The ongoing debate over the necessity for removing any trees from the Mt. Sutro Open Space Reserve has heated up as the public comment period regarding UCSF's plan recently closed. At the heart of the controversy is whether this forest is a man-made disaster or simply nature doing its thing, intertwined with the "native" vs "non-native" debate.
Removal of trees from Mt. Sutro is not new: both in 1935 and in 1955 large swaths of the forest were cut down, for the Army's Nike radar site at the summit and on the south side of the mountain, down to the Clarendon Reservoir. And there have been fires (at least 7).
As visitors to this gem of an open space can see, the forest of primarily blue gum eucalyptus trees blocks the sun from the understory of the forest (dominated by Cape ivy, English ivy, Himalayan blackberry) creating a dense tangle of green that is at once beautiful yet deadly for plant species better suited to the natural ecology of the mountain.
The Mt. Sutro Stewards, led by Craig Dawson, have been working in the forest for years, restoring historic trails and making the place accessible to the public. There are immediate neighbors and others who have fought this work and who now fight the "deforestation" of their backyards. It is the understanding of the Stewards that by designating some limited demonstration areas and reforesting those sites with trees better suited to the location, a process of regeneration essential for the future health of the forest can begin. We are not going to the "clearcutting" on the scale of that done in 1935; the use of that word conjures horrible images of what has been done to our California forests.
There is a wealth of misinformation being generated, so slogging through the details is hard. A great way to get a grip on the issue is to walk the trails and listen to folks who have been bringing the mountain into our Bay Area open space community. Volunteer on the first Saturday of the month with Craig and the Stewards, and you can see and learn first-hand how good forest management in an urban area can be.