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Clear cutting on the East Bay Hills area and why it is a very bad idea
The recent plan by three large stakeholders in the East Bay Hills area of California to cut down more than half a million healthy mature trees continues to raise concern. California’s University of Berkley, East Bay’s Regional Park Authority, and the City of Oakland have applied to the Federal Environmental Management Authority (FEMA) to clear cut the East Bay Hills. The region has more than one thousand acres of mature trees targeted in a move to reduce the risk of forest fires facing these hilly areas of California.
According to these stakeholders, these non-native eucalyptus trees pose a threat to the inhabitants of the nearby cities and suburbs through forest fires that are common during the dry temperate California summers. They continue to stipulate how these trees provide highly combustible material during these wildfires that have continued to claim lives and destroy hundreds of millions of US dollars in real estate property. The stakeholders suggest that clear cutting the forested regions offers the best solution to forest fires. Therefore, the Californian East Bay Area faces clear cutting, which could present major environmental problems, but solutions exist in the form of several fire management strategies.
The East Bay Hills clear cut issue
The East Bay Hills of California are home to many naturally-occurring trees. However, the recent environmental changes have exposed the inhabitants of neighboring cities and suburban estates to forest fires given the hot California summers. Unfortunately, a large portion of the East Bay Area’s forest is colonized by mature, non-native eucalyptus trees, which are highly combustible. Due to the high rate of forest fires in these hills caused by the high temperate summer climate, most forest fires tend to spread fast and raged for extended lengths of time. Such conditions make controlling them tough for the Fire Departments in both the urban and forestry departments. In the past, such risks have consumed hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate property as well as claiming dozens of lives. Perhaps the best example of the danger to human life these forests present to the neighboring regions can be demonstrated using the 1991 firestorm. This forest fire destroyed thousands of homes and killed twenty five people earning the title of ‘Tunnel Fire’.
Why the East Bay Hills clear cutting exercise is a terrible idea
Based on these annual risks of a forest fire, the University of California - Berkley, Oakland City officials, and the East Bay Regional Park decided to clear cut the forest removing all the eucalyptus trees. Using mechanical and chemical methods, these stakeholders would rid the hills of hundreds of thousands of mature trees reducing the forest fire risk considerably. However, the cost of such an undertaking would be immense, even surpassing the monetary value of homes saved from wildfire. Environmentalists estimate that the losses of forest cover resulting from the East Bay Hills clear-cutting exercise would expose California to adverse climate changes. The region already suffers from the harmful effects of deforestation and other human-related causes of climate change. Releasing such large amounts of sequestered carbon into the already affected California and US environments would be counter-productive to the United States efforts at reducing greenhouse emissions.
Apart from the deforestation, the three stakeholders involved in the East Bay Hills clear cutting exercise have suggested using herbicides such as Monsanto Roundup and Dow Garlon to prevent the tree stumps from re-sprouting. Such widespread use of harmful herbicides could poison the water catchment areas and soil systems through leaching. Hundreds of gallons of herbicides injected in the natural hills of California would kill off hundreds of naturally occurring plant and animal species.
The strategy these three stakeholders suggest to reduce the risk of forest fires could in effect be counter-productive. By felling hundreds of thousands of mature eucalyptus trees, the risks of forest fires increases by several-fold based on the woods chips, logs, and other wooden material the exercise would create. Therefore, by lowering the same combustible material that causes these dangerous forest fires to the ground, the clear-cutting activities increases the risk of forest fires occurring and aggravates its process of spreading. Therefore, the mature trees pose less forest fire hazard when upright than when on the ground and in pieces.
Feasible solutions to the clear cut that still work against forest fire risks
Several fire management strategies exist as possible solutions to the main issues that have instigated the East Bay Hills clear cutting suggestion. The first approach is using of non-combustible materials in all construction projects near the East Bay Hills forested regions. Roofs should be clay tiles, wood needs special treatment, and the paint used should be any alternative to conventional oil-based varieties. Such strategies should suffice in preventing the houses from catching fire quickly.
Preventing fire is best achieved by staying away from any regions that could pose such risks. Therefore, the forestry department alongside real estate developers should liaise with the Federal Environmental Management Authority (FEMA) to create a large fire break between the forested areas and any urban settlements. Such moves should prevent forest fires from reaching buildings and other settled areas neighboring the East Bay Hills forested regions.
Optimizing fire safety awareness, as well as firefighting equipment in the East Bay Hills, could also contribute to saving the eucalyptus trees. The community should be encouraged to stay alert during the hot summers to prevent fatalities and injuries in case the fires reach the human settlements. These solutions should suffice in reducing the loss of property and preventing that of life in California’s East Bay Hills, which should retain its crucial tree cover.
- Quote paper
- Ernestoh Khomu (Author), 2015, Clear Cutting on the East Bay Hills Area and Why It Is a Very Bad Idea, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/313078