May 5, 2021
Dear Supervisors and Staff:
We are writing on behalf of our approximately 1500 Forest Unlimited supporters. We have worked locally for over 25 years to protect watersheds from irreversible impacts of irresponsible logging and planted over 34,000 redwoods on protected properties with hundreds of volunteers.
Forest Unlimited members are participating and watching the County’s current effort to update the tree protection policies. In that spirit, while the existing tree policies are reviewed and a new policy adopted, we urge the County of Sonoma to act swiftly and cease issuance of tree removal permits to prevent further destruction of trees, woodlands, and forests. As climate science tells us, existing trees are a large part of the climate saving-equation drawing down large quantities of the harmful carbon we continue to emit in large quantities (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Moomaw, Ph. D. et al. Intact Forests in the United States: Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves Greatest Good).
Science tells us that we have only ten years for making significant gains. Trees that are 10 years or older translate into time, this is the time we need to make the necessary adjustment to mitigate climate change impacts. Therefore, all trees at least 10 years of age must be preserved across the county’s landscape. Protected trees will provide substantial services to the community and future generations.
Major Long-term Economic and Community Safety Considerations
* Climate change is adversely affecting our existing community, our farms, and our watersheds;
• Reversing climate change is of the highest concern and effective measures to contribute to that effort must be implemented;
• Drastic reductions in emissions and drawing down carbon are critically important in that effort;
• Existing trees drawdown carbon immediately and on a large scale;
• Compromising our ability to drawdown carbon should not be an option at this time;
• Existing woodlands, forests, and trees must be preserved with minor exceptions (e.g. trees close to homes);
The Protection of Trees
Currently, Sonoma County permits large numbers of tree removal proposals on a yearly basis.
This is true despite the many valuable functions trees provide to the community including:
• Protection of our shared clean water supply insofar as woodlands of all sorts help infiltrate water into the aquifers for well owners and stream flows, reduce soil erosion by protecting soils from runoff of stormwaters, and help moderate soil heating and soil loss from extreme solar exposure deep ripping, etc.;
• Mature trees are more fire resilient;
• Trees provide free services to the community and are better than “shovel ready” because they are doing critical work for us already;
• Mature trees sequester by far more carbon than seedlings and saplings;
• Woodlands support very high levels of biodiversity which is critical to humans as well as other species;
• Protecting trees safeguards soil and groundwater through their deep root structure and works in combination with canopy shade that also provides micro-climate enhancement;
• Trees create wet weather systems that we need on large and small scales; and
• The upper canopy of woodlands cool the soil below and facilitate absorption of rainfall into the ground for human and other uses.
• Refrain from issuing tree removal permits until such time as the County has in place a Comprehensive Tree Protection Policy that is based on the latest climate science;
• Create County policy so that mature trees are of the highest value to the health and safety of our community in the fight to rein in climate change.
• Ensure that the new policy is fair–projects and proposed activities will be treated the same and existing mature trees, woodlands, and forests will be presumptively protected;
• The County should look at narrow exceptions for creating reasonable defensible space around individual homes for fire protection (see Jack Cohen, Ph. D.);
Forest Unlimited has, and especially now, views all mature trees as highly valuable and urges the County of Sonoma to move forward a comprehensive and climate appropriate protection policy that honors our children and begins the long process of mitigating past and ongoing development activities.
We look forward to a successful update process that is based on the climate science.
President of the Board of Directors