The Morro Coast Audubon Society is delaying plans to remove 120 large eucalyptus trees from its Sweet Springs East nature preserve in Los Osos.
The decision is the result of biological studies that showed removal of the trees could impact overwintering monarch butterflies and nesting raptors. The group will conduct additional studies to determine how best to move forward.
“It is evident that the potential impacts of tree removal require further deliberation to insure that we successfully balance the needs of different species as we try to restore native coastal habitat,” the group said in a news release.
The group plans to move ahead with other aspects of its restoration project at the 8-acre preserve, including installation of a hiking trail and viewing platform. Such improvements require a minor use permit from the county, preserve manager Holly Sletteland said.
The Audubon Society has a permit request pending before the county Planning Commission. Because the tree removal is no longer at issue, opposition to the permit could drop and the group could begin work as early as the spring, Sletteland said.
A decision to move ahead with the tree removal could also be made as early as next year. The group will apply for a separate permit from the county after the necessary biological studies are complete.
The proposal to remove the large eucalyptus trees has sparked considerable controversy. The trees are not native to the area and frequently grow in pure stands, eliminating native plant species.
However, the trees are popular for their scenic value and their potential roosting habitat for monarchs and nesting sites for raptors.
“We remain convinced of the serious drawbacks of eucalyptus trees outside their native range, but acknowledge that more time is needed to assess their advantages in our unique setting,” the group noted.