Mount Sutro Forest in Danger

In a little-publicized move, UCSF is rolling forward with a proposal to selectively fell more than two thirds of the trees on the 61 acres that account for UCSF-owned land in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve. In a select 44 acres, planning estimates the removal of 90 percent of the trees.

It was so little publicized, in fact, that full-time UCSF students we spoke with didn't even know about it.

Mount Sutro--you know, our big friendly neighbor to the west with the radio tower on top?--is actually a 100-plus-year-old eucalyptus forest with over 45,000 trees. And starting this fall, UCSF is seeking to remove 30,000 eucalyptus in a selective felling and habitat re-engineering project.

The reasons for felling large numbers of trees are actually lucid and understandable: the forest is a non-native forest (mostly eucalyptus), and its extreme density makes the entire space susceptible to being ravaged by disease, parasite and windfall.

The reasons against are, for many people, even more clear: the forest is an established, extant habitat, one of the only urban cloud forests in the country, and a complex ecosystem that generates a large component of Cole Valley and the Haight Ashbury's microclimate. (Because the forest functions as a windbreak, one expected outcome of removing large numbers of trees is a dramatic shift in the microclimate of the Haight.)

Problems with the plan abound, and Save Sutro is a campaign launched to oppose the proposed change, inform the public and launch a petition against the plan. One of the problems, for example, is that the proposal suggests not simply removing chosen eucalyptus trees but killing the root systems with herbicide, and Mount Sutro is a key watershed in the city.

UCSF has published a draft Environmental Impact Report, which we recommend perusing. It's a complicated proposal, and the public is welcome to comment and respond to the EIR before March 19. (Email to UCSF Environmental Planning Coordinator Diane Wong at EIR@planning.ucsf.edu.)

UCSF is hosting a meeting on February 25th at 7 PM at the Millberry Union Conference Center, 500 Parnassus Ave, in the Golden Gate Room.