Cambrian: Opinion

There are many reasons to save some of Cambria’s eucalyptus

California Conservation Corps members load up the chipper with fresh cut eucalyptus branches on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria in 2009.
California Conservation Corps members load up the chipper with fresh cut eucalyptus branches on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria in 2009. The Tribune

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve has pursued ecological, scientifically based management of its beautiful and unique holding. As residents of Cambria, we applaud the Ranch for the programs to remove invasive plants such as cape ivy and French broom. Beautify Cambria Association asks you to consider moderating the proposed approach to removing blue gum eucalyptus

The Ranch has applied for a minor use permit to remove all 175 eucalyptus trees on the 1.9-acre site above the Wastewater Treatment Plant. While Eucalyptus is classified as invasive and exotic, removing all these trees at once creates other problems.

The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Monterey Pine Forest Analysis Maintenance and Monitoring Program, prepared by James P. Allen & Associates in 2014, states on Page 10: “Given their size and age, many of the larger trees, greater than 18 diameter inches should be retained as trees of significance; with biotic, habitat and aesthetic functions.” Twenty-one trees that size are documented on the site.

The trees may have originally grown as invasive and exotic, but now they have been here for many years. Their impressive size attests to that. This site has some steep slopes. Removing all the trees creates the potential for erosion in this sandy, unstable soil. The proposed remedy of placing some logs horizontal to the slope behind stumps and adding straw wattles would not be necessary if more of the trees were left to hold the soil naturally. The 39 medium-sized trees, 8 to 18 inches in diameter, would fill that role and support this site until it can be revegetated with native Monterey Pine.

The site overlooks Cambria and is visible from the highway and Windsor Road. Removing all the trees at once will leave an ugly scar that will be years in recovering.

The eucalyptus trees provide a natural windbreak. Winds blow off the ocean to the west and from the valley inland across this site. Removing the windbreak exposes Cambrians to more dust swirling through doorways and irritating our lungs.

The eucalyptus trees provide habitat for raptors and other nesting birds, deer and other small mammals. While Monterey Pine is preferred habitat, wildlife now lives among these trees. Denuding the site offers them no place to live.

Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change. Forests sequester CO2 in larger quantities and for longer periods of time than other land uses. Forests account for 90 percent of the country’s natural carbon storage. They remove and sequester approximately 10 percent of our CO2 emissions.

All trees sequester carbon dioxide, but eucalyptus are especially effective because of their rapid growth, large size, dense wood and long lives. They store that carbon for as long as they live.

Trees store carbon by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. They store it in their leaves, stems and roots. Rotting leaves, debris, and soil organisms also contain carbon. Northern forests can sequester twice as much carbon in the soil as they do aboveground.

A stand of eucalyptus will purify the air through respiration, and add humidity to the air through evapotranspiration. The EPA estimates that trees can reduce the temperature of the air around them by as much as 12 percent.

Maintaining current forestland is crucial for avoiding additional inputs of CO2.

In light of these facts, Beautify Cambria Association asks you to modify this permit application to remove only the 77 saplings and 38 young trees less than 5 inches in diameter. Clear the brush and debris to reduce fire danger. Over time, the large trees will die and fall. The medium trees will grow and reach the end of their lives, providing a gradual resolution to eventual conversion of this site to Monterey pine forest.

Claudia Harmon Worthen is president of Beautify Cambria Association.