by Bill Lazarus
Key opposing players on plans to destroy 200,000-plus eucalyptus and other non-native trees across the East Bay hills squared off at a Kehilla forum held January 23, 2016 in conjunction with Tu b’shvat. About two dozen people attended the forum, which was sponsored by Kehilla’s Greening Committee. The forum was unusual in bringing opponents together on this issue of continuing and heated controversy.
Dan Grassetti, director of the Hills Conservation Network and longtime opponent of plans to cut the trees and spread herbicide for years to prevent regrowth, and Norman LaForce, chair of the public lands committee of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, each addressed the issue. LaForce spoke of the reputation of eucalyptus as “gasoline trees” in Australia, while Grassetti quoted U.S. Forest Service comments that the eucalyptus help prevent fire, not the opposite. The comments were solicited by the Federal Emergency Management Administration concerning its plans to spend $5.6 million in federal funds to reduce fire hazards in the hills. The Hills Conservation Network and the Sierra Club are opponents in litigation concerning those plans, and lately have been involved in mediation talks toward a possible resolution.
A good quality video of the roughly hour-long event has been posted to YouTube at https://youtu.be/5wvmsYD3dC4. You can view it below: