Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Conservation Group Sues East Bay Parks District Over Tree-Removal Plan

By Nate Seltenrich
Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 12:11 PM

Move over, tree sitters. A group of Oakland and Berkeley residents known as the Hills Conservation Network has sued the East Bay Regional Parks District over its proposed clear-cutting of more than 500,000 trees on 19,000 acres in the East Bay hills. The work is intended to reduce fuel loads related to the fast-burning, non-native eucalyptus trees that cover large swaths of the East Bay hills, as well as to restore native trees such as redwood and Coast Live Oak. It will be funded using parcel tax receipts from 2004's Measure CC. The Hills Conservation Group, however, has taken a firm stance against the clear-cutting since its proposal a number of years ago on the basis that "EBRPD's program will irreparably harm the beautiful, vibrant and diverse ecosystem of the East Bay hills," wrote Hills Conservation Network founder Dan Grassetti in a press release.

Grassetti has argued that eucalyptus can actually help prevent fires by blocking the invasion of flammable non-native weeds, brush, and chaparral. His group also contends that clear-cutting will release a large amount of pesticides and "some 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide" into the environment. "Taxpayer dollars could be put to better use by thinning the trees and clearing debris under them instead of removing vast numbers of mature, healthy trees," Grassetti stated in the release. The lawsuit, filed on May 25 in Alameda Country Superior Court, alleges numerous violations of the Californa Environmental Quality Act within the EBRPD's plan, seeks an injunction against tree removal, and asks that the project's Environmental Impact Report be revised.

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