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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: News

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

Mr. O’Sullivan describes a firestorm in Australia. He could just as easily be describing a firestorm here in Western North America where wildfires consume thousands of acres of native trees and vegetation every year. Such firestorms also occur in Australia where the climate is similar and in that case the trees are predominantly eucalyptus. Eucalyptus trees are not inherently more flammable than bay laurel which contains twice as much oil in its leaves nor are they taller than our resinous conifers. Rather the fire conditions are weather related and the consequences for human development is where we choose to build our homes and how we maintain them.

Jack Cohen is a world renowned fire scientist at the US Forest Service fire science laboratory in Missoula, Montana. He has evaluated eucalyptus fires here and in Australia and says of our 1991 fire: “This indicates that the eucalyptus trees did not burn with high intensities (or any intensity) leading to home destruction. This strongly suggests that eliminating eucalyptus and replacing it with some other vegetation would not prevent future WU fire disasters because the problem was inappropriately defined as a eucalyptus vegetation problem and not a home ignition-home ignition zone problem.” Here is his assessment, including the photos he supplied to illustrate his conclusion: https://milliontrees.me/2016/05/06/fire-sc…

There are many reasons why people defend our urban forest. Aesthetics has little to do with my motivation for defending it. We have lost 66 million native trees in California in the past few drought years and millions more are expected to die. These dead trees are, indeed, a fire hazard, yet we are wasting millions of dollars destroying living, healthy trees that are expected to live another 200-300 years. Such voluntary and natural deforestation is contributing to climate change and the warming climate is the primary cause of increasing wildfires and the death of our native trees. I am as concerned about fire safety as Mr. O’Sullivan.

Posted by Millie Trees on 07/07/2016 at 4:27 PM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

Having witnessed a Eucalyptus fire first hand in Australia and having a forester uncle who worked with them (including in fire fighting and fire management) for 25 years, if the opponents of removal are successful a large fire in the hills will involve the deaths of people.
People are right that Eucalyptus are highly fire resistant, but they do this by becoming incredibly dangerous to any building or human near by. Gums (the name they commonly known by in Australia and NZ) have evolved to burn extremely hot to rapidly exhaust the available fuel. The mean the fire burns itself out very quickly on the individual tree itself, but causes immense heat and embers which mean Eucalyptus fires often turn into fire storm events. (google Australian fire storm to see how terrifying this is)
As trees literally explode in minutes to shooting out flames 40-50 feet high the intense heat sucks in so much air to feed the fire it starts to generate its own weather, which when added to the huge amounts of embers that are generated means you get a very rapidly moving fire, as glowing hot embers will travel miles on the self generated winds.
These fires are almost impervious to conventional North American fire fighting techniques. In Australia back burning and very wide fire breaks (I think the aim is to get a least 1 kilometer( or 2/3 of mile) wide) is the main way these fires are fought. I've seen a controlled burn where so much heat was generated that when a heavy rain storm blew in it hardly reduced the size of the flames, as the heat from them turned the falling rain into steam which didn't reach the ground.

Australians living in forested area are instructed that if a fire is reported 5 miles away or less to pack and evacuate immediately. They are also told to make sure no large tree is within 60 to 100 feet of any building. Even then, many Australians have been killed in bush fires in the last 20 years. Some have been incinerated in their cars as the fire engulfed it as they were trying to escape.

In the closely settled hills with narrow and steep roads an Eucalyptus fire event would likely turn into a tragedy as some people wouldn't be able to escape the rapidly moving fire.
It is this reality which is driving public safety authorities to push to remove Eucalyptus from a closely settled area. Failure to do so before the next fire will result in people dying.
Keeping the trees is very much about choosing aesthetics over human lives.

Posted by David O'Sullivan on 07/07/2016 at 3:27 PM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

Talking about two things. Yes, Eucs are very flammable. However, a crown fire will not kill the tree. It will regenerate. But that doesn't mean they are not extremely flammable.

Posted by Mike Yarmouth on 07/07/2016 at 12:24 PM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

Thank you for this article. Sierra Club does not seem to know that almost all fire, like the 1991 firestorm starts in grasslands, which is most of what we will have left when the FEMA plan is finished.

Not one tree is scheduled for "restoration." While our native trees are dying, the magnificent Eucalyptus, Acacias, Monterey Pines are thriving in the drought. Eagles and raptors prefer Eucs for nesting.

EBMUD and others know that the most flammable tree her is the native Bay Laurel, while Eucs are fire resistant and there are plenty of photos showing them standing after firestorms destroyed houses from fire started by arson in grasslands.

Monsanto and Dow will benefit from planned herbiciding for years.

The issue really is, the way things are now scheduled, our rare and beautiful East Bay Hills wilderness parks and public land are being clearcut and poisoned, and we will be left with highly flammable grasslands. And the only real reason is money.

Posted by Bev Von Dohre on 07/07/2016 at 12:05 PM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

There are several studies of soil moisture in the eucalyptus forest. A study in the Presidio reported an average of 19% soil moisture in the eucalyptus forest year around. A study of ants in the eucalyptus forests in San Francisco reported 16 inches of fog drip in the driest months of the year and soil moisture of 15%. Harold Gilliam in his book about the climate of the San Francisco Bay Area reported that fog drip in eucalyptus and Monterey pine forests in the East Bay hills was measured at 10 inches per year. These are published studies that anyone can read.

When all else fails, there is also common sense. Do you really think that a huge pile of wood chips with no tree canopy above it is going to be more moist than the shaded forest floor? I doubt it.

All leaves have stoma that take up moisture from the air. That capability is not confined to native plants.

Posted by Millie Trees on 07/07/2016 at 11:18 AM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

There are several studies of soil moisture in eucalyptus forest resulting from fog drip. A study in the Presidio found soil moisture in eucalyptus forest averaged 19% year around. Another study of ants in San Francisco's eucalyptus forests reports 16 inches of fog drip per year and 15% soil moisture in the driest months of the year, August and September. Harold Gilliam in his book about the climate of the San Francisco Bay Area reports 10 inches of fog drip measured in eucalyptus and Monterey pine forests in the East Bay. All of these studies are available for people to read if they wish.

Then, there's always common sense when all else fails. Do you really think that a huge pile of wood chips with no tree canopy is going to be more moist than the shaded forest floor? I doubt it.

Posted by Millie Trees on 07/07/2016 at 10:52 AM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

"And, even if the eucalyptus was flammable, Gescheidt says, it's better when alive, and adding fog drip to the soil, rather than being a pile of wood chips."

That statement is 100% total bullshit. Eucalyptus is extremely flammable...that's a fact. Fog drip barely penetrates the soils, the native vegetation take in the moisture through stoma in the leaves. Jackson Demo Forest has done many scientific studies on frog drip.

Posted by Mike Yarmouth on 07/07/2016 at 9:35 AM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

This is a good, well-balanced article. I was in that protest. I believe the Sirra Club board has become infested with nativists.
http://lazycompost.com/the-invasiveness-of-native-plant-people/

Posted by Pam Portugal Walatka on 07/07/2016 at 7:54 AM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

The Sierra Club, “invites detractors to ‘see the recovery and restoration happening now before your very eyes!’ at Signpost 29.”
Hmmm. Have they visited Site 29 lately? Here is a photo essay about Site 29. It’s covered in non-native weeds, except where the weeds are brown and dead after being sprayed with herbicide. Take a look: https://milliontrees.me/2016/06/03/site-29…

Claremont Canyon Conservancy says, “"What I see is a restored native woodland that's coming along. There's no weeds,"
The person who said this is either delusional or he has not been there recently. Maybe both.

“HCN has speculated as many as 500,000 trees would be removed….but the Sierra Club says these numbers wildly overestimate the final count.”
This is yet more evidence that the Sierra Club has not read the project plan or its Environmental Impact Statement. It’s a matter of public record, but Sierra Club can’t be bothered to actually read the plans. OR, are they are making up a less drastic version of these very real plans?

The Sierra Club says, “"This is not about us wanting to have native vegetation, as we're accused of being…It's the best approach fiscally, and for fire vegetation."
Since when does the Sierra Club care about saving money? Aren’t they an environmental organization? Are we supposed to believe it’s just a coincidence that the Sierra Club lawsuit demands the eradication of all non-native species on thousands of acres of public land? Not credible claims, Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club says, “"If you personally don't believe that eucalyptus ... were a major reason for why that ['91] fire was as extensive and dangerous, then I can't talk to you,"
Ah finally, a credible comment from the Sierra Club! Sierra Club members who oppose these projects have been trying to talk to the Sierra Club leadership for years. They refuse to discuss the issue. That’s the main reason why they continue to say fundamental stupid things, such as claiming that native plants are less flammable than non-native plants. Don’t they watch the news? Don’t they see the wildfires that rage all over the West in exclusively native vegetation? Maybe they have their heads in the sand.

Thank you for this fair and balanced article about a controversial issue.

Posted by Millie Trees on 07/06/2016 at 5:43 PM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

It's "windbreak," a windbreaker is a light jacket. And if you look at the hills where the Eucs were removed, you'll see very overgrown collection of Oaks and Bays, all closer and more tightly packed than the Eucalyptus. If fire is your concern, the species matters less than the grooming and thinning of your tree cover.

Posted by Dolly Fine on 07/06/2016 at 3:32 PM

Re: “East Bay Environmentalists at Odds Over Future of Eucalyptus Trees

It doesnt seem like this story has changed much since the last time it was reported on. Eucalyptus may not be native, but there's very little hard evidence to suggest they should shoulder the blame for the firestorm's devastation. The biggest factor was almost certainly the failure to clear rooftops of accumulated dry brush and the build up of shrubbery next to houses, which caused the fire to spread extremely rapidly, torching houses in its path. It takes a lot of heat for eucalyptus crowns to burn, and had the houses been adequately maintained, the fire could have been managed with far less damage. There's also evidence which suggests that Eucalyptus are naturally fire-resistant below a temperature threshold. On top of that, had Berkeley and Oakland firefighters used the same size plugs for their water hoses, they would have been far more effective at stopping the fire. In any event, clear-cutting 100,000's of trees without a reforestation plan and widely using pesticides doesnt sound like environmental conservation to me.

Posted by Eric Arnold on 07/06/2016 at 1:22 PM

Re: “Oakland, Developers Look to Convert SRO Housing into Boutique Hotels

SRO's keep people sheltered and housed, tourists feel at ease, doorways are not crashpads, streets are cleaner, the city stays income-diverse. SRO's have a bad rep, but renting rooms at affordable rates to us working poor is a real civic benefit. IF the owners could maintain cleaner and more functional buildings, they would attract more young working people and artists of all ages.It's true many down-and-out folks rent in SRO's, but with this displacement going on, you can also rent to people who have good rental history and steady income who make responsible tenants -these are folks getting priced out of the Bay Area who could get a foothold in an SRO.

Posted by Suzanne Gamble on 07/06/2016 at 11:07 AM

Re: “How the Oakland Police Department Worked to Cover-Up Sex Crimes and a Home Invasion Committed by Cops

As this sordid affair plays out, there are many other equally important issues languishing in Oakland.

One such issue is the ever increasing incidents of illegal dumping. On many occasions I have contacted the Mayor's Office to give greater attention to this issue. To this day, I have received no response from Mayor Libby Schaaf. Various individuals I have spoken with inform me that Mayor Schaaf has actually thwarted community efforts to deal with this pandemic issue.

If Mayor Schaaf cannot or will not address this issue, perhaps Oaklanders need a mayor who will. Citizens of Oakland have suffered too long from mayors who get elected and proceed to do
nothing to improve the quality of life. We deserve and should demand better.

Posted by Dennis the Menace on 07/03/2016 at 4:21 PM

Re: “#LibbyLeaks: Oakland Mayor Launches Investigation Against City and Police Whistleblowers

While this is going on, the efforts to combat illegal dumping in Oakland languishes while Mayor Schaaf basically ignores this pandemic problem.

Perhaps the duties of this office are beyond Mayor Schaaf's willingness and capabilities to fulfill the needs of the good people of Oakland.

Posted by Dennis Wanken on 07/03/2016 at 12:28 PM

Re: “Q-and-A: 'Dogtown Redemption' Recycling and Homelessness Documentary Will Have West Oakland Debut This Saturday

Some of the folks like me a retired OUSD administrator save our soda cans. I go down there twice a year, get my little $30 bucks worth. I have interacted with the shopping cart folks and most are just so very interesting. Yea a bunch do drugs and bunch do not. I went to chidcare down the street at the Old Clawson school.This was in the late 40's as i started elementary school in 1949 at Durant. I remember when all the black firemen were on Magnolia, in what the white firefighters called the "coon " wagon. Some of our chiefs sarted there in the 40's, and I know Burl Smith who grewup on 34th, served as a Tuskeggee airmen started there. his mom and dad were our neighbors. I feel bad for the newbies there who have no answer for the homeless, the disposessed who are veterans of both that neighborhood, yea I still call it Clawson not the dope dealers Dogtown appellation . For the life of me, I cannot understand why these mostly white new folks have such disdain for the area they have moved into and do not want to know the history of a neighborhood destroyed by 580. I think it is obscene that these folks have no where to go, theese gleaners who clean up our scraps . That folks in my town are so ignorant of history of an area they do not know that in Anglo culture we have always had gleaners as thats what these folks are. So where are they to go..All the way down Peralta? What plan have these new folks fomr adding to the area instead of just living there? do they particiapte with the kids at neighboring Popular Park, or he veggie garden across from alliance? Man my town is losing it's soul.

Posted by Earl Marty Price on 07/01/2016 at 11:08 PM

Re: “How the Oakland Police Department Worked to Cover-Up Sex Crimes and a Home Invasion Committed by Cops

Tommy---I do not know what if anything DA O'Malley is doing about prosecuting OPD officers Faeth and Turner; I wouldn't hold my breath. Just that recent articles imply that the Cortez family has filed claim (precursor to civil suit) against City/OPD. Lastly, little if anything can be known at this point about OPD's investigation of the two officers, because of the Peace Officrers Bill of Rights, as expanded by 2006 decision of CA Supreme Court in Copley Press vs. Superior Court. The law and the Copley decision shield from public disclosure police personnel records, police/complaint boards/police commission proceedings in public complaints and disciplinary matters, even when a complaint is sustained, the officers/PD/City is sued and loses or settles. Legislation to modify that law (SB 1286) was held in committee in May, because State Senate leadership did not want a floor vote on the issue, given police union's money and endorsement leverage in primary and general elections. The only reason Oakland residents know anything about OPD's handling---or avoiding handling ----OPD officer misconduct---- is because of the Riders lawsuit and ensuing Court oversight and the investigative reporters at the Express and the East Bay Times/former Oakland Tribune.....

Posted by Mary Vail on 07/01/2016 at 4:57 PM

Re: “How the Oakland Police Department Worked to Cover-Up Sex Crimes and a Home Invasion Committed by Cops

Mary Vail -- thanks for your response, that makes sense with regards to the civil lawsuit. Do you know if the district attorney is bringing criminal charges against the officers involved? If that is yet to be determined, do you know if the Cortez family has filed a criminal complaint--petitioning the DA to pick up the case?

Posted by Tommy Katz on 07/01/2016 at 10:00 AM

Re: “How the Oakland Police Department Worked to Cover-Up Sex Crimes and a Home Invasion Committed by Cops

Wow. This is some good fiction. I have had a hearty belly laugh over this supposed "reporting" and even better are the poor schmuck citizens who believe this crap. Go OPD!

Posted by Trina Scott on 06/30/2016 at 3:40 PM

Re: “How the Oakland Police Department Worked to Cover-Up Sex Crimes and a Home Invasion Committed by Cops

In response to Tommy's message, the Cortez family quickly and astutely discerned that OPD could not be trusted to investigate crime where all the suspects were OPD officers and hired a lawyer. Before you can sue a government defendant you have to go thru making an admin claim against City. Since the public learns much more about OPD misconduct after the victims sue the City, will be interesting to see if City tries to damage & info-control this one by settling the admin claim, to avoid lawsuit, which government defendants rarely do.

Posted by Mary Vail on 06/30/2016 at 3:19 PM

Re: “How the Oakland Police Department Worked to Cover-Up Sex Crimes and a Home Invasion Committed by Cops

It's not about bad apples. To paraphrase Philip Zimbardo in the "Lucifer Effect", the barrel is bad. I don't just mean the OPD barrel. I mean the entire system of policing in this country is flawed and needs to be completely reworked.

Posted by Eileen Morentz on 06/30/2016 at 1:36 PM

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