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Eucalyptus crowd out natives 

The Morro Coast Audubon Society has a sound plan to return the new Sweet Springs tract to its natural state

I must respond to Dane Jones’ commentary regarding removal of the eucalyptus grove in the new addition to Sweet Springs preserve (“Do not tamper with Sweet Springs,” Nov. 24). He opines the herbicide glyphosate will volatize after being painted on the stumps that remain after the trees are felled, but fails to mention the quantity of the chemical that will be applied. I wonder what his opinion is of the fumes from cars that drive by Sweet Springs and how he intends to address that far larger volume of tainted air? There are more than 750 products that contain glyphosate, many of which might already be in use next door to Sweet Springs. Regulatory agencies and other organizations have reviewed scientific data for glyphosate formulations and judged the compounds to be of minimal risk to the environment. See a detailed review of literature on the topic by Susan Monheit of California Department of Food and Agriculture, “Glyphosate-Based Aquatic Herbicides [:] An Overview of Risk.”

- IF THE OPPONENTS OF THE PLAN WOULD SIMPLY SAY, ‘I WANT THIS TO BE MY PARK, I LIKE IT EXACTLY THE WAY IT IS,’ I WOULDN’T TAKE ISSUE. WHAT I DON’T LIKE ARE THE SPECIOUS ARGUMENTS THEY MAKE IN AN ATTEMPT TO CHANGE THE PROJECT.: -
  • IF THE OPPONENTS OF THE PLAN WOULD SIMPLY SAY, ‘I WANT THIS TO BE MY PARK, I LIKE IT EXACTLY THE WAY IT IS,’ I WOULDN’T TAKE ISSUE. WHAT I DON’T LIKE ARE THE SPECIOUS ARGUMENTS THEY MAKE IN AN ATTEMPT TO CHANGE THE PROJECT.:

Which brings me to my truck with such pieces as Jones’ and some comments about the trees I’ve read in local newspapers and online: I appreciate the fervor of those who want to keep the eucalyptus trees in the new addition, but it stems from their personal desires, not what is best or even possible for an environmental restoration project. Their arguments often include “wishful thinking” that really does not support their opinions.

The 8.3 new acres were acquired in 2008 by the Morro Coast Audubon Society with help from the Trust for Public Land. The tract abuts 24 acres the Society already owns. The “old” Sweet Springs is not part of this new project. The new project is now before the SLO County Department of Building and Planning for a minor use permit for the installation of public access and restoration of native dune scrub.

The new tract in its current state includes such invasive, non-native species as the eucalyptus trees, which are crowding out the natives or preventing them from growing at all. Site restoration includes the removal of the non-native vegetation and replacement with native vegetation. The removal of the eucalyptus is called for as part of the Recovery Action Plan for the Morro shoulderband snail. This snail is found on the property and is considered by the federal government as endangered, necessitating the RAP.

The grant agreement for the land with the state Coastal Conservancy states, “The property shall be held and used for the purposes of acquisition, development, rehabilitation, restoration, and protection of habitat that promotes the recovery of threatened and endangered species.”  Since the snail does not use eucalyptus, and the Society is tasked with improving habitat quantity and quality, coastal dune scrub must be reestablished instead.

According to the Project Expansion Summary on the Morro Coast Audubon Society’s website, at the close of escrow the title for the property was transferred to Morro Coast Audubon Society with several binding restrictions stipulating the property may be used only “… for the purpose of natural resource protection, preservation, restoration and management of wildlife habitat and sensitive biological resources, wildlife oriented education and research, open space protection and compatible public access.” Jones can take up his argument with the people who restricted the use of the property, but the Audubon Society chapter is not at fault.

The restoration plans include:

• removal of approximately 3.5 acres of non-native plants, including veldt grass, ice plant, mustard, wild radish, fennel, African daisy, English ivy, and more.

• replacement with plants favored by wildlife, among those coast live oak, silver dune lupine, mock heather, and black sage in coastal dune scrub areas; and willows, dogwood, toyon, and sedges in upland borders.

• reintroduction of such rare plants that have been lost on the preserve as yerba mansa and San Luis Obispo monardella, as well as encouraging the growth of such rare plants as Blochman’s leafy daisy and the sand almond.

• gradual removal of up to 120 eucalyptus trees (if not used by wildlife) over a 10-year period, with replacement plantings at a 3:1 ratio of native trees including coast live oaks, sycamores, willows, and wax myrtle.

If the opponents of the plan would simply say, “I want this to be my park, I like it exactly the way it is,” I wouldn’t take issue. What I don’t like are the specious arguments they make in an attempt to change the project, and the downright meanness shown at the Audubon’s walk through on Nov. 19 and from bloggers in response to a Tribune article.

One comment I read in blogs about the project, which I suspect is intended to agitate opponents, regards the amount of water the Society is requesting for plantings in the new tract: 30,000 gallons per year. That certainly sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But according to literature from the Los Osos water company Golden State, the average family uses 198,000 gallons of water per year. Do the math: 30,000 gallons amounts to about 82 gallons a day. That’s 82 gallons distributed over more than 8 acres. Not very water much at all.

I don’t want to see the restoration project become a community blowup like the Los Osos sewer. It would be a shame if it winds up before the Coastal Commission, costing tens of thousands of dollars in staff time and legal defense. And really, would the commissioners find a substantial issue in the restoration of the coastal dune scrub versus not disturbing the invasive non-natives, especially considering the Audubon Society has a thorough, comprehensive plan?

Audubon California, California State Coastal Conservancy, Sierra Club, the Land Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, Small Wilderness Area Preservation, the EPA National Estuary Program, SLO Coastkeepeer, and the California Native Plant Society have sent letters in support of the project.

Eucalyptus lovers, if you want a park to your liking, find some property and funding. Don’t try to stymie the good intentions of the Audubon Society chapter for this property.

Lynette Tornatzky has lived in Los Osos for six years. She was a Los Angeles resident for 55 years. Send comments to the opinion editor via econnolly@newtimesslo.com.

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