Dear Mayor Schaaff,
I am writing to you as a concerned Berkeley citizen and a life-long resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. There is much that I love about living in the East Bay, but one that I appreciate most is the easy accessibility of the beautiful forested hills rising above Oakland and Berkeley. To have such a thriving ecosystem right on the doorstep of one’s urban home is truly a gift to the residents of the East Bay, allowing one to easily leave the confines of the city to explore the paths through the woods and have a taste of nature without needing to drive long distances.
Thus I was devastated when the Oakland Wildfire Plan recently came to my attention, with the proposal to clear-cut the forest and spray toxic herbicides on the 150-year-old ecosystem. I recognize that because many of the trees in the forest are eucalyptus—a non-native species—they pose a greater threat of wildfire, however, clear-cutting would not provide a healthy solution because not only would it destroy the ecosystem, making it uninhabitable to the countless animal species that thrive there, but the debris left over from clear-cutting would dry out and pose a greater fire risk than if the trees were left standing. Furthermore, the spraying of herbicides to eradicate the remaining vegetation would not only poison the soil, but also pose risk to the fresh water in the area and make the hills prone to erosion and landslide since no vegetation would be holding the soil in place. Overall the plan to prevent wildfire would be far more destructive in the long-run than an actual wildfire might be.
The Hills Conservation Network has a well-researched plan that would provide alternatives to the Oakland Wildfire Plan, including methods to thin the forest without clear-cutting, and removing much of the debris that has accumulated below the trees, which is what actually poses a greater fire risk than the living trees themselves. This would not only be a less expensive project but would leave a beloved ecosystem intact that has been a part of the Oakland and Berkeley hills for a century and a half.
I urge you strongly to please meet with the Hills Conservation Network so that an alternative wildfire plan based on environmental science and restoration ecology may be formulated to save our urban forest.
With warm regards,