May 8, 2019
By Larry Hansen and Kimberly Burr
When trees are growing, it is good for all of us who live on planet earth. That is why Forest Unlimited plants hundreds of trees every year (33,000 to date with the help of hundreds of volunteers). In addition, Forest Unlimited recently lead a local effort to reduce the number of trees that are cut down in Sonoma County. Hundreds of people from all over the county signed the petition to update the very old fashioned industry friendly County’s tree protection policies. As a result, on April 16th, a majority of the Board of Supervisors directed Permit Sonoma to do so. This directive should be finalized June 6th. Local initiatives like these can lead to larger initiatives despite the federal government’s inability to get on board the movement to save the planet and its wildlife and vulnerable communities.
We are hopeful that the effort, a part of a growing movement to re-align public policy with the sciences, will eliminate a large loop holes for development in wooded areas that currently allows ripping out of oak woodlands without any environmental analysis. Even large developments are currently asked simply to partially mitigate the complete loss of mature trees. Continuing the failed “mitigation” approach - planting baby trees to replace mature trees and woodlands of 50, 100, and 200-year old trees in the age of climate change, is a recipe for disaster. The scientists tell us we have less than 20 years to get our act together on Carbon and other green house gases.
Many may be surprised to learn that, between 2007 and 2013, approximately 950-acres of woodlands we’re permanently destroyed in Sonoma County. Currently more large vineyards are planned in oak woodlands, and recently approximately 100 more acres of oaks stood helpless as bulldozers rumbled toward them. Many more acres of climate saving woodlands face the same fate. Developers are looking at maps, circling the acres they want to “improve” and soon these areas will be biological deserts whose vast carbon stores are released into the atmosphere, and whose ability to catch fog drip and make rain are vastly decreased. The County’s old-fashioned rules do nothing to protect the trees.
Growing Up to Drawn Down
As we all can appreciate, trees grow very slowly. The tree stocks we have need to be properly valued and cherished, by the land use agencies of this generation, as a major part of the draw down solution - that is, drawing down the carbon and other green house gases in the atmosphere that are disrupting our planet’s essential balance.
Forest Unlimited has been planting Redwoods for over 20 years with the help of our many enthusiastic volunteers, young families, grand parents, and students. That means many of the 33,000 two-year old redwoods planted are now established and starting to mature. It is absolutely crazy that land use agencies might bide their time, do nothing to restrain tree removal, and continue to permit vast tree removal activities that undermine the people’s work on climate and watershed restoration. We are working to encourage agencies to follow the science -an approach some describe as bold. In these surreal times, acting logically is often to act heroically.
We are so grateful to all who supported and worked on this effort including the three female county Supervisors who by their vote on this first step will help bring the County’s tree policies into the new world that is the 21st century. Protecting trees is fundamental to a new greener approach that we yearn for and for which we will continue to work.
Please stay tuned as we move forward and attempt to craft a 21st - century policy that acknowledges the important role of trees and that can withstand the immense pressures to continue to cut them down.
And finally, please join Forest Unlimited this June 8th to celebrate this important step forward at our annual Dinner Under the Redwoods June 8th. Early bird opportunities until May 15th. Go to Forestunlimited.org for all the details.
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