Invasive tree removal expected to go forward, by Jon Kaufman

THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA’S PROGRAM of invasive tree removal from its land in upper Claremont Canyon has been on hold for the past three years while a federal environmental study assesses the environmental impacts of fire mitigation projects planned for the East Bay hills. Over 9,000 trees, mostly hazardous eucalyptus, have already been removed through UC’s program in Claremont Canyon. If all goes well, the program is expected to resume in 2013 or 2014.

In the meantime, UC’s treated lands are recovering on their own as the more desirable native trees and shrubs respond to their newly increased share of air, light and water. To facilitate the recovery, Conservancy volunteers worked with UC land manager Tom Klatt to build and maintain trails and remove invasive weeds. The Conservancy also helped install a large redwood log that Tom carved into a rustic redwood bench. That bench now sits near signpost 29 along Claremont Avenue directly across from the canyon’s dramatic geological feature, the radiolarian chert wall (pic- tured on page 7). The redwood bench, which we featured in our last newsletter, invites hikers, birders, and others to sit down, rest, relax, and enjoy a vista of willows by the creek and native woodlands of oak, bay and buckeye on the canyon’s north-facing slope. Phase One of UC’s program and its charming vista, previously hidden by towering eucalyp- tus, are now easily visible on the south side of Claremont Avenue, looking right as you drive uphill about a half a mile beyond the Alvarado intersection.

The dense eucalyptus grove on the north side of Claremont Avenue (outlined below) is soon expected to undergo the same restoration treatment. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency that has been conducting the review of projects, will ensure that all relevant issues have been addressed. Once that review is complete and the resulting environmental impact statement approved, FEMA will release the funds that were earmarked years ago for use by UC in removing non-native eucalyptus, pine, and acacia trees to make the vegetation in this part of the Canyon more fire-safe.

Today, native vegetation struggles to grow in the deep shade of the much larger and fast-growing blue-gum eucalyptus. When UC’s large tree removal resumes, most likely in 2013 and 2014, care will be taken, according to Tom Klatt, to protect struggling natives and encourage them to recolonize the landscape. We anticipate that the landscape north of the road on south-facing slopes will look raw for a while. The ground will have been disturbed by tractors and other heavy-duty logging equipment, freshly-cut stumps will be visible, and whole scene will look disturbed, perhaps for a few years.

But once the eucalyptus are gone, along with their deep shade and tons of flammable debris, the area’s oaks, bay laurels, buckeyes, big leaf maples, elderberries, and other native trees and shrubs are expected to grow rapidly, as has occurred on the south side of Claremont Avenue. Moreover,

Claremont Canyon Conservancy volunteers will go to work, helping the hillside recover. As the native trees and shrubs reestablish themselves, the area will become as attractive as the earlier UC project areas on the south side of Claremont Avenue.

We will be trading a dense, debris-filled, fire-prone eucalyptus grove for a more beautiful, more natural, and far safer Upper Claremont Canyon.