As we all know, the fires last year destroyed thousands of homes and other buildings. However, the tree loss has to have been in the hundreds of thousands. Oaks, bays, redwoods, firs, and many other varieties were lost in the fires. In addition, when the burned lands were cleared, many additional trees were cut down needlessly. This was due to a combination of expediency, greed, and carelessness, and it claimed many trees that were still alive, perhaps singed and damaged but not dead.
Now that PG&E is facing scrutiny for responsibility for the fires, many remaining trees are again under threat. PG&E and its contractors are engaged in a program of extreme vegetation removal. They claim that they must cut 12 feet or more away from power lines and poles for the sake of public safety. This is a gross exaggeration. Their regulations call for a 4-foot safety area, not 12 feet. By cutting a huge swath of trees and vegetation, they claim they will not need to cut again for 10 years. But they are cutting many trees that are decades old, some over 100 years old, which are not adding to the danger of forest fires.
I am seeing nearby to where I live, many large oak trees with "cut" ribbons on them. Those trees are located in non-dense woodland, where they pose no risk of a forest fire, yet they are scheduled for removal.
I have seen and heard numerous stories of large trees, some of which were over 100 years old which have been cut down by PG&E or its agents in error.
The tree companies are being paid in a manner that errs in the direction of overcutting -- the more they cut, the more money they make.
The tree-cut evaluators are not arborists. The tree-cutting companies are from all over the United States. So the people doing this work don't have an ecological, professional, or local connection to what is being done.
The trees are the lungs of the earth, and their presence contributes to our emotional health. Trees in Napa County are being destroyed by drought, insects, fires, climate change, disease, vineyard conversion, and development. Must our public utility company also be destroying so many trees needlessly to add to this?
"They'll grow back," is the retort to questioning the cutting. But they may not grow back, and if they do, it may happen when many of us are long gone.
Of course tree and vegetation management is needed for fire protection, but it needs to be done in a manner that will preserve the natural environment. Please contact PG&E and your local government representatives and ask that vegetation removal be done with care and discretion. It is not necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.
Editor's Note: PG&E declined to comment at this time.