys trees and habitat to favor “native” plants. But this topic is too important for us to ignore.

With a growing sense of outrage and concern, we’ve watched what has happened to African American adults and children – that they cannot assume they will get the same rights and consideration that others do in this country. We’re dismayed that parents need to talk to their young children, particularly their sons, about the special submissive behaviors they must adopt to avoid getting killed.

The San Francisco Forest Alliance cannot be silent on this. We stand with many other environmental organizations in our support of the movement for change. (Here’s a picture from The Pesticide Action Network )

We stand against prejudice and embedded bias, and stand with communities of color in their struggle.

Black Lives Matter.

Vandal Destroys Castro Street Tree

Someone sent us this video yesterday. (It was made on Thursday, Dec 11, 2014.) We cannot understand why anyone would destroy a tree like that.

“At 5:34am yesterday (as the big storm was starting), someone broke off the top of the young tree that was planted on the sidewalk outside 489 Noe St in the Castro. Here is a video (less than 1min long):

[Webmaster: In case that doesn’t come up, here’s the URL:

“I’m sending this to you on the off chance it might help with efforts to find people doing things like this. I checked a few news articles about similar vandalism in parks in the city and saw your organization mentioned. This attack seemed similar to the systematic ones I read about in the parks.”

The sender has filed an online police report. We hope the culprit is caught before more trees are destroyed. We hope this helps.

Why Urban Trees Are Important to Us All

Recently, we wrote about the importance of setting a tree canopy cover goal for San Francisco, a city that should be a green leader. We’d like to see such a goal incorporated into the Urban Forest Master Plan, which unfortunately watered down its goals from the first public draft. San Francisco has an tree canopy cover percentage of only 13.7% – as against an ideal of 25%. (We’re writing to the Planning Commission at commissions.secretary@sfgov.org  – and if you would like to add your voice, please do the same. Tell them the Urban Forest Master Plan needs a canopy cover goal!)

Mt D 6-17-2013

Urban trees are a public asset. They benefit us all in many ways: Green infrastructure; fighting climate change; improved public health; reducing crime; improving economic values.  Recently, we found an excellent note from Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) that compiled all these benefits – and documented the scientific data. We’re summarizing and including the PDF with permission.

You can read it here as a PDF:  benefits_of_trees – Actrees  There’s 19 pages of  information in bullet  points.

TWENTY REASONS TREES BENEFIT US

This is based on the note from ACTrees, using excerpts and summaries to bring out key points.

  • GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE BENEFITS
  1. Economic benefits:  The 3.8 billion trees in the US have a structural asset value of around $2.4 trillion.
  2. Reducing storm water runoff and maintenance costs: Urban forest can reduce storm water runoff by 2-7%, and a mature tree can store 50-100 gallons of water during storms. Portland is planting 4,000 trees to implement a gray-green storm water management solution – and saving $64 million.
  3. Improving air quality: Trees clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and trapping particulates.
  4. Improving water and soil quality: Trees divert captured rainwater into the soil, where micro-organisms filter out impurities. Trees can also help remediate contaminated soil, absorbing many contaminants.
  • PUBLIC HEALTH BENEFITS
  1. Improving attention: Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder function better in green settings – as do college students in dorms with a green outlook.
  2. Decreasing asthma and obesity: Columbia University researchers found that asthma rates fell by 25% for every extra 340 trees per square kilometer [247 acres]. Kids in greener neighborhoods have a lower Body Mass Index.
  3. Improving physical and mental health: Visual exposure to settings with trees helps recovery from stress within 5 minutes. And in one study, workers without nature views from their desks claimed 23% more sick days.
  4. Reducing hospital days: Patients in post-op recovery had shorter hospital stays and needed less pain medicine if they had green views, compared with rooms facing a brick wall.
  5. Protection from Ultra-violet rays: A person takes 20 minutes to burn in full sun, but 50 minutes in part shade, and 100 minutes in full shade.
  6. Noise reduction: Trees absorb noise. A belt of trees 98 feet wide and 49 feet tall can reduce highway sound by 6-10 decibels.
  • ROAD AND TRAFFIC BENEFITS
  1. Traffic calming and accident reduction: Trees improve driving safety. One study found a 46% decrease in crash rates after landscape improvements were installed. Drivers reduce speeds by an average of 3 miles per hour in the presence of trees. Trees can also reduce road rage by reducing stress.
  2. Reducing road maintenance costs: Trees prolong pavement life. Shaded roads can save up to 60% of paving costs.
  • BUSINESS BENEFITS
  1. Business districts – Increased sales, desirability, and rents: Shoppers prefer districts with high-quality trees, and spend more time there. They are willing to pay 7-10% higher prices. Commercial offices with trees have a 7% higher rent.
  2. Jobs: In 2002, distributing, planting, and maintaining trees added about 2 million jobs. [Now – it can only be higher.]
  • PROPERTY VALUE BENEFITS
  1. Increasing property values: Studies have found up to 37% increase in residential values.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE AND CARBON BENEFITS
  1. Storing carbon and reduction of carbon emissions: Urban trees in the US store 700 million tons of carbon, and sequester 22.8 million tons of carbon per year. Urban trees sequester more carbon than wild forests because they grow faster. In California, if 50 million trees were planted, they would sequester 4.5 million tons of CO2 annually, and could reduce air-conditioning energy use equivalent to 1.4 million ton of CO2 in addition. That would be like retrofitting every household with energy-efficient devices.
  2. Carbon mitigation programs: In Los Angeles, the ‘Million Trees LA” campaign plans to plant one million trees, aiming to reduce carbon equivalent to taking 7,000 cars off the street each year.
  3. Reducing the heat island effect: Trees reduce the heat island effect. Shaded surfaces may be 20-45 degrees F cooler than unshaded ones. Trees cool city heat islands by10-20 degrees, reducing ozone levels and helping cities meet air quality standards.
  • ENERGY USE BENEFITS
  1. Trees reduce energy consumption: Trees can reduce both cooling and heating costs by providing shade and acting as windbreaks. A 25-foot tree can reduce annual heating and cooling costs of a typical residence by 8-12%.
  • COMMUNITY BENEFITS
  1. Less violence and crime: Public housing with nearby trees and nature reported 25% fewer acts of violence. Apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52% fewer crimes than those without any trees.
  2. Improves community: In buildings with trees, people report significantly better relations with their neighbors. People report a stronger feeling of unity and cohesion with their neighbors.
  3. Wildlife and biodiversity: Urban forests help create and enhance animal and bird habitat.

HOW MUCH TREE CANOPY COVER DO WE NEED?

How much tree cover a city needs depends on local climate. Eastern cities ideally need 40% and western cities need 25% canopy cover.

[San Francisco has 13.7%, a city estimate updated from USDA’s 2007 estimate of 11.9% using a different methodology. We will summarize the excellent USDA report on San Francisco’s Urban trees another time, but you can read the whole report here: SF Urban Forest fs fed US]

felled trees 015

Mt Davidson Ethereal in the Fog

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

Last month, I walked up mysterious and beautiful Mt Davidson on a foggy day with a friend.

pics45 081We entered through this gate, just to the left of the bus stop on Myra Way. I wondered why the gate had so many different locks on it.

six locksWe continued up the path and into the lovely  forest.

Mt Davidson forest Aug 2014In other parts of California – and even on the other side of this very mountain – the plants are dry and brown. The forest was damp and green and lush.

Brilliant nasturtiums in fog-filled Mt Davidson forestThe nasturtiums bloomed in bright orange highlights in the misty forest.

wild strawberries on Mt DavidsonWild strawberries provided little pops of red.

Mt Davidson Misty ForestEven though I know this forest, it felt like walking into a fairy-tale.

Fairytale forest on Mt DavidsonIt was easy to understand how people in ages past thought forests might have enchanted deer or birds or other beings living in them.

enchanted animals or birds could live hereAs we climbed up, I could see Mount Davidson’s Cross among the trees.

climbing up toward the cross

We passed the vista point, where the Murdered Tree fell over last year. But the view was only of Karl the Fog, denser now.

Murdered tree point with no vista

The little plateau of the Cross was completely misty.

Mt Davidson Cross in the fogSomeone was conducting a memorial ceremony of his own there, at the foot of the cross.  A few people wandered around. For some reason, this picture reminds me of an Ingmar Bergman film.

Mt Davidson Cross in the fog - aug 2014

Appropriately, forget-me-nots bloomed a light blue nearby.

forget-me-nots near Mt Davidson Cross Aug 2014As we made out way down from the cross, we found this little cave, where someone had erected tiny cairns of stones. It was half hidden by the Pacific Reed grass, the moisture-loving grass that grows like green hair over the rocks above the trail.

tiny cairns in a little cave - mt DavidsonHere’s another picture to show the scale of the cave.

cairn cave handWe wandered back down the trail, looking at the moss in the trees of the mist forest…

moss and fern in Mt Davidson tree

… and the epiphytes, like these ferns.

ferns on tree in Mt Davidson Forest

It was time to leave. In the words of Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep/ But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep.”

But as long as  this forest and I are around in San Francisco, I’ll be back.

stone steps in Mt D forest

 

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