President’s Message

At our last board meeting, the Conservancy Board of Directors elected new officers—including Marilyn Goldhaber as Vice President, Nancy Mueller as Secretary, Kay Loughman as Treasurer, and myself as President. I begin my term with a shout-out to retiring president Tim Wallace. Tim led this organization with dedication and a steady hand for much of the past 18 years. Fortunately, we are not saying goodbye to Tim; he will remain on the board as a member-at-large. We will continue to look to Tim as a strong voice in conservation and renewal of native, fire-safe vegetation in our canyon. I know that he will be a great help in moving our projects forward. I am happy to say he has recovered almost entirely from injuries sustained in a car collision last fall, as reported in our last newsletter.

Area Residents Support Major Vegetation Management

As the University prepares its plans and environmental impact report to make Claremont Canyon more fire-safe, the Conservancy has released results of its survey of residents' attitudes on vegetation management and other issues.

Community residents support (87%) removal of eucalyptus, a species that contributed to the spread of the 1991 wildfire and continues to pose a danger. Residents also support (81%) the sparing use of herbicide to keep the tree stumps from resprouting after cutting.

UC should feel confident about taking an aggressive stand on removing this danger. While opponents speak loudly, their numbers in the community are small. A more complete report on our survey results is in our Spring Newsletter, which will arrive in your postal mailbox soon. You can also find the spring issue as well as past issues here.

Oakland Wildfire Prevention Update

Oakland’s current $4 million funding level for vegetation management, for which the Conservancy and other local organizations lobbied hard, will need our support again soon. In February, the city’s finance director, Katano Kasaine, told the City Council that these funds, to be spread over two years, were a “onetime appropriation” and thus were not included in the baseline budget. Further, she said that the current year is heading towards a $6.5 million deficit, largely due to increased personnel-related costs (salaries, pension contributions, insurance claims, etc.), and could rise even higher next year to as much as $25 million, if changes aren’t made soon.

At the same meeting, City Council members announced their priorities. Both fire prevention and vegetation management had strong support from hills representatives Dan Kalb (D1) and Sheng Thao (D4), as well as from President Rebecca Kaplan (councilmember at-large). Kalb said that a wildfire assessment district (an area formed through taxation on homes in the high fire risk area) is needed to fund vegetation work. The possible formation of such a district will be brought to voters once Oakland’s in-process vegetation plan, including its Environmental Impact Report, is completed in about another year. A survey to gather Oakland residents’ views on expenditures found fire prevention was in the top ten out of forty items polled. If you are interested in receiving periodic updates as Oakland’s process goes forward, contact me at stage@berkeley.edu. Help is needed in speaking up at City Council meetings!

In the meantime, the City of Oakland is proceeding to finalize its Vegetation Management Plan and to develop an accompanying Environmental Impact Report. We believe the Plan should cover all land in the city, including school district parcels, other public agency land and private property. Wildfire does not respect property lines. For this reason, the Conservancy, working with other local community organizations, is urging the state to create a regional wildfire prevention management agency to address this problem.