Tuesday, June 18, 2013

East Bay Hills forestation plan comments

This is what I wrote to the program at http://ebheis.cdmims.com/Public-Participation.aspx

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Don Macleay.  I live in Oakland. 

I work as a computer consultant now, but at an earlier time I directed a reforestation program to protect a watershed for a small scale hydro electric project.  My role was not forestry; it was management.  Supervising the construction, soil stabilization reforestation and general water retention and run-off control reforestation mixed with residential and agricultural lands allowed me a to see the whole process and work with many experts in the different fields.  These considerations come from someone who once ran such a project as you now propose. 

Looking over the project I have some quick thoughts. 
I did not have time to study the project in detail, so some of the issues may have been better discussed than I saw. 

First, I like the basic idea. 
Some of my friends were burned out in the Oakland Fire and I have been aware of the role of invasive species in the fire ecology area in our current fire danger ever since.  My gut feeling is that this project is on the right track.  I hope that it will be done gradually in small patches never leaving any large area deforested for any long period of time.  That way the soils will stay stable.  The overall condition of the hills is badly deforested so I think we need the stability and water retention that the current non-native trees provide as we gradually replace them with native fire-ecology species.  It would also be a good idea to start by expanding native forest into the open grass lands and other denuded areas first as a way to increase the over all coverage before starting to remove healthy non-native trees. 

I wonder about the fire ecology aspect and if we have addressed it in full. 
I am not sure how we get back to the light burns that are natural to our foothills. 
There is a lot of fuel built up, especially in these non-native trees, so fuel removal comes before controlled burns. 
It seems to me that the long range plans should include scheduled controlled burns at the right times for natural re-seeding.

What I saw of the plan talks much about trees, not so much about the other plants. 
What about the normal association of shrubs, other plants and fauna that make up this fire ecology biome?
Are there plans to repopulate those species too? 
They have also been impacted by agriculture, invasive species and other land use practices.
If we want self sustaining wildlands with stable soils, we will need all of the original ecology. 

My only negative comment is on the herbicides. 
If we were talking about a tree farm, there would be much less concern.
But if we are trying to reforest restoring the original species then herbicide is problematic. 
There are too many plant and animal species involved in wildland soils for the herbicides not to cause secondary effects.
The complementary plant life to the trees would be seriously impacted by the effects of stump spaying. 

It seems like there will be some modification to the plan after the public reaction seen so far. 
In that process I would suggest just pulling the stumps in coordination with the controlled burns.
The non-native, non-fire ecology plants will be pushed out naturally, with a bit more work and some more time. 


Don Macleay

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