WILDFIRE Reduce wildfire risk, not forests
The wild lands and wildlife of the East Bay Hills of the San Francisco Bay Area, so close to metropolitan areas and cultural centers, are unique treasures. Living next to them is a pleasure we never take for granted: abundant vegetation, including the abundant shade created by cooling forest canopies, the blanket of morning and evening coastal fog and its moisturizing drip; all manner of creature, from red-tailed hawks, night herons, barn owls, deer, opossum, foxes and coyotes, to nocturnal skunks and raccoons, wild turkeys, myriad songbirds, chemically-sensitive giant banana slugs and frogs and so much more wildlife—all thrives in our backyards.
Yet with all this wildness, in all its natural beauty, comes risk. One of the greatest is wildfire. How then do we protect our homes and loved ones from wildfire without destroying or over-developing—or even excessively managing—what attracted us to live here in the first place?
This is the challenge faced by Hills Conservation Network since its inception over a decade ago, and over twenty years after the devastating Oakland Hills fire. That tragedy brought the reality of wildland fire dramatically, traumatically, into everyone's consciousness.
It's critical to note that even cutting down all the forests, paving over the chaparral and grasslands, and replacing them with buildings, suburbs or cities will not eliminate fire danger, just converts wildfire risk into urban fire risk (and adds the dangers of urban life).
The goal—what everyone wants—is a safe place to live that retains the beauty and diversity of our prized, cherished forests and open spaces. Can we be safe from fire without cutting down thousands of trees? The answer is a clear, science-based yes, and the details may surprise you.
As a result of our community's ceaseless efforts—at times spearheaded by legal actions initiated by HCN—we have achieved the best of all worlds. First, fire danger has been substantially reduced from what it was decades ago. And thanks to HCN's involvement, this has been achieved without destroying century-old forests continually threatened by human activity and extremist "management." To be clear, without numerous joint HCN-community efforts over the years, literally tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of trees would have been felled by those who, to this day, erroneously insist trees must be cut down for fire safety.
Sadly, one of the greatest threats our forests face, is from those who advocate eradicating specific plant and tree species on an enormous scale. They target species thriving here for over one hundred years with bulldozers, chainsaws, and toxic herbicides, claiming hundreds of thousands of trees "don't belong here." This ideology, sometimes called, "invasion biology," ignores both wildfire science as well as common sense wildfire risk mitigation. READ MORE ABOUT WILDFIRE RISK MITIGATION. The result of this ideology, impervious to reason, has been a series of protracted legal battles, raging over ten years—and ongoing into 2018.
Community support, your support, is what has protected, and what continues to protect our community's beloved forests. Without it, the wildness of our East Bay hills would be obliterated. While we wish there was a better way, a critical component preventing the destruction of these precious ecosystems is funding; funding to sustain legal challenges to tragically misguided policies and projects.
To put it more simply, what we love we must protect. We welcome you to our continuing, vigilant efforts to protect what we love. And all the while we can enjoy them, and each other in our community of forest, nature and wildlife fans. We hope you'll join us.