FEMA plans to destroy 70,000 trees in the Bay Area while soaking the remnants in herbicides to prevent regrowth.
In a proposal billed as a safeguard against California forest fires, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is planning to destroy 70,000 trees in the San Francisco Bay Area, all the while soaking the remnants with herbicides to ensure that regrowth will not be a problem.
There are three projects at work that would account for the tremendous tree loss in the Bay Area. The University of California at Berkeley, the city of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District have each submitted permits for their own clear-cutting projects.
The plans formulated by the university and the city of Oakland both call for the removal of non-native trees, many of which are flammable, including eucalyptus and acacia. FEMA is still in the process of collecting comments on the proposals with a deadline of June 17.
Once the trees are cut down, their stumps will be covered with Garlon, a Dow chemical, to prevent them from resprouting. According to MillionTrees.me, 1-2 ounces of the chemical will be used on each stump, totaling more than 1,260 gallons in all.
FEMA says the proposed projects would leave behind wood chips in place of the forest as a means to combat invasive weeds, and that herbicide spraying could be used to keep foliage in check.
While the plan seeks to combat wildfires like the Oakland Hills fire of 1991, which killed 25 and burned hundreds of homes, not everyone is playing to the tune that removing the state’s forests will solve anything.
Retired Oakland firefighter David Maloney served on the region’s Task Force on Emergency Preparedness and Community Restoration following the 1991 fire. Based on his experience with wildfires in the area, he thinks the proposed plans are nothing more than Band-Aids — and ineffective ones at that.
In an interview with Oakland Local, Maloney referred to FEMA’s environmental review of the project as a “land transformation plan which is masquerading as a fire hazard reduction plan,” claiming it “stands fire science on its head.”
Maloney also claimed the 1991 fire was caused by “radiant heat” from homes, which sparked fire in the trees, rather than the reverse notion.
According to Million Trees’ assessment, the project could actually increase the risk of wildfires. The trees help moisten the forest floor by gathering, and then dropping, moisture from the Bay Area fog, the group notes. The clear-cut would also eliminate an important barrier that prevents wind from fueling fires.
The plan to clear-cut forest areas isn’t a new one for FEMA. The fire hazard mitigation plan for the East Bay Area was first introduced in 2005. In 2010, following a debate over the the effectiveness of the proposed projects, FEMA ordered the environmental impact review.
As noted by MillionTrees.me, the environmental review was flawed because it allowed applicants — who have a vested interest in a favorable outcome — to conduct it.
“Our opinion of these projects is unchanged by the environmental impact review,” the organization states in a post. “These projects will not achieve their stated objectives. Instead they will damage the environment and endanger the public.”
That danger comes from the widespread use of herbicide chemicals and elimination of thousands of trees that absorb carbon dioxide and pump oxygen into the air. Exposure to Garlon, the main chemical used to stop growth of non-native trees, has been linked to respiratory irritation, eye damage and dizziness. In animals, acute exposure has been linked to liver, kidney, blood and nervous system toxicity, according to Californians for Alternatives to Toxins.