I hope everyone is as concerned about our wildlife habitat as I am. Please check out, and join, the new San Francisco Forest Alliance at SFForest.Net. Their goal is to preserve the forests, trees and thickets, all of which serve as wildlife animal habitat. Slated for removal in the new Natural Areas Program, NAP, plan are 18,000 trees, most of them mature and majestic specimens. They provide ecological benefits and species habitat which are still little understood by NAP. Here is the background:
Trees, forests, and dense thickets of underbrush — thickets which are impenetrable to dogs and humans — serve as wildlife habitat: they offer physical protection and food to wild animals. Almost all trees in San Francisco are non-native — there were only four native species of trees in the area when the Europeans arrived. Non-native berries such as Himalayan blackberry, cotoneaster, pyracantha, holly and others serve as food sources for birds and furry creatures. These are being ripped out in our parks for the shortsighted intention of “restoring” the San Francisco area to what it might have been like in 1776 — mostly sand-dune grasses and understory species with little if any habitat value.
But the environment has totally changed since that time. The biggest change which altered the landscape forever has been the growth of a dense human population. This impacted the environment tremendously. But when humans came, they also planted trees and shrubbery to help them deal with the harsh environment — mostly to hold in the loose sands which blew around everywhere, and as wind barriers. The plantings did more than this, they added greenery and beauty to the area. And they created a wildlife habitat which is now home to almost all of our wildlife. Because of these and other changes, even the original soil structure along with the microorganisms that were part of the sand dune ecosystem have been altered forever.
The new plantings grew and evolved. Ours, now, is a totally balanced ecosystem that has evolved over the last 250 years, and it is a healthy ecosystem. An indicator of the health of an ecosystem is it’s top predator. There are coyotes in San Francisco — our ecosystem is very healthy. Now, along with our dense human population, we have paved roads, lots of automobiles, plenty of pollution — we need our trees to combat the environmental effects of our dense population and the way we live. San Francisco has the second smallest tree canopy of any dense urban center in the United States. Our urban forests are essential in terms of carbon sequestration and water sequestration — they help the environment and combat the effects of global warming. Every single tree counts. Yet more of our healthy, hard working naturalized trees are being ripped out and replaced with grasses and shrubs that are not sustainable in the present environment, all in the name of a clearly misguided environmentalism and false science.
Sustainability is something we all aspire to. However, in the time since the Native Plant program began in San Francisco, we have discovered that, in fact, native plants are not very self-sustainable. These native plants require a vast number of volunteer work hours to maintain them. In addition, our Recreation and Park Department is, literally, splashing poisonous pesticides on our parks’ non-native species regularly in order to accomplish their nativist goals. We have tried fighting this policy, but the use of poisons in the Park Department’s so-called “natural areas program”/NAP has actually increased 265% in one year alone, from 2009 to 2010. They are using these pesticides in parks where children play, where there is wildlife, where we walk our pets, and where there is a creek — the manufacturer of these chemicals warn strongly against this. The “natural areas program” is clearly not “natural” at all.
Critics of NAP question not only the program’s expenditures in budget-tight times but also the native plant advocates’ rhetoric, ” ‘Restoration ecology’ is a euphemism for a kind of gardening informed by an almost cultish veneration of the ‘native’ and abhorrence of the naturalized, which is commonly characterized as ‘invasive,’ ” Arthur Shapiro, a distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, wrote city planning officials last October. (Sacramento Bee, 1/16/12). People are finally waking up to what is occuring in their parks — and they are desperately alarmed.
Images are worth a thousand words: