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Eucalyptus: California Icon, Fire Hazard and Invasive Species

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Specialized reproductive structures caleld "epicormic shoots" sprout from buds on the bushfire damaged trunk of a Eucalyptus tree, about two years after the 2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires. (Near Anglers Rest, Victoria, Australia./jjron)

Specialized reproductive structures called “epicormic shoots” sprout from buds on the bushfire damaged trunk of a Eucalyptus tree, about two years after the 2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires. Near Anglers Rest, Victoria, Australia. (Photo: jjron)

Biologists now count invasive species as a major threat to biological diversity second only to direct habitat loss and fragmentation. Why do they worry when new species enter an ecosystem? More than 90 percent of introduced plants in California have overcome barriers to survival and reproduction in their new home without harming native species. But a fraction display invasive traits, displacing native species and reshaping the ecological landscape.

Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), a symbol of California for some, never knew California soil until the 1850s, when seeds from Australia were planted, first as ornamentals, then mostly for timber and fuel. The California Invasive Plant Council (CAL-IPC) classifies blue gum eucalyptus as a “moderate” invasive because the trees need certain conditions to thrive. For the most part, they’re not a problem in the drier regions of Southern California or the Central Valley. But along the coast, where summer fog brings buckets of moisture, it’s a different story.

Blue gum invades neighboring plant communities if adequate moisture is available for propagation, state resource ecologist David Boyd noted in a report for CAL-IPC. Once established, the trees can alter local soil moisture, light availability, fire patterns, nitrogen mineralization rates and soil chemistry.

Introduced species can disrupt ecological relationships among species that co-evolved over millennia, which is why many groups work to remove eucalyptus and restore coast live oaks. California’s native oak woodlands still sustain more biodiversity than any other terrestrial landscape even though more than a century of intensive agricultural, rangeland and urban development has claimed some 5 million acres of woodlands. (While settlers cleared the land of oaks, entrepreneurs planted eucalyptus trees by the millions.)

Historic fire risk
That’s why many ecologists welcome a plan to remove tens of thousands of eucalyptus and other non-native trees from the East Bay Hills to reduce fire risk. UC Berkeley, together with the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District, applied for up to $5.6 million in grants to remove the non-natives—primarily eucalyptus, Monterey pine and acacia—under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation and Hazard Mitigation Grant programs. The total project would cover just under 1,000 acres and includes plans to encourage regrowth of native oak and bay trees.

Fifteen major fires roared through 9,000 acres of the East Bay Hills between 1923 and 1992, incinerating some 4,000 homes and killing 26 people. The Oakland “Tunnel” fire, considered the worst in California history, caused an estimated $1.5 billion in damage, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and killed 25 people. Following the Oakland fire, disaster experts urged large landowners in the East Bay Hills to work together to manage vegetation to prevent another catastrophic wildfire, says Tom Klatt, who manages environmental projects for UC Berkeley and serves on the UC Fire Mitigation Committee.

“Blue gum eucalyptus is one of the most fire-intensive plants,” says Klatt. Trees not only put a lot of fuel on the ground as they shed bark, leaves and twigs, but in intense fires, volatile compounds in foliage cause explosive burning. “Once bark catches fire, it gets blown ahead of the flame front and drops burning embers by the tens of thousands per acre in the urban community.”

A 1923 fire started at Inspiration Point ran through the eucalyptus trees until it hit the ridgeline at Grizzly Peak, then came down to University and Shattuck before the wind finally changed direction, Klatt says. “It took out 568 homes on the north side of the Berkeley campus in two hours.”

Despite the fire risk, the plan remains contentious. Some residents worry about the use of pesticides, some feel eucalyptus’ flammability is overstated and others who consider the trees cultural icons view the plans as an attack on a species that’s been here so long we should consider it native. (For the record, the California Native Plant Society defines “native” as any species that predated European contact.) Predicting how an introduced species will behave is complicated by the fact that ecological effects are difficult to observe—and may only appear when it’s too late to control.

Ecological impacts of eucalyptus
Evidence of the trees’ impacts on East Bay ecosystems is relatively scarce. A 2002 study of the Berkeley hills found similar numbers and diversity of species in eucalyptus and native woodlands, but the species themselves were different. Monarchs use groves in Point Pinole as resting spots and several bird species, including herons and egrets, nest in eucalyptus in and near the tree-removal project areas, though how their use affects their reproductive success isn’t clear. (Klatt says that though he hasn’t seen nests in the UCB project areas, the law requires that they take steps to protect nesting birds and any species under state and federal protection.)

More evidence comes from the Central Coast. At a 2004 workshop on the blue gum’s impact on the ecology of coastal ecosystems, researchers reported conflicting effects. Eucalyptus stands can provide habitat for birds near cities and water bodies, and for overwintering monarch butterflies. But the trees change the composition of insect and bird communities as they invade: the loss of native trees that grow along rivers could spell trouble for neotropical migratory songbirds and for species that nest in tree cavities. And when eucalyptus leaves enter streams, aquatic macroinvertebrate communities change, altering the food chain, likely because the chemical content of eucalyptus leaves differs from native foliage.

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) — off Highway 101 in California. Though oak woodlands sustain more wildlife species than any other landscape, only 4 percent of the state’s woodland habitats are protected. The vast majority remain in private hands. (Photo: Peter O'Malley)

Blue oak (Quercus douglasii) — off Highway 101 in California. Though oak woodlands sustain more wildlife species than any other landscape, only 4 percent of the state’s woodland habitats are protected. The vast majority remain in private hands. (Photo: Peter O’Malley)

By the time the eucalyptus trees were planted in the East Bay, typically in 12 foot by 12 foot plots, most native woodlands and perennial native grasslands had already been converted to annual European grasslands, says forest ecologist Joe McBride, professor of environmental science, policy and management at the University of California at Berkeley. “And certainly by now a number of species are using those trees but they were here before the eucalyptus was planted, using oak woodlands, riparian woodlands and redwood forests in the East Bay. They just spread to eucalyptus and Monterey pines when the trees grew big enough. These populations aren’t going to disappear if eucalyptus is removed.”

But removal has proven difficult. “After two previous removal efforts in the 1970s and again in the 1980s, the trees have grown back,” Klatt says. Successful eradication requires at least 10 years of maintenance and drizzling about 2 ounces of diluted herbicide directly to the cut stump immediately after felling a tree, he explains. “If you do it within the first three minutes, we see 95 percent to 98 percent success with a single treatment.” But if the trees resprout, more applications will be needed.

The plan aims to selectively cut eucalyptus while leaving bay, oaks and other native trees in the understory. “The more understory we preserve, the faster it recovers,” says Klatt. The plan also calls for retaining all the cut wood as chips for erosion control and moisture retention, and to encourage native regrowth, aided by birds and squirrels that plant acorns in chip beds.

McBride hasn’t seen evidence of eucalyptus’ invasive tendencies in the East Bay Hills but worries about its combustible nature. “We imported this plant from Australia but we didn’t import the normal fungus that decays the litter in Australia,” he says. Accumulations of bark and leaf litter under eucalyptus stands have measured up to 100 tons per acre, compared to about 3 tons per acre for coast live oaks. “It’s an enormous increase.”

Selected for flammability?
So how does the blue gum act in its native environment? For David Bowman, a forest ecologist at the University of Tasmania in Australia, the question isn’t whether the trees are native or non-native—it’s whether they’re dangerous. “Looking at the eucalyptus forest outside my window in Tasmania, I see a gigantic fire hazard.”

At very high temperatures, eucalypt species release a flammable gas that mixes with air to send fireballs exploding out in front of the fire. With eucalyptus, you see these ember attacks, with huge bursts of sparks shooting out of the forests, Bowman says. “It’s just an extraordinary idea for a plant.”

Though it’s difficult to prove, Bowman suspects the trees evolved to be “uber flammable.” Sixty million years ago eucalyptus species hit on a way to recover from intense fire, he explains, using specialized structures hidden deep within their bark that allow rapid recovery through new branches, instead of re-sprouting from the roots like other trees. “They have this adaptive advantage of not having to rebuild their trunk. Whether their oil-rich foliage is also an adaptation, we don’t know.”

If you aren’t familiar with the idea of a plant designed to burn in its life cycle, you can get fooled by its beauty and nice smell, Bowman says. “But on a really hot day, those things are going to burn like torches and shower our suburbs with sparks. And on an extremely hot day, they’re going to shoot out gas balls.”

With tiny pinhead seeds that germinate only in disturbed soils, the trees really aren’t good invaders, Bowman says–with one exception. “Fire opens up the woody capsules that hold the seeds, which love growing on freshly burned soil. Give a hillside a really good torching and the eucalyptus will absolutely dominate. They’ll grow intensively in the first few years of life and outcompete everything.”

The evolutionary dimensions of fire ecology are controversial, Bowman allows. “But if eucalyptus are these evolutionary freak plants that massively increase fire risk,” he says, it raises a troubling question: Are these intense fires a consequence of climate change or the interaction of climate and biology? “If it’s the latter, then what the hell have humans done? We’ve spread a dangerous plant all over the world.”

*****

For more information:
You can still submit written comments to FEMA until midnight, June 17, 2013: via email at EBH-EIS-FEMA-RIX@fema.dhs.gov, via fax at FAX: (510) 627-7147, or via mail to P.O. Box 72379, Oakland, CA 94612-8579.

Executive summary of the project.

Firestorm: the story of a catastrophic fire that struck the Tasmanian township of Dunalley January 4, 2013.

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Category: Biology, Climate, Environment

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About the Author ()

Liza Gross, a freelance science writer and senior editor at the biomedical journal PLOS Biology, channeled an early love of wildlife into a lifelong exploration of the numerous ways diverse species, including humans, interact in the natural world. She writes mostly about wildlife, conservation, and environmental health. Her stories reflect a deep curiosity about natural and social interactions and often highlight evolutionary relationships that remind humans of their place in, and responsibility to conserve, nature. Her article "Don't Jump!" published in Slate, won an ASJA award in the op-ed category. She's a visiting scholar at NYU, a 2013 recipient of NYU Reporting Award funding and a Dennis Hunt health journalism fellow. Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.
  • OaklandFireStormVictim1997

    Thanks for this excellent article, unfortunately the opposition to ridding the hills of this invasive species is far more organized than the science based FEMA proposal

    • Madeline Hovland

      If “OaklandFireStormVictim1997 really were a “victim” of the Oakland firestorm, he or she would know that it occurred in 1991, not 1997. I was there, and I know that the 1991 fire did not start or spread because of eucalyptus trees. It started in dry brush, quickly spread to dry grass, then to pines, and then to houses. There were groves of eucs in many places in the hills, but few eucs in other places. Most of the vegetation, trees, and plants, including redwoods and oaks, native and non-native trees, that were in the path of that fire burned. People who did not “survive” the fire are the ones most likely to be “victims” of an agenda that has nothing to do with fire safety.

      • SkyHunter

        an agenda that has nothing to do with fire safety.

        That would be the Hills Conservation Network’s agenda. Save the trees no matter the cost.
        A group of misanthropic tree huggers and clever propagandists, who have spread fear through an extensive and insidious media campaign. Their method is eerily similar to the climate denial movement, just on a smaller scale.

        • Madeline Hovland

          You did not experience the fire and you do not know what you are talking about.

          • SkyHunter

            The problem with that narrative is it is based on two false premises…

            I did experience the 1991 fire, and everyone can tell that I do know what I am talking about simply by reading my comments and following the links to the scientific sources that support my comments.

            As a member of the HCN I hold you responsible for the Bev Jo’s confusion. Your organization has been spreading disinformation about eucalypti for years. You have that poor woman believing that eradicating the eucalypti from the woods will result in a barren landscape. It won’t and you know it.

            If you don’t, know it, you should.
            All one need do is visit “The Church” in the Claremont Canyon.

          • Madeline Hovland

            You experienced the fire the way I experienced the Civil War, and believe me I am not that old! So now you are saying that there’s a “church” in Claremont Canyon? If you read the FEMA DEIS, you would know that if UCB is successful in removing the non-native trees, it plans to develop the slopes of Claremont Canyon, most probably with faculty and student housing. There’s no mention of a church, but maybe that’s in UCB’s plans too. The EPA report stated that UCB must assess the impact of its planned Claremont Canyon development on the surrounding community. That is, such development will obviously impact traffic and air quality. Your comments reveal that you have read only biased, nativist propaganda. I suspect that you are being paid to be a mouthpiece for native plant advocates. I hope, that if that is true, that you will not continue to let yourself be used in that way.

          • SkyHunter

            It is your arrogant self assurance that your beliefs represent reality, that leads you to make such egregious mistakes in logic.

            I experienced the 1991 fire. I didn’t lose my home, but I did have to evacuate. My client at the time lost his home which disrupted the project I was working on. I moved away shortly afterward.

            Unlike you, I don’t use my experience to sanctimoniously dismiss the thoughts and opinions of others. By doing so you are employing a logical fallacy. But as I have continuously demonstrated, the entire narrative of the Hills Conservation Nuts is a fallacy.

            I live in the Claremont Canyon. The Church is what the local nature lovers call the Sign Post 29 study area.

            Your characterization of the DEIS and EPA comment is false. Either you do not know any better, did not read or was unable to comprehend the DEIS and EPA comment, or you are deliberately lying about it.

            UCB does not need FEMA’s permission to develop their campus. UCB is going to proceed regardless of the FEMA decision. The risk reduction from eradicating the trees is a large enough ROI (9-1) to make it worthwhile, regardless of what they do with the land in the future.

            In the DEIS, Table 6.1.1 lists additional projects for cumulative analysis. UCB describes theirs as; “Long-range plan for expansion of Hill Campus facilities” The EPA comment requests more specific development plans be described for the “reasonably foreseeable future.” They rightly feel that if UCB is already planning to remove trees for development in the reasonably foreseeable future, those plans should be described and the development areas should not be included in the grant application.

            Framing this as if the FEMA grant would stop the development is just another example of the false narrative you Hills Conservation Nuts are spinning.

            The EPA’s comment about UCB campus development does not mention anything about the impact on the community for it’s “Long-range plan for expansion of Hill Campus facilities”. The EPA’s comment (page five under the heading Induced Growth) is clearly only addressing the impact of development on the proposed project.

            So here again, we have another example of you distorting the truth. The EPA says nothing about what effects these unspecified future projects will have on traffic.

            My comments contain URL links to the sources by which I inform my opinions. While I am flattered that you consider me to be a professional, unfortunately, I do not get paid to expose false narratives. I simply have an abhorrence to the propagation of lies. You and your organization have been misrepresenting and distorting the facts, in order to sway public opinion. You have a Constitutional Right to do so. Just as I have a Constitutional Right to expose your lies and false narratives.

            The evidence, DEIA and EPA comment, clearly demonstrate that your characterization of them is biased. Accusing me of having a biased perception from having “read only nativist propaganda” is an example of psychological projection.

            Your suspicions about my motivations are as unfounded as your specious narrative. I live in the Hills. I lived through the last fire. The eucalypti are a threat to me, my family, and my property. By opposing the sensible eradication of these trees, you and your organization are also a threat to me, my family, and my property.

            What more motivation do I need?

  • Don Strong

    Eucs are fire adapted and burn hot. Check out the Guardian video “Firestorm,” about the recent Tasmanian fires,

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2013/may/26/firestorm-bushfire-dunalley-holmes-family

  • http://milliontrees.me/ Million_Trees

    What a strange, contradictory article. The title claims that eucalypts are invasive, yet it quotes two scientists who claim otherwise. One is Joe McBride, Professor of urban forestry at UC Berkeley. He is the author of a study that used aerial photographs of open spaces throughout the Bay Area taken over a 60 year period which showed that non-native forests of Monterey pine and eucalypts decreased in size from the 1930s to the 1990s, before land managers started eradicating them. There is no photographic evidence that eucalypts are invading wildlands in the Bay Area.

    The fellow in Tasmania must be talking about another species of eucalyptus from our predominant species. The seeds of our Blue Gum aren’t “released from their seeds pods by fire.” And what he says about eucalypts being adapted to survive fire is equally true of the plants and trees that are native to California. Australia and California share a Mediterranean climate in which vegetation is adapted to fire. Everything he says about fire is equally true of California’s native ecology. Observers of the 1991 Oakland fire saw redwoods “explode like matchsticks” according to a book based on the observations of fire survivors.

    The article acknowledges that studies find equal numbers of species of insects and vertebrates in eucalyptus forest in the Bay Area and other vegetations types, yet the author drags in “evidence” from distant locations in an attempt to claim otherwise.

    This article strains to reach the conclusions it desires, but a careful reading of it indicates that the headline is inaccurate. Folks who love to hate eucalyptus are having more and more difficulty finding the evidence they need to justify their hatred.

    • SkyHunter

      So an anonymous blogger with a blatant agenda believes they are a greater authority on Tasmanian Blue Gums that the forest biologist from the University of Tasmania.
      Well credibility was never your strong point eh?
      Your characterization of those in favor of a eradicating eucalyptus from the fire prone hills as; “Folks who love to hate”, justifies the scorn and derision directed at you and your followers.
      It is this is the kind of lunacy that establishes a place for the misguided, misanthropic, eucalyptus lovers on the lunatic fringe.

  • Bev Jo

    I expect better from KQED and cannot believe you printed this
    conglomeration of dangerous myths. It is all about the money, which is spelled
    “Monsanto.” Our native oaks are dying. We have no idea if any will be left.
    Even our beautiful Pinus Sabiniana further east (Mt. Diablo, Sunol, etc.) are
    dying from drought. We need every tree we can get.

    It’s not a
    coincidence that most people had no idea it is being planned to cut down almost
    every tree in our East Bay Hills parks from Richmond to Castro Valley, and
    certainly we are not being allowed to vote about losing our parks, which are the
    best part of the East Bay. If you question most people, they have no idea that
    most of our parks are non-native. Or that only the native animals are being
    targeted for losing their homes and food. Those who support this plan should
    first kill their own vegetable gardens, roses, fruit trees, ornamentals, etc.
    Hypocrisy. UC even has a book bragging about their many exotic trees on campus.

    It’s not complicated to see who will lose and who will benefit. Once our
    parks are only dry, barren and highly flammable non-native grass and dying oaks,
    the land and water herbicided, all the wild animals dead or gone, and a few
    people richer, then it’ll be clear.

    No, oaks don’t create the most
    diversity of species. Mixed pine/oak/eucalyptus/acacia/cypress etc. do. Count
    you lives there and the diversity of plants there. Compare that to the short,
    dark oak/bay or redwood forest. Studies aren’t needed when you have common sense
    and see the eagles, hawks, owls, etc. choosing eucalyptus as their preferred
    tree for nesting. Hummingbirds drink the nectar, monarchs over-winter in them.

    Eucalyptus PREVENT fires by being naturally resistant (see the stories
    of eucalyptus still standing after the fires) and because they and other tall
    trees precipitate inches of moisture from the fog each year. The native bay
    trees are far more flammable.

    It’s ridiculous to consider two of our most magnificent and beautiful
    species to be non-native (Monterey Cypress and Monterey Pine) when they are
    endangered in their natural habitat only a few miles away.

    If this plan goes through, there will be more fire and environmental
    devastation from the landslides.

    Don’t forget Monsanto, who is behind this plan. EBRP actually told me that
    glyphosate/Roundup is “safe.” I guess permanent damage to the environment, birth
    defects, cancer, neurological disease, chronic illness and death don’t count
    when money is involved. They are already spraying along the bay and other places
    with endangered bird species where there is absolutely no reason to.

    Check all the posts at this great website before agreeing to the
    destruction of our parks.

    http://milliontrees.me/fire-the-cover-story/

    Death of a Million Trees — http://milliontrees.me/

    And here is an excellent video which refutes the Nativists’
    theories:

    • 00000

      Blah blah blah. Stop liking your own posts lady.

  • Bev Jo

    Here’s my letter to FEMA:

    PLEASE SAVE OUR EAST BAY PARKS

    Please save hundreds of thousands of healthy, tall, mature, beautiful
    trees before they are destroyed without most residents even knowing what is
    being planned, and with no way to vote. Protect our local environment and all
    the wild animals who also will die if this plan based on greed is allowed to
    happen.

    To find out the actual facts from the deliberate misinformation, please see
    these websites:

    http://milliontrees.me/fire-the-cover-story/

    http://www.eastbaypesticidealert.org/wildfire.html

    http://hillsconservationnetwork.org/HillsConservation3/Blog/Blog.html

    http://hillsconservationnetwork.org/HillsConservation3/About_us.html

    http://hillsconservationnetwork.org/HillsConservation3/Blog/Entries/2013/5/25_Our_tax_dollars_at_work.html

    Please see what people said at the last meeting with
    FEMA:

    Please sign this petition
    http://signon.org/sign/stop-the-deforestation-3?source=s.fwd&r_by=2464736

    and write to FEMA (we have only until June 17) at:

    EBH-EIS-FEMA-RIX@fema.dhs.gov.

    1. This FEMA project will cause MORE fires, not
    less. Fires typically begin in grasslands, which is where the 1991
    firestorm started. This project will greatly increase non-native, highly
    flammable grasslands and non-native poison hemlock, thistles, broom, etc. in the
    East Bay hills, instead of beautiful trees. Entire sections of our parks will
    become dry, barren wastelands. And the planned “control burns” will pollute the
    air with smoke, as well as risk more fire and make the herbicides
    airborne.

    2. After the trees are gone, the erosion and resulting landslides will be
    catastrophic. It is shameful to use desperately needed tax money for a project
    which is not needed and will result in ecological disaster. At that point, FEMA
    money really WILL be needed.

    3. Re-planting is NOT part of the project.

    4. Many native trees are extremely flammable, but eucalyptus are NOT a
    particular fire hazard, and have been demonstrated to help forests prevent and
    contain fires. Eucalyptus were seen to actually stop the spread of fire to
    houses, creating windbreaks during the 1991 firestorm, while redwoods
    burned. (Of course when a fire is hot enough, everything burns, but the answer
    to that is clearly not to kill all the trees.) Eucalyptus and our other tall
    non-natives precipitate inches of water from the fog each year, moistening the
    earth, filling creeks and adding water to reservoirs, supporting green and fire
    resistant shrubs.

    5. Sudden Oak Death is killing our native trees. Most are infected. We
    should be grateful for having our fire-resistant, disease-resistant,
    healthy, beautiful, exotic trees who are well-adapted to our semi-arid climate
    – especially with climate changing and impending drought — and treasure them
    instead of killing them. We have no idea how quickly and extensively our native
    trees will die. We may end up with only non-native forest, so we need
    more tree diversity, not less. Many of our best parks have almost all
    non-native trees (which most people don’t realize.) What reasonable person
    would prefer dry, empty, barren grasslands with no shade or wildlife diversity?

    6. Why would anyone kill hundreds of thousands of huge trees, some over
    a hundred years old, when we desperately need them for cleaner air and to
    prevent climate change? Those supporting this ill-planned project make
    no mention of the harm done to the environment from eliminating so many
    oxygen-producing trees. The killed trees chipped on site will add to air
    pollution as well as greatly increase fire risk. Significant amounts of
    sequestered C02 will be released, adding not only to global warming, but also to
    local climate changes: more wind, more dry air, less fog, more air pollution.
    Big trees are needed to store carbon. No other type of vegetation stores as much
    carbon as tall hardwood trees. Ongoing carbon sequestration capabilities will be
    reduced from what they are now, and will never recover.

    7. This project is actually about greed and getting 7
    million dollars from FEMA for Monsanto, UC, local cities, and EBRP —
    money that is desperately needed elsewhere. There has been no significant fire
    in the East Bay since 1991. There is now better prevention and quicker response
    time (the main fire cause is arson or carelessness.) Nothing is needed
    to be done to make the hills safer, but this project WOULD greatly increase fire
    risk.

    8. WHY is something that will affect the quality of life in our
    East Bay cities forever not being put to a vote, and is being snuck in
    with almost no one knowing about it? Most of the people affected have no idea
    they will be losing their beloved parks. The propaganda campaign of myths and
    half-truths does not lead to trust. Some of who are participating in promoting
    this destructive plan while spreading misinformation will likely be
    benefiting.

    9. Where is the concern for the millions of native animals
    who will be killed, including some who are endangered?

    Once the trees are destroyed, the already-burdened wildlife
    will die from hunger and loss of habitat. Others will be directly killed by the
    devastating bulldozing, chainsawing and poisoning. Without predators like
    raptors, rodents and other small animals will over-populate.

    Learn from our native animals which trees they prefer. Bay Nature magazine
    online has a beautiful photo of the Bald Eagles nesting in a eucalyptus at Lake
    Chabot — that tree, like much of the parkland overlooking Lake Chabot will be
    killed. Our native raptors — eagles, hawks, owls, etc. — PREFER eucalyptus for
    nesting because they are the tallest trees and have an open canopy, which is
    good for spotting predators and for the largest birds to be able to safely fly
    in and out of. (A young Peregrine Falcon died recently because he landed badly
    when learning to fly.) The largest raptors ignore oaks, bays, etc., because the
    forest is too dense to safely fly in.

    Hummingbirds rely on eucalyptus flower nectar. Monarch butterflies
    prefer eucalyptus to rest in in the millions during migration. The brilliant
    website Death of a Million Trees says that a survey of 173 ornithologists
    reported that 47% of birds eat from non-native plants

    Eucalyptus
    are now an essential part of our eco-system, as are the beautiful Monterey
    pines, Monterey cypress, acacias, etc. The Monterey pine forests have
    far more bird diversity than native forest. Yet every pine is slated for
    killing. WHY? Yet another myth is that they have short life spans. They live up
    to 120 years, and every part of their life cycle nurtures our wildlife and
    plants. Raptors, woodpeckers, and other birds use the dead trees for their
    survival to hunt from or to store acorns. Insectivorous birds prey on small
    animals on the trunks. Many animals live on the nutritious pine nuts and those
    animals feed many native predators. The young pines grow up from the base of
    their dead mothers, keeping the hills green with new trees, completing the
    cycle. These trees need no thinning, pruning, cutting. Monterey pine also
    greatly enriches the soil, creating thick humus helping our native clay
    earth nurture oak, bay, etc. seedlings, as well as wildflowers, mushrooms, etc.
    MONTERY PINES ARE AN NOW ESSENTIAL PART OF OUR HEALTHY FOREST/PARKS
    ECOSYSTEM.

    10. The effects of a planned decade or more of highly toxic herbicide
    spraying is also being ignored. (Monsanto, DOW, etc. must be thrilled at this
    project.) How many cases of birth defects, cancer, neurological,
    auto-immune and other illnesses will result from the use of these poisons?

    Most people living in the East Bay would object to the plan to
    continuously apply herbicide to the stumps of the butchered trees for TEN years,
    if they knew the details.

    Appling herbicides across the hills will result in
    incalculable deaths of native animals, including endangered species, as well as
    the toxic sediments ending up in our creeks, reservoirs, lakes, and
    bay. When the winds come, which will increase because the tree
    windbreaks will be gone, the dust full of herbicide will be windborne, damaging
    the health of everyone in the East Bay. Some of the poison will evaporate into
    the air, adding to our air pollution problem.

    No herbicide or the other petrochemicals added to it is
    safe. Every banned pesticide was once declared safe from studies funded
    by the pesticide industry and which the FDA approved. The experts who once
    assured us that DDT, Dieldrin, Chlordane, etc. were safe are saying newer
    poisons are safe. But the cancer rate continues to rise, as do birth defects,
    neuological illness, and auto-immune illness, etc. all associated with herbicide
    use. Meanwhile, how many animals are dying? We’ve seen California Newts dying
    horrible deaths after crawling through roadside areas sprayed with “safe”
    herbicides.

    Knowing how toxic chemicals work, we also can’t believe that
    the herbicides will not make the poisoned plants more flammable.

    We also believe this plan simply won’t work, knowing the
    amazing regenerative capabilities of these magnificent trees. So the use of
    poison will be far more continuous than planned. Eucalyptus will take thousands
    of gallons to stop its attempts to stay alive and resprout. And what about the
    acacias? You cut one down, and dozens sprout along the ground, yards away from
    the original tree. They continue to try to live years after their mother tree
    was killed. (These are not realities that should frighten people, but be
    reassuring that if our native forests die, we will still have magnificent parks
    full of beautiful shade trees with all the native animals we love.)

    11. Every part of this plan makes no environmental sense.
    Honeybees are dying, so we need our native bee populations more than ever, but
    the planned 24 inches of chipped mulch will prevent native bees from reaching
    the soil where they nest.

    12. Again, people who live in the East Bay have not been given
    the opportunity to vote on even the short-term aspects of the project and will
    be subjected, against our wills, to years of constant noise from chainsaws,
    bulldozing, woodchipping, road closures, and the ugliness and heartache of
    seeing favorite parks left treeless, with poisoned stumps. (There are a few
    places where this travesty was done several years ago which are still ugly
    wastelands.)

    13. How will this devastation actually be done and who will commit it?
    Those of us who have seen “maintenance” in the parks result in destruction of
    rare wildflowers on one of the few special little trails in the EBRP know the
    impact just one individual untrained individual can have. (He weed-wacked
    everything in sight and now we have to travel two counties away to see some of
    those flowers.) Endangered Clapper Rail habitat was destroyed at Pt. Reyes in an
    effort to help the rails. Audubon basically destroyed the Burrowing Owl habitat
    at Cesar Chavez park in Berkeley. (The last two had “experts” advising.)

    14. We ask, why the selective logging? Those few people who demand that the
    park trees be killed are wanting tax-payer FEMA money after they chose to buy
    houses near the very trees they now want dead. And they want to eliminate the
    rest of the East Bay residents from access to those beautiful trees that we
    support with our taxes. We suggest they trade houses and they live instead in
    the tree-denuded wasteland that is much of the East Bay urban area.

    For those who want our parks and UC Berkeley lands clear-cut, we suggest
    they start with the multi-million dollar ornamental non-natives that are the
    majority trees at the UC Botanical Gardens and campus, the landscaping of
    businesses and federal, state, county, and city buildings, people’s private
    gardens and yards – which, like the hills, would leave almost no vegetation
    since most of the green we see are from non-natives. (Hypocrite UC even has a
    book about their many exotic trees on campus.) Why the inconsistency – why are
    the non native plants in the cities being spared while the wild animals’ homes
    and food will be destroyed?

    At the East Bay Regional Park headquarters in the hills where
    the meeting with FEMA was held,, and where tree-killing is planned, there were
    many non-native ornamentals. Those Olive trees, Liquidamber, Arbutus Unedo, etc,
    aren’t going to be eliminated, so why destroy the trees on trails that many of
    us know personally and love?

    We ask every human who is against the beautiful exotic
    trees, what do you have in your own garden? If you don’t want to be a
    hypocrite, first cut down your olives, roses, magnolias, wisteria, jasmine,
    apples, peaches, plums, etc. before you deprive wild animals of their homes and
    food. Most people don’t even know which trees are native and which are not. But
    99% of the plants in people’s yards and gardens are not native.

    Actually, there is a reason that the vast majority of city
    plantings are done with non-natives. They contribute variety and beauty, and
    fthey feed and house an incredible diversity of birds, butterflies, etc. (The
    only truly problematical invasive is Hedera Canariensis, which completely covers
    trees and kills them. It can be seem from Highway 13 in Oakland and in many
    other public places, where it has been growing for decades and can be seen
    completely covering redwoods. We have called those responsible for decades and
    have been told that they don’t see it or don’t have the time. That is another
    reason why it makes no sense to kill healthy trees, while letting healthy
    natives be killed by ivy.)

    Of course we are not actually suggesting that people kill
    their non-native plant or cut down street trees and other landscaping, but we
    object to the double standard of where the wild animals are to be deprived of
    their homes and food while humans keep their non-native plants. Why should only
    the native animals suffer? No non-native human should be giving a death
    sentence to the native animals who will die as a result of this planned
    environmental devastation.

    There will be many persuasive arguments for committing this
    irreparable environmental devastation, but please don’t believe them. We’ve seen
    terrible harm already done in the name of environmentalism in the Bay Area. A
    few hours of well-intentioned work can result in permanent ecological
    damage.

    For those who insist on eliminating non-natives, we suggest we
    start with the humans, and then the introduced non-native animals who kill
    millions of native animals each year. And why not kill all the honeybees as well
    since they’re from Europe?

    The animals, as well as the trees, are not just “things” in
    humans’ territory. They are planning the killing of living, feeling beings. When
    people are often depressed from the dark and rain in winter, the gorgeous
    acacias bloom brilliant golden for two months. The broom with their yellow,
    exquisitely fragrant blossoms bloom for months during winter and spring.

    Please learn who this project will actually
    benefit. Find out the details before it’s too late.

    Please know that if this “project” begins, it will be
    far more destructive than they have told anyone. Expect the worst.

    Once our beautiful forests are gone, we will be left with bare,
    ugly hillsides with poisoned stumps, impending erosion and landslides, [olluted
    waterways, the wildlife left homeless, with many animals dead, many native
    plants also destroyed, the topsoil ruined, and the beauty gone forever. Few
    urban areas have such amazing wilderness. What a tragedy to mindlessly destroy
    it. We should all be grateful for what we have here. No non-native human should
    disparage non-native plants.

    The FEMA money is desperately needed elsewhere. Please do not
    waste this money by making a few people rich at the expense of the people,
    animals, environment, beauty of our parks. Please don’t create a new
    environmental disaster under the guise of preventing one.

    • SkyHunter

      The propaganda emanating from the sites you linked is not fact based.

      • Bev Jo

        Of course it is. You can go and see for yourself. What is your investment in wanting our local forests destroyed, the land and water polluted, the animals killed, and the resulting landslides?

        I stand by everything I wrote.

        • SkyHunter

          You stand by everything you wrote. Even when it is demonstrated to be a fallacy?

          What is your investment in wanting our local forests destroyed, the land and water polluted, the animals killed, and the resulting landslides?

          That is both a strawman and ad hominem fallacy.

          Keep it up. Your credibility is shrinking with each word.

  • Marg

    This article leaves the impression that the plan includes revegetation. That is not the case. All of the wood will be chipped, cut and left on site. No planting will occur. Herbicides will be sprayed, yes sprayed, for years into the future. Somehow, according to the applicants, this moonscape will transform itself into a diversified, healthy and “native” ecosystem. There is considerable debate about whether and how this will actually occur. Certainly, massive amounts of herbicides will be used to suppress the many varieties of unwanted “invasive” plants that will re-sprout. These poisons will migrate via air, water and dust into our bodies and the bodies of all living creatures in the area.

    The fire experts do not agree that this plan will actually mitigate the hazard. Climate change is certainly going to bring us more intense wildland fires. De-forestation will only make climate change accelerate. So why are we going down this road? Cutting hundreds of thousands of old tall trees is an act of human recklessness and hubris. Using taxpayer money to destroy and poison these public lands is immoral and insane.

    Please inform yourselves. Don’t take my word for it, read for yourself the draft EIS, and comments from the EPA, the Hills Conservation Network and others.

    • SkyHunter

      I have read the DEIS and the EPA comments.
      The herbicides are not sprayed, they are brushed onto the cambium layer of the fresh cut stump. using herbicides in such a targeted manner is not an environmental problem. It is the indiscriminate agricultural broadcasting that is environmentally destructive.
      I have thousands of pictures showing that the UC Berkeley’s eradication project resulted in a rich and diverse riparian woodland.

      Since E. Globulus does not slow it’s transpiration during drought, and it’s roots are very efficient, extracting water from the soil, even under high soil moisture tensions, means that their presence dries out the hills faster than the native trees, that do moderate their transpiration rate during the dry summers.

      • Bev Jo

        You must be working for Monsanto to not admit that any applied herbicides will poison the land and water. For ten years at least!

        If you actually went to see the environmental devastation that UC Berkeley is causing with killing so many trees, you’d be seeing the empty wasteland of dead stumps and burnt grass. You don’t even have to go on the land but can see some of the destruction from a long distance. It is horrific and ugly. Each killed tree is a terrible loss.

        Meanwhile, trees along the bay from Albany to Richmond are also being cut down. Why?

        Again, you must not ever go outside or you would see how green and wet it is under eucalyptus in the summer.

        • SkyHunter

          Now you are clearly demonstrating illogical thought processes. You are not thinking objectively to conclude that because I disagree with you, and instead rely upon the EPA to inform my opinion, I must be an agent of Monsanto.

          I do get out a lot. I have an electric bicycle that ride all over the hills. I have gone back into the unmanaged riparian woods, and the eucalyptus groves that are invading it.

          I have taken thousands of photos that I have shared publicly on my blog.

          http://ccfirestorm.blogspot.com/

      • Marg

        The DEIS refers to “backpack spraying” in addition to unspecified application methods for “maintenance”. Yes, there will be hand painted applications to tree stumps, (required by court order in riparian corridors) but there also will be less targeted spraying of herbicides, possibly over massive areas. There are no restrictions imposed for this eventuality. UCB currently sprays herbicides from trucks for “maintenance”-I’ve seen it myself. Implementing this plan opens the door for widespread poisoning.

        • SkyHunter

          This is a red herring. Although I oppose the backpack spraying, the FEIS will clarify for the EPA the application methods. I prefer manual removal and mulching, but in the larger picture of a billion pounds of agricultural pesticides dumped on the environment every year, I am not going to get hyperbolic about targeted application by a certified professional.
          What court order are you talking about?
          I think you are confused, could you cite the case?
          As for hand painting the stumps, that is simply the most effective method of preventing re-sprouts.
          Why would a court order what is considered best practice?
          Near streams there is a ban on pesticides, and the stumps must be ground or the re-sprouts cut every year until the stump dies.
          I don’t subscribe to slippery slope arguments, and find yours no more compelling than the one posited by the NRA about gun control.

  • Bev Jo

    No non-native humans has the right to kill native animals by taking away their homes and food in their obsession with killing non-native plants. Start with your own yards, all the city landscaping, street trees, etc.

    Or better, yet, leave our wonderful, beautiful diversity of native and non-native plants as they are.

    • 00000

      Uh no, there was no reason to bring Eucalypse trees here in the first place. Stop being a misanthropic treehugger. It’s stupid.

  • Vicki Thomas

    This article is outrageous with gross misinformation. I expect better from KQED. If none of you understand science then please don’t pretend you do and stop labeling this piece of fiction as having anything to do with science. Eucalyptus trees are not invasive. Please look up the definition of invasive. Invasive species take over their environment, killing all in their path. There is one dangerous invasive species in California that seems bent on destroying all in its path, but that one walks on two legs.
    I have lived with eucalyptus for over a decade and they have not taken over anything nor blocked the development of native species. On the contrary, they provide excellent habitat for a lot of native wildlife, and coexist quite happily with native bay and brush.
    The people wanting to take down the eucalyptus can hardly be called environmentalists, unless people who deforest, kill all native wildlife and contaminate the soil with poison can be called environmentalists. Please look up the definition of environmentalist.
    KQED you need to do better. Do you not have an informed science editor? Do you just publish anything that comes your way? We deserve the truth not a bunch of alarmist propaganda.
    And by the way, why wasn’t this article out in time for people to comment before the FEMA deadline?

    • SkyHunter

      Eucalyptus are classified as mildly invasive. Denying that destroys your credibility.

      I looked up the definition of invasive:

      Tending to spread prolifically and undesirably or harmfully.

      I also looked up the legal definition in the US.

      “An alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health…‘Alien species’ means, with respect to a particular ecosystem, any species…that is not native to that ecosystem.”

      Gee, no mention of “killing everything in it’s path.”

      Alarmist propaganda???

      You sound like very much like a climate science denier.

      • Vicki Thomas

        And, no mention in your post of any great or even moderate harm that eucalyptus have caused, which is really the issue. For a different perspective on “Invasive” species, you might try reading INVASION BIOLOGY: Critique of a Pseudoscience by David Theodoropoulos.

        • SkyHunter

          I was not making such an argument, I was refuting yours. I clearly demonstrated that your definition of invasive was dead wrong.
          But since you asked:

          Within groves, biological diversity is lost due to displacement of native plant communities and corresponding wildlife habitat. Abundance and diversity of understory vegetation is dependent on stand density. Understory establishment is inhibited by the production of allelopathic chemicals and by the physical barrier formed by high volumes of forest debris consisting of bark strips, limbs, and branches. The fuel complex formed by this debris is extremely flammable, and under severe weather conditions could produce drifting burning material with the potential to ignite numerous spot fires. Because stringy bark is carried away while burning, eucalyptus forests are considered the worst in the world for spreading spot fires. The Oakland hills firestorm was both intense and difficult to control because of the many stands of eucalyptus. Individual trees growing near structures or in public use areas are hazardous because of the potential for branch failure. Stature and growth form are distinctive and unlike native tree species, which compromises the visual quality of natural landscapes.
          Source

          I have read David’s pseudoscience book and watched his lecture on youtube.
          He is the Anthony Watts of biology. Making a name for himself by challenging the scientific consensus. Typical cheap self promotion.

          • Bev Jo

            I think this is a case of projection.

            Everything David Theodoropoulos says makes complete sense based on
            what I observe. I see a few eucalyptus in diverse mixed forest all the time, and
            those are the trees that the raptors choose for nesting, over many native tree
            species.

            I wonder what your investment is. Anyone who cares about our parks and environment would not want a single tree cut when our native trees are dying and being cut down.

          • SkyHunter

            You disagree with my position, so you question my motives.

            I think that is a case of projection.

            The native trees are dying because the invasive trees outcompete them for resources.

            Here is what a native riparian woodland looks like after the eucalypti are eradicated.

          • Bev Jo

            You questioned David’s motives. I’ve questioned him and agree with him, so believe you are the one projecting.

            The native trees are dying where there are no non-natives around them. That can easily be seen where the natives are dead and being removed in many areas of the hills.

            It will be clear when no trees are left.

          • SkyHunter

            I didn’t question his motives. I questioned his use of specious arguments and self published nonsense to promote himself. If he was a serious researcher he would be publishing in the peer reviewed scientific journals, not sensationalized books, op-eds, and youtube videos.

            That you refuse to change your belief in the face of incontrovertible evidence, is clearly a sign that you are irrational about this issue.

        • SkyHunter

          Additionally, in the East Bay Hills, E. Globulus does not close it’s stomata to regulate transpiration during drought. Since we get no rain in the summer, the eucalypti quickly dissipate the moisture in the soil within 100 feet of each tree, making the understory drier and more fire prone.

          • Bev Jo

            If you believe myths about eucalyptus drying the land, then you must not stand
            under them and see still-green grass and other plants at the end of summer when
            all else is parched and dry.

          • SkyHunter

            I don’t believe anything. Everything I know is wrong. The best I can do is discover why I am wrong and in the process become less wrong.

            Therefore, unlike you, I don’t inform my opinion with anecdotes, I inform it with evidence. Scientific evidence.

            I had this conversation with one of your group’s sock puppets and blogged about it here.

            The only grass I have seen growing naturally under a blue gum, and I have taken thousands of photos of the E. Globulus infesting the East Bay Hills, is Ehrharta grass. An invasive perennial grass that does remain greener longer than annual grasses. Especially if it is under the canopy of a eucalyptus. Since it can reproduce vegetatively, the phytotoxins in the fog drip that prevent germination of seeds, do not stop the Ehrharta from reproducing under the drip line. It’s shallow roots are in a good position to compete for the moisture and Ehrharta is also tolerant of all the the bark, leaves, and branches that cover the ground beneath E. Globulus. Mostly what I have seen growing under the Blue Gum in the East Bay Hills is poison oak.

          • Bev Jo

            I’m not part of a group. I’m an individual who is horrified at the plan to cut down most of the trees in our local park, from Richmond to Castro Valley, leaving predominantly empty wasteland that is going to be poisoned for ten years — all without most of the people in the area knowing or agreeing — all without no vote.

            “Scientific evidence” is sold to the highest bidder and is on a continuum with the people who once decided certain humans were less intelligent than others and based eugenics on that. Experiments on people still continue.

            So if we don’t trust what we see and learn, who do we trust?

            Nativist fanatics say nothing lives on eucalyptus here, yet I see eagles, hawks, etc. choosing eucalyptus over native trees for nesting. Hummingbirds and many other animals benefit. And eucalyptus is clearly not nearly the fire danger than native bay trees are.

            Again, those who so hate beautiful non-native plants should first kill all in their own yards and in our cities, which continue to be landscaped with non-natives, rather than destroy the food and homes of the native wild animals.

          • SkyHunter

            You are propagating the same lies as the eucalyptus loving cult that has invaded the media. Whether officially or not, you are part of the same local lunatic fringe.

            Saying things like…

            “Scientific evidence” is sold to the highest bidder and is on a continuum with the people who once decided certain humans were less intelligent than others and based eugenics on that. Experiments on people still continue.

            …does little to dispel the notion that you are irrational about this subject.

            Nativist fanatics say nothing lives on eucalyptus

            I don’t suppose you would care to quote some of these imaginary fanatics would you?

            Hummingbirds and many other animals benefit.

            Not according the the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.

            On the ground beneath the tree, we find a dead Ruby-crowned Kinglet, its facial feathers matted flat from black, tar-like pitch. Through a hend lens I can see that its nostrils are sealed shut. This little bird has suffocated as a result of its attraction to an exotic plant. I wonder out loud if the same fate becomes all the black-faced insectivores we see foraging in flowering eucalyptus. Years ago I found a dead hummingbird with black tar covering its bill and wondered why. It was in a cemetery in Oakland – under eucalyptus trees.

            This meme that native plant enthusiasts hate exotic plants is nonsense. I could just as easily reason that because you don’t want the eucalyptus eradicated, you must therefore hate native plants.
            Instead of ‘eucalyptus lover’, I could call you ‘native plant hater’ and make as much sense as you are making.

  • Bev Jo

    There is no point in saying the same things over. I stand by what I originally wrote and appreciate the others here who wrote on behalf of saving our parks which are in danger from being destroyed (including far more trees than just eucalyptus) without most people knowing what is being planned and with no vote allowed. Once our beloved trees are gone, it’s too late.

    For more information, I recommend this excellent site and all the archives there:
    Death of a Million Trees
    http://milliontrees.me/fire-the-cover-story/

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  • r sher

    what’s with the eucalyptus article – no research at all?

    doing pr for the folks who want to clear mount sutro?

    no mention of the east bay hills folks who have been trying to keep their trees from being destroyed??

    http://sutroforest.com/eucalyptus-myths/

  • Karen Scribner

    See Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy to understand why growing non-native species is a rally bad idea. He is based in New England but perhaps he knows someone familiar with west coast problems.

  • Karen Scribner

    There are Blue Mountains northeast of Sydney Australia. The air there is blue with oils from all the euc related trees and shrubs. Can this be the cause of the smog in S California?

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