News

Why we should bury the power lines

Author
Congratulations: If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you still have electricity. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Americans hit by winter weather in the South this week couldn’t join you. And ice and storms making their way north threaten loss of power stretching to Vermont.
Why do Americans tolerate such outages?
They are not inevitable. The German power grid has outages at an average rate of 21 minutes per year.
The winds may howl. The trees may fall. But in Germany, the lights stay on.
There’s no Teutonic engineering magic to this impressive record. It’s achieved by a very simple decision: Germany buries almost all of its low-voltage and medium-voltage power lines, the lines that serve individual homes and apartments. Americans could do the same. They have chosen not to.
Electric users ask: Why not put power lines underground?

From the ED’s Desk

Rick Coates, Forest Unlimited Executive Director

Yes, Forest Unlimited fights bad logging practices. Yes, Forest Unlimited plants trees. But, no less important, Forest Unlimited is also an educational organization.

Forest Communique’
The Forest Communique’ is part of our educational program. We hope that you learn something important from every issue. We try to keep you up to date on forestry law changes and current logging plans. We try to correct the misinformation spread by the corporate timber industry and developers. And we inform you of ways you can help protect your watershed.

Talks by experts at events
Those of you who attended our recent Dinner Under the Redwoods at Camp Meeker know that we alway try to include a talk by an expert on important forestry topics.

This year’s talk was on Forest Fire and Public Policy by Brian Nowicki. Brian presented evidence that fires were made catastrophic not by forests, but rather by flammable houses built too close together in the urban-wildland interface. He showed photos of whole groups of houses burned to the ground yet surrounded by still green or barely singed conifers some with no sign of crown or underbrush fire. He noted that chaparral, not timberland, is a greater danger, yet the legislature has no program for chaparral management and is instead spending large amounts of money on “thinning” areas that will never burn.

Although Brian did not say so, I could add that the timber industry and their handmaiden, the Department of Forestry, saw the recent catastrophic fire crisis as an opportunity to justify more logging and stampede the legislature into unwise legislation.

The fire problem can’t be solved by unrestricted thinning of forests dubbed “fuel reduction” by CalFire. This is especially true when CalFire so rarely enforces its rules.

It is the homes, the real “fuel”, that need to be fire-hardened. This is expensive and many homeowners cannot afford the expenditure. But the legislature that claims to be concerned has provided no funds to help.

The very real danger of overhead power lines remains unaddressed by the legislature thanks to intense lobbying and campaign donations by PG&E. Since the Tubbs fire, PG&E lines have started two more (thankfully small) fires in Sonoma County.

Another factor making fires catastrophic is, of course, global warming and the terrific winds powered by the earth’s increasing heat. Forests soak up the carbon dioxide, the major cause of global warming. Planting forests is one of the most cost-effective ways to deal with climate change. But the state has no serious program to plant trees or even protect existing forests.

Presentations for the general public
I have been making presentations at the Sonoma Public Library branches on “Protecting our Forests” that also dealt with the fire danger and the history of logging in the North Bay.

Did you know that logging in the Oakland hills in the 1840’s and 1850’s lead the way for hillside homes, narrow streets (former logging roads) and dry conditions that culminated in the 1991 Tunnel fire in Oakland?

That fire destroyed more than three thousand homes and killed 25 people! The lesson was not learned as we saw when fire incinerated Fountain Grove in Santa Rosa. Logging corporations (in reality, development corporations) follow the same practice as they did in the 1800’s: Buy forestland, log the hell out of it, then sell it for homes and ranchettes. This places housing directly in wildlands.

Forest Protection Workshops
Forest Unlimited also has a program of Forest Protection Workshops specifically designed for watershed groups and neighborhood associations that are confronted with a proposed logging plan. It is difficult for groups to know just how to effectively deal with nearby logging. By the time they figure out the system, CalFire has approved the logging plan and trees are beginning to fall. So we provide them with a head start by explaining forestry law and regulations, identifying the governmental agencies responsible for making and enforcing those regulations and suggesting ways to intervene in the review process to alter and sometimes stop logging plans. Without citizen oversight, CalFire will simply not follow the law as we have repeatedly proved in court.

Project Based Learning
Finally, we educate citizens about the importance of active participation in policy decisions made by our legislature, our Supervisors and public servants.

For example, Forest Unlimited supporters recently attended a Supervisors Meeting to ask them to place revision of the Tree Ordinance on their staff’s work plan which they did. In the process, those who attended learned more about the county legislative process. We will be asking for your participation again when it returns to the Board of Supervisors.

Convinced that the best education is hands on learning by doing, we use our tree planting as an opportunity to teach about redwood ecology, proper methods of planting and the importance of forests to combating climate change. Incidentally, if you want to be notified of our next tree planting, email our Reforestation Manager Harlie Rankin harlierankin@gmail.com.

If you have additional ideas for our educational outreach, please contact us at contact@forestunlimited.org .

Forestry Leaders Honored at Summer Dinner

Our very own Executive Director and founder of Forest Unlimited Rick Coates received not one but two honors at the annual Summer Dinner Under the Redwoods in June.

State Senator Mike McGuire – a former Sonoma County Supervisor, and Congressman Jared Huffman – Chair of the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, former lawyer with the Environmental Defense Fund and former state Assemblyman, both sent beautiful proclamations in recognition of Rick’s many years of leadership, protection efforts, and commitment to biologically healthy watersheds, woodlands, and forests.  Senator McGuire graciously gained the support of Assemblypersons Aguilar Curry and Wood and Senator Dodd.

Huffman wrote that the Rick was an environmental hero and worthy of recognition for his ” 25-years of leadership and service to protecting our community’s forests and watersheds. Thank you for your dedication and investment in the future of our natural word.”

RESOLVED BY SENATOR MIKE McGUIRE,
That Rick Coates be commended for the significant contributions he has made to the North Bay community through his steadfast environmental activism and leadership and extended sincere best wishes that his indomitable efforts will continue in the future.
Honorable Mike McGuire, 2nd Senatorial District


President of the Board of Forest Unlimited – Larry Hanson, reads portions of the Resolution from the state legislature to Rick Coates


Congressman Huffman’s field representative  Blake Hooper, presented Rick Coates with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition.

 

 

 

Eleanor Jaffe of Sebastopol received the Young Environmental Leader of the year for her efforts planting trees with Forest Unlimited and in Ecuador and for her actions for the climate with Youth v. Apocalyspe – 350.org. .

How trees can save us

Author Alissa Walker

Dallas’s hottest summer days, Matt Grubisich would dispatch his colleagues at the Texas Trees Foundation to take manual air temperature readings across the city. “You think the number to go by is the weather station out at the airport,” he says, pointing to Dallas’s Love Field, five miles northwest of the city center. “But then we’d go to a parking lot downtown where it was 6 degrees warmer.”

As the director of operations and urban forestry for the Texas Trees Foundation, Grubisich was trying to demonstrate that Dallas needed to make major design changes to fortify itself against epic heat waves. “It’s easy to explain to people why they park under a tree when they drive to the grocery store,” he says. Getting local leaders and the population at large to take action to bring more trees to the city was a tougher sell.

Thanks to the city’s 2015 effort to map its urban forest, Grubisich and his team already knew that the city’s trees were not evenly distributed. Almost half of Dallas’s trees were located within the Great Trinity Forest, a 6,000-acre nature preserve. That didn’t leave a lot of trees for the rest of the city, where some neighborhoods only had tree canopy over 10 percent of their communities.

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We cannot play sleight-of-hand with our carbon budget.

Worldwide, scientists agree that one of the most powerful tools we have available to address the climate emergency are our living, mature trees – the powerful lungs of the ecosystem, with root networks that lock in soil carbon for millennia. Deforestation is counterproductive to stalling climate change.

The Napa County draft CAP offers “mitigations” which often include “preservation” of trees in areas that are already effectively protected, or replanting after deforestation, which leaves us with trees that will take 50 years to mature. In today’s world of exponential temperature increases, forest climate services are needed now, not 50 years after the climate takes a hit.

There is no real mitigation for the loss of our oak woodlands and forests. That is why the United Nations and climate scientists call for an immediate stop to deforestation. We are in a climate emergency and we cannot play sleight-of-hand with our carbon budget. 

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