WILDFIRE: Reduce wildfire risk, not forests
The wild lands and teeming wildlife of the East Bay Hills of the San Francisco Bay Area, so close to metropolitan areas and cultural centers, are unique treasures. Yet with all this wildness, with all its life and natural beauty, comes risk. Perhaps the biggest is wildfire. How can we be stewards of this wildness, increasingly diminishing across America, while protecting ourselves from the reality of wildfires without destroying, developing — or managing to death — what attracted us to live in these undeveloped hills in the first place?
This is the challenge faced by Hills Conservation Network since its formation over a decade ago, and thirty years after the devastating Oakland Hills fire left scars on the psyche of East Bay residents. That tragedy brought the reality of a devastating wildland fire dramatically, traumatically, into the consciousness of millions across California and the west.
It's critical to note that even if we cut down all our forests, paved over all chaparral and grasslands, and replaced them with pavement and sprawl, fire danger would not be eliminated, just converted from wildfire risk to urban fire risk, with the additional dangers urban environments bring.
As a result of our community's ceaseless efforts — spearheaded at times by HCN's legal actions — we have achieved the best of all worlds. First and foremost, fire danger has been substantially reduced from what it was decades ago. Due in part to HCN's involvement, this has been achieved without destroying century-old forests that are continually threatened by human activity, would-be developers, and misguided "management." Literally tens of thousands of trees would have been felled by those who, to this day, erroneously insist trees must be cut down for fire safety. This website exists in part to educate the public with science-based research and information, including this key point: FORESTS DECREASE FIRE DANGER when compared to the fire risk grasslands and chaparral pose. READ PROTECTING OURSELVES FROM WILDFIRE.
To protect ourselves from the danger of wildfire inherent in any natural landscape, the answer is not to destroy or "remove" (as some call it) large amounts of trees or plants of any size or species, but to make our homes and structures ignition-resistant. Fire-proof from houses-out, not forests-in. LEARN ABOUT The Home Ignition Zone and Defensible Space.
Another human threat our forests face is from so-called "native" plant extremists who advocate eradicating specific plant and tree species on an enormous scale. These include Monterey Pine and Monterey Cypress trees which have thrived in huge numbers in California for hundreds of years, and more recent imports like acacia and eucalyptus trees that have naturalized here after over 125 years in California ecosystems. Ironically, tragically, the very same bulldozers, chainsaws and poisonous herbicides that for decades were considered the enemies of environmentalists, are today used to kill thousands of trees and plants. Why? For decades, billion-dollar multinational chemical companies like Monsanto (bought by Bayer Chemical), Dow, BASF and Bayer have spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars on public relations and advertising campaigns — and influencing donations to educational institutions and conservation groups — to advance a pseudo-scientific ideology sometime called, "invasion biology." One of its primary agendas is to convince people the necessity of waging a war on nature — using their products as the primary weapons. The so-called "restoration" movement's aesthetic agenda of plant preferences for emotional and historical biases, also with no basis wildfire science, has been heavily influenced by the ideology. This includes exploiting people's genuine fear of wildfire to achieve its goals, including targeting eucalyptus trees in California.
Invasion biology is a huge, complex and controversial topic, but you can get a quick introduction to its importance, and its relevance to the San Francisco Bay Area and California, by reading this eye-opening 2015 article by investigative journalist Andrew Cockburn in Harpers: "Weed Whackers: Monsanto, glyphosate, and the War on Invasive Species."
Plants and animals are labeled "native" or "non-native," or "invasive" even "noxious," or "alien" — and everyone's favorite, "weed" — with little if any scientific basis. And despite many species being integrated into the landscape and co-existing with other flora and fauna. Also blithely ignored is the reality that plant and animal species have always intermingled, evolved, and been on the move, migrating between regions — and even continents — long before human technology sped up the process in recent centuries. Even before humans at all.
Without forests, the wildness of our East Bay hills would be obliterated. And wildfire danger would increase, too. READ HOW FORESTS MITIGATE WILDFIRE DANGER. One critical component of preventing the destruction of these essential forest ecosystems is funding; funding to sustain legal challenges to policies and projects that would destroy forests. SUPPORT HCN's ONGOING PROTECTIVE WORK.
We welcome you to our continuing, vigilant efforts to protect what's precious in our hills communities. While doing so, we can all enjoy them, and each other, in our community of forest, nature and wildlife admirers. WE HOPE YOU'LL JOIN US. Especially now, in 2020 and beyond; new, surreal, pandemic times when nature's beauty and peace and safety is more restorative and necessary than ever.
We'll see you out there.
We can live next to wild nature without cutting down
trees and forests out of wildfire fear?