Oakland oaks get a reprieve from the chainsaws

27 02 2013
Healthy grove of oaks in Oakland slated for removal.

Healthy grove of oaks in Oakland slated for removal (January 2013)

As is evident in the city’s name, Oakland was named for the large area of oak woodland that originally grew in the region back when it was settled. These days, however, most of original oaks have died or been removed, and those that do remain are mostly limited to the Oakland hills. So it seems baffling why the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) would want to remove a flourishing oak grove from its lands within the city of Oakland.

Yet that is exactly the situation I came across last month when a friend contacted me about a large oak grove near her home in Oakland that had been slated for removal by EBMUD.  At that time the removal of the trees was imminent. My concerned friend who lives near the oak grove requested I come assess the situation. She felt, based on photographs she had taken, that the oak grove was not in poor health, as was suggested in a consulting firm’s report to EBMUD. The report, written in August of 2010, stated that several oaks were showing signs of the sudden oak death pathogen or were otherwise in poor health, and that the majority of the oaks should be removed. About 50 trees, mostly oaks, but also some redwood, cedar, and pine trees, were recommended and eventually marked for removal.

In late January, possibly within days of the start of the removal project, I visited the site, inspected the trees, and prepared a report for EBMUD. I carefully inspected 25 oaks that had been marked for removal with spray paint. I found that nearly all of these oaks were medium-sized mature trees with canopy densities ranging from fair (50-70% sky occlusion) to good (70 to 90% sky occlusion). I could find no evidence of sudden oak death cankers or leaf lesions, nor did I find any evidence of other diseases or insect pests affecting any of the oaks. Furthermore, I also noted that five mature redwood and two cedar trees were also marked for removal. I inspected these trees as well and found that they all had good canopy densities and no signs of disease or insect pests.

Healthy, mature oak marked for removal.

Healthy, mature oak marked for removal (January 2013)

In my report I included a set of photos of the oak grove taken by my friend, showing a portion of the oak grove in January 2007 and again in January 2013. The photo set clearly reveals that the oak grove canopy experienced considerable growth in height and breadth over the past six years.

Oak grove (in foreground) in January 2007

Oak grove (in foreground) in January 2007

Same oak grove (slated for removal) in 2013.

Same oak grove (slated for removal) in January 2013. Note the increase in canopy size over six years.

In summary, I reported (on January 29, 2013) that I could find no justification for removing the oaks and other mature trees at the site as 1) they all appeared to have healthy canopies, 2) there were clear signs of vigorous growth over the past six years, and 3) they had no evidence of diseases or insect pests.

On February 8, 2013 EBMUD acknowledged it had received and was considering my report, and that this report along with concerns voiced by some other neighbors, had prompted them to postpone the cutting of the trees for one year while they review the original tree removal plan.

I am reporting this now as I just received this good news today.



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