Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
In a move that defies logic by authorities in the field, an area in Northern California, United States, has received federal funding to implement an “ environmentally catastrophic plan to eradicate Eucalyptus, Monterey Pine, and Acacia forests on the public lands and parks of the East Bay.” Beginning in August 2015, up to 400,000 trees will be clear-cut in the park district and the remaining stumps sprayed with toxic herbicides by Dow and Monsanto. The ultimate goal is to eliminate forests and transform the spaces into “grassland with islands of shrubs” in an attempt to reduce fire hazard. However, those who have experience with wildfire mitigation have come forward denouncing the plan, stating that fire risk will dramatically increase if officials continue down this destructive path.
The Six Million Dollar Bid to Destroy Natural Habitat
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is funding the proposal. In total, 105 distinct locations will be included, with over 2,000 acres of public land cleared — all of which fall under the management of the City of Oakland, UC Berkeley and the East Bay Regional Parks District.
The plan will cost nearly $6 million and will “radically transform the character and appearance of the hills while causing great animal suffering, including the decimation of habitat vital to several endangered species. The environment in which they live eliminated, these animals and multitudes of others will be displaced. Human residents, visitors and their pets in the region will likewise be exposed to hazardous chemicals, while the idyllic setting upon which the property values of Oakland homeowners depend will be seriously degraded,” according to Save East Bay Hills.
After the trees are clear-cut, the area will be doused with imazapyr, Dow Chemical’s triclopyr or Monsanto’s glyphosate twice a year for the next ten years — possibly longer. This brings up the question of toxicity to humans, pets and wildlife. The herbicides are known to increase the risk of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and cancers of breast, adrenal, brain and thyroid, cause severe birth defects in animal tests, inflict damage to the liver, kidneys and blood of dogs, and harm birds along with aquatic species. Ground water is also contaminated by the toxins, which can persist in the environment for up to a year. Moreover, the herbicides alter the soil and kill fungi that are crucial to the health of oak trees.
Even FEMA admits in their environmental impact statement that the plan will have “unavoidable adverse impacts… to vegetation, wildlife and habitats, protected species, soils, water quality, aesthetics, community character, human health and safety, recreation, and noise.”
Despite massive public outcry against the proposal, Oakland Mayor Schaaf and Chancellor Dirks, the Oakland City Council and East Bay Regional Park District General Manager Doyle decided to forge ahead with the plan.
Playing With Fire
“An inordinate amount of the Plan is an attempt at land transformation disguised as a wildfire hazard mitigation plan. If it is implemented it will endanger firefighters and the general public; and it will be an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money.” ~ David Maloney, former Oakland firefighter and Oakland Army Base Chief of Fire Prevention
When all is said and done, the public lands targeted for clear-cutting will be a wasteland ripe for the next wildfire to take hold. Maloney strongly believes the scheme will increase the risk of fire and puts public safety in jeopardy.
“The plan will not eliminate fire “fuel load” but instead render it highly flammable. Healthy, moisture-rich, fire-resistant trees are to be chopped down and chipped, their remains spread about sun-scorched hillsides at a depth of up to two feet, creating carpets of dried out tinder throughout the hills.
Fire science has proven that every living tree — regardless of its species — due to its moisture content and canopy coverage of ground fuels contributes to wildfire hazard mitigation.”
Read the full report here.
Several historic California wildfires show how this works. The Scripps Ranch fire of 2003 burned 150 homes, but not the eucalyptus trees next to many of those same houses. During the 2008 Angel Island fire, the areas that burned were specifically those places where eucalyptus had been cut down, whereas the fire stopped for lack of fuel once it reached the living eucalyptus forest. And an Oakland Firestorm survivor declares, “I was a student at Cal during the 1991 fires. I lived in the Berkeley hills above campus near Strawberry Canyon. The eucalyptus and other trees saved the houses on my street by serving as a barrier between us and the fire.”
Moreover, the U.S. Geological Survey points out that only 3% of fires actually occur in forests. The remaining 97% take place in mainly scrublands and grasslands (as well as urban areas), which is precisely the kind of vegetation that ignited in the 1991 Oakland Firestorm and exactly what will be created with the plan to clear-cut East Bay public lands.
How to Help Stop the Insanity
If you struggle with the logic behind this dangerous transformation of public spaces — and would like to halt further destruction — there are several ways to help.
Save East Bay Hills has sent out several thousand letters to neighborhoods in regions that will be affected by the plan, but there’s still plenty more people to reach.
Every stamp sent means one more letter out into the world — and potentially one more person working toward stopping this lunacy by educating family and friends about the problem and contacting public officials to express their opposition to the plan.
Save the East Bay Hills
6114 La Salle Ave. #836
Oakland CA 94611
Make Your Voice Heard
Contact information for the following public officials and organizations can be found here.
- Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
- Oakland City Council Members
- East Bay Regional Parks District
- U.C. Berkeley
Help Spread the Word
If you live or work in Oakland, print out the Oakland flyer and pass it out to neighbors, at farmer’s markets, street fairs and more.
Likewise, if you visit parks in the East Bay, print out the EBRPD flyer and place on windshields in the parking lot and handout to those enjoying the park.
Write Letters to the Editor
Find your local Bay Area newspaper editor contact information here.
- http://www.saveeastbayhills.org/uploads/4/7/8/8/47884333/misrepresponse.pdf [PDF]
- http://www.emwh.org/issues/habitat/Reducing%20the%20Wildland%20Fire%20Threat%20to%20Homes.pdf [PDF]
Previous articles by Carolanne Wright:
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