The “Tree Spirit Project” has warned that local governments in California are planning the largest San Francisco Bay Area deforestation project of the past hundred years. Over 450,000 healthy trees would be cut down in 2000 acres of the Berkeley and Oakland hills. Stumps and plants would also be poisoned by herbicides.
The governments planning the clear-cutting are the East Bay Regional Parks District, the City of Oakland, and the University of California at Berkeley. The project is being promoted by “nativists” who seek to obliterate introduced species of trees, on the claim that the clearing would reduce the fire danger.
But if the aim is to decrease the fire danger of the drought-stricken region, the project would be self-defeating, as, according to the experts cited by Tree-Spirit leader Jack Gescheidt, the deforestation would instead increase the fire danger.
Jack Gescheidt has been photographing trees, leading excursions to special tree areas, and warning of actions that destroy the trees. He points out the many benefits of trees: they capture fog, create shade, cool the land, sequester carbon, provide homes to thousands of animals and birds, and are more resilient to wildfire than the grasses and shrubs that grow in their place when forests are destroyed.
If the project proceeds, trees will be cut down and chopped up into logs and wood chips, and then left on the ground. Tons of dead wood will then dry out and become a fire hazard, since the cooling, moisture-capturing, shade-producing forest canopy will have been destroyed.
The project will not do any replanting. The plan would change the forest to “grasslands with islands of shrubs,” as stated by the Environmental Impact Statement for the logging plan. “Fast-growing, opportunistic plants like poison oak, French broom and thistle will grow in place of these established 120-year-old Bay Area forests,” according to Jack Gescheidt.
Thousands of gallons of poisonous herbicides would then be applied to the hundreds of thousands of tree stumps, twice each year, for ten years, perhaps in perpetuity, to kill re-sprouting tree stumps.
There once were redwood trees in the East Bay Hills. They got chopped down, and now only a few scattered groves remain, replaced by other species. Government officials claim that introduced species such as eucalyptus are a fire danger, but that claim is disputed by tree experts. The U.S. Forest Service, the California Environmental Protection Agency, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), and firefighters do not support this claim.
An article by Andrew Cockburn in Harper’s Magazine, September 2015, states, “The supposedly supercombustible eucalyptus, for example, survives fires that consume surrounding plant life — and rather than unfairly appropriating water, the tree actually irrigates soil by absorbing moisture from the coastal fogs through its leaves and funneling it out through its roots.”
California has suffered from several large fires, and the clearcutters are exploiting this fear. Some trees have been deadened by the long drought and are vulnerable to the flames. But the fear of the eucalyptus trees in the East Bay hills is not justified. Dried brush and grasses are a much greater fire danger. There have been millions of eucalyptus trees in California for over 100 years, and there has not been any big eucalyptus tree fire. The alarmists are yelling “fire!” in a thriving forest.
Governments world-wide are fighting wars against enterprise, against liberty, and against natural resources. It is bad enough that there is a growing danger from terrorists. Governments are too often a destructive force, contrary to their claimed mission to be the protector of our rights and property.
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FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.
Foldvary is the author of The Soul of Liberty, Public Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.
Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.