The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
January - February 2008
No net loss of trees for SF natural areas
Plan will regenerate neglected `tree farms' into native biodiversity
Even by the standards of San Francisco politics, the misstatements about the Natural Areas Program are exorbitant.
Last October, when the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission unanimously approved the next environmental-review phase of the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan, longstanding opponents charged that the plan will cause the wholesale deforestation of the city's parks, turning San Francisco's parks into "barren slopes like they were in 1850." This assertion is utter nonsense, and it is crucial for environmentalists to know exactly how and why it is false.
The fundamental truth is that under the plan, there will be no net loss of trees in San Francisco. The plan calls for one-for-one replacement with native trees when crowded, diseased, dying, dangerous, invasive, and exotic trees have to be removed from wooded regions in the 31 officially designated Significant Natural Resource Areas. Only in Sharp Park, in Pacifica, will more trees have to be removed than replanted, because of the bad condition of its wooded areas.
In fact, because the Natural Areas Program is currently planting hundreds of new live oaks, resilient toyons, majestic buckeyes, and colorful elderberries, it is already accomplishing a net increase of trees. These native species not only are highly attractive, but also restore the complex and sensitive Franciscan plant communities that define the city's vital biodiversity.
The wooded areas in the Significant Natural Resource Areas are not remnants of some primeval forest. They were planted in the 1880s by Adolph Sutro, a Comstock Lode millionaire who at that time owned most of western San Francisco. Partly to make over San Francisco like his native Germany, and partly for the big tax credits and loggable wood he would obtain, Sutro planted his lands densely with blue-gum eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and Monterey cypress. He died before his plans were completed and eucalyptus was found to be commercially unviable. So Sutro's tree farm was basically abandoned, the planned thinning never occurred, the understory overgrew with invasive weeds, the city bought the lands for parks, and we now have the mess that the plan is being crafted to manage.
These disturbed lands require the interventions specified in the Management Plan. The trees are far too close together and are encumbered by thick columns of clinging ivy that choke off light. Diseased and broken trees are dying now, and relatively well-spaced ones are near the end of their normal lifespans. New saplings cannot emerge from the dense, fogdrip-accelerated understory of invasive ivy, cape ivy, and blackberry that dominates these wooded areas. All these trees will be dead in a couple of decades - unless the deft, targeted interventions prescribed by the management plan are performed - culling the enfeebled trees to allow the more vigorous ones to thrive, and removing the invasive weeds to restore healthy understory plant communities.
The environmental review of the plan will take a number of months, after which the plan will again come before the Recreation and Park Commission. The plan will then no doubt be subjected again to the specious accusation that it will destroy all the parks' trees.
In the meantime, visit the parks themselves to see first-hand the calamitous condition of these woods. Join the monthly first-Saturday habitat-restoration work parties at Mount Davidson, co-sponsored by the San Francisco Group and the Natural Areas Program. For details see the calendar starting on page A of every Yodeler, or contact Stan Kaufman at sekfmn -at- pacbell.net
Learn more about how the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan will revitalize our Significant Natural Resource Areas.
© 2008 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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