It’s no secret that wildfires are becoming more common. Residents of states like California, Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado have become accustomed to daytime smoke and sudden evacuations. Still, the developers who want their money continue to build homes and businesses in high risk areas.
Now, in California, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and land grant recipients the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), City of Oakland and East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), want to mitigate the threat by chopping down the trees and leaving behind a vacant lot soaked in Monsanto herbicides.
Here’s how FEMA describes the project:
The proposed projects include the removal of non-native trees (primarily eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and acacia), chipping cut trees, and leaving many of the chips in place for sediment and invasive weed control. The agencies would apply herbicides to the cut stumps to prevent resprouting. Additionally, they might reuse large logs to control erosion on slopes and, in some areas, might thin or remove native vegetation such as coyote brush. The agencies might burn cut brush and branches in piles and might use further control measures such as grazing or herbicide spraying on foliage.
According to estimates by MillionTrees.me, a blog project dedicated to saving trees in the San Francisco Bay Area, the project would result in the elimination of over 70,000 trees.
To be clear, many of these trees are invasive species, and especially prone to combustion. As noted in this article eucalyptus contains oils that make it a virtual explosive in the event of a fire. This is especially troubling for those who remember the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm, which burned thousands of homes and killed at least 25 people.
Still, even those well versed in wildfire science find the plan to simply cull the trees appalling. David Maloney, a retired firefighter who fought the Oakland Hills Firestorm called FEMA’s clear-cut proposal “a land transformation plan which is masquerading as a fire hazard reduction plan,” in this Oakland Local article. Maloney also noted that, in the Oakland Hills fire, “the radiant heat from the houses caught the trees on fire,” and not the trees igniting the houses.
FEMA claims that, though the area will be left covered in approximately 24 inches of wood chips, it will eventually replant itself with native grasses and plants. There are plenty of reasons to doubt this assumption, however, and they come in bottles made by Monsanto.
“The stumps of eucalypts and acacia will be sprayed with an herbicide (Garlon with the active ingredient triclopyr) soon after the trees are cut down to prevent resprouting,” explains MillionTrees. “An estimated 1 – 2 ounces of formulated herbicide will be required for each stump. Based on an experiment conducted by East Bay Regional Park District, an estimated 5% of the trees will require retreatment of subsequent resprouts. They are therefore predicting that between 633 and 1,266 gallons of herbicide will be required to prevent resprouting if only 5% of the stumps require retreatment as they claim…Herbicide (Roundup with active ingredient glyphosate) will also be sprayed to control non-native vegetation…”
In short, the planet will lose almost 100,000 perfectly healthy trees, and Monsanto will make a tidy profit by providing the government with the toxic chemicals it needs to prevent them from regrowing.
I’m no expert, but I think it’s hilarious that this has been proposed as a fire reduction plan. By its own admission, FEMA will be spreading hundreds of thousands of pounds of extremely flammable wood chips all over the exact same area they’re trying to fire-proof. Razing the trees will also eliminate the shade and fog drip that moistens the forest floor (providing the dry conditions fire loves) and destroying the natural windbreak that acts as a barrier to the wind driven fires that are typical in California.
Not to mention that killing the trees will release hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the destroyed trees, thereby contributing to climate change (something that California has supposedly committed itself to stopping).
If you live in the East Bay area and are shocked by this devastating plan to raze public lands, it’s not a coincidence that this is the first you’re hearing of it. FEMA, UCB, and the others involved in approving the plan have intentionally kept it quiet. To stop it, residents of California need to make their voices heard.
Comments on the project’s Environmental Impact Statement must be submitted by June 17, 2013. You may submit written comments in several ways:
You can also express your displeasure at the plan to swap beautiful trees for acres of herbicide-soaked wood chips by signing this petition: Don’t Let FEMA and UC Berkeley Cut Down 70k California Trees!
Image via Thinkstock
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