Tu B’shvat Forum on the East Bay Hills Tree Controversy
January 23 @ 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
A forum concerning the issue of cutting eucalyptus and other “non-native” trees from Lake Chabot to Wildcat Canyon, and recently with the mediation efforts: featuring Norman LaForce, chair of the Sierra Club’s East Bay public lands committee, and Dan Grassetti, director of the Hills Conservation Network. LaForce and Grassetti will each give brief presentations, after which the forum will be open to questions from the audience. Presented by the Greening Committee.
Background: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has allocated more than $5.5 million to cut more than 200,000 eucalyptus and other “non-native” trees from Lake Chabot to Wildcat Canyon across the East Bay hills, and to apply herbicide for years running to prevent regrowth. In round numbers, the project involves 1,000 acres. UC Berkeley plans to cut 22,000 eucalyptus, acacia and Monterey pine trees on 100 of those acres, according to the executive summary of FEMA’s Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) on the project. That equals about 220 trees per acre.
The EIS does not detail the total numbers of trees to be destroyed on the other 900 acres of project lands owned by the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District. Native oak and bay laurel trees will not be cut.
The project stands delayed pending litigation brought by the Hills Conservation Network (HCN) and the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club, which have asserted opposing views on the matter. HCN specifically challenges plans presented by the City of Oakland and UC Berkeley, though not those of the park district, which advocates thinning of eucalyptus and other non-native trees and management to reduce fire risk.
The Sierra Club area chapter has entered the litigation, asserting that thinning and management would be far too expensive, and advocating destruction in phases of all non-native eucalyptus, acacia, and Monterey pine trees on thousand of acres across the East Bay hills, hoping to enable growth of native vegetation. The two organizations have recently been engaged in mediation, seeking to informally resolve the litigation.