native to his state. The National Park Service thanked everyone, then
patiently explained that nature would be handling all the replanting in the
park. The truth about the fires-that they were both inevitable and
necessary- soon appeared in virtually every magazine that dealt seriously with
the outdoors. Even newspapers eventually stopped interviewing sources like
Joe the Guide and tuned in to fire's vital role in the dynamics of real forests.
Somehow the National Arbor Day Foundation missed the news. As recently as January it was reporting that the fires "devastated the Greater Yellowstone area," that "much more needs to be done to restore the forest so that it can once again provide food and cover," and that "millions of trees must be planted." Accordingly, it has taken over where Woodsy Owl left off, teaming up with the U.S. Forest Service and enlisting public and corporate support in "replanting" the area's national forests, beginning with the Gallatin in the vicinity of Cooke City, Montana.
The Forest Service-which has minor misgivings about Woodsy because he vaguely resembles a spotted owl and therefore offends clearcutters-is enthusiastically supervising the project. "Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Reforestation" it's called because, supposedly, it will benefit grizzly bear, elk, and moose.
Everyone with something to sell is climbing on board: Country Living, Crest, Beatrice/Hunt-Wesson, Bristol Myers, Moore Business Products, Wing Industries, New Antiques, Le Jardin Academy, Walden books, and Sunrise Productions, which, together with the Fit for Life Foundation, will plant a tree in your honor if you buy a copy of Delicious Vegetable Entrees.
Why, I wondered, would the Forest Service feel it had to manipulate vegetation for grizzlies, elk, and moose? Grizzlies weren't affected by the fires one way or the other and, in any case, are doing better every year. Moose are fine; and, if anything, elk are too prolific. Arbor Day Foundation personnel could comment only on grizzly management, explaining that among the trees to be planted for this purpose are white bark pines, whose cones -are an important food source for Yellowstone- area bruins. But this, too, seemed strange because I knew that it takes decades for any pine to produce cones.
So I contacted U.S. Fish and Wild. life Service biologist Chris Servheen, who leads the interagency task force for
grizzly recovery in the Greater Yellowstone area. Servheen said he
hadn't heard of any tree planting for grizzlies near Cooke City or anywhere
"Does the management of grizzlies call for planting white bark pine?" I asked.
"Not that I'm aware of," he said. "It's seventy-plus years for a white bark pine to produce any cones, and the probability of survival is pretty low with trees planted that way. The trees are normally coming in by themselves all the time. If there's any tree planting for wildlife going on, Jack Lyon [of the Forest Service] would know."
Dutifully, I phoned Lyon-who has research going on elk and grizzly all the way from Yellowstone to Montana's Flathead National Forest. But he hadn't heard of any tree planting for bears either. When I asked him if the Forest Service was planting for moose or elk, he said: "As far as I know they're not. Tree planting is a timber management thing. Habitat for elk, for example, is a function of tree growth and succession, but there wouldn't be any particular point in planting specifically for elk. Same thing for moose."
What, then, could be the motive behind the Arbor Day Foundation- Forest Service venture? Hard to say, but one learns from a Forest Service report that: (1) "Timber management for fiber production" is the other part of the "co-dominant objective" for the planting area; and (2) that the area qualifies under the "Watchable Wildlife Program" owing to the "unique opportunity for viewing wildlife based on a comparative rarity of moose and the close proximity of the habitat used by the moose to the roadway."
In other words, moose will benefit from tree planting to the extent that motorists can remain seated while watching them.
ONE GROUP that does not "work closely" with either the National Arbor Day Foundation or Global ReLeaf is the National Audubon Society. Dede Armentrout, vice-president for the Southwest region, politely declined when Global ReLeaf offered her chapters ten thousand Afghan pines to hand out at the malls. "They're garbage trees as far as wildlife goes," she told me.
When Global ReLeaf contacted David Northington, executive director of the Austin-based National Wild- flower Research Center, he said his group would participate only if offi-
cials guaranteed that no alien trees be used. No one got back to him.
"Ever time I turn around, someone from Global ReLeaf hands me an Afghan pine,"
he laments. I say, "Thanks but I don't live in Afghanistan." The
don't understand, so Northington accepts the gift and discreetly euthanizes it
by jerking it out of the tube and leaving it in the Texas sun.
Another organization that has tried and failed to reform Global ReLeaf is Health & Habitat of Mill Valley, California. It would have joined except that it couldn't extract a promise to promote only indigenous species in areas that used to have trees. "I have trouble talking to these people who have this wonderful enthusiasm for planting trees," declares Health & Habitat's president, Sandy Ross. "You don't want to say no because it sounds like you're anti-conservation. But most of them don't have any idea of site- endemic situations. We're gonna plant trees! And I'll ask what kind. And they'll say, I don't know; they're in little pots. I think there's a greater danger in planting the wrong trees than not planting trees. Mill Valley doesn't need a tree-planting program. It needs a tree-removal program."
But try selling this to Ross' busy neighbors, the "Friends of the Urban Forest," who propose to plant 1.8 million trees in San Francisco, thus tripling the number in the city and further endangering the grassland-wildflower community on which it squats.
"Planting trees 'wherever you can' sends chills down my spine," comments Jacob Sigg, president of the San Francisco chapter of the California Native Plant Society. "Civic-minded leaders thought it would be an improvement to plant 'barren' hills with trees. The trees chosen were of only three kinds and not native to San Francisco. They were imposed on the land and did not carry with them the complement of biological organisms-the seed-eating birds and squirrels, the insects and larvae which chew on leaves and burrow in bark and seed, the bacteria and fungi that are part of the recycling process." Today San Francisco's make-believe forests are, in Jacob Sigg's words, "biological wastelands, monotonous and uninviting and expanding."
One such wasteland is Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, like the city itself chock-a-block with blue gum eucalyptus from Tasmania, the most pernicious and invasive alien of them all. "Wonder tree," Californians used to
call it before they tried building with it and before it caused the
extinction of the Xerces blue butterfly, reduced Raven's manzanita to a single
bush, swamped whole ecosystems, and made the state smell like a cough drop.
Three years ago, when the California Parks and Recreation Department released a plan to restore native flora and fauna by razing a patch of Angel's eucalyptus monoculture, it found itself confronted by a group called POET (Protect Our Eucalyptus Trees). POET called the project leader a "plant Nazi" and charged that the department was trying to "eradicate history" in that the trees were very old and had been planted by the U.S. Army. Further, POET maintained that wildlife positively doted on eucalyptus.
So Parks and Recreation contacted the University of California at Berkeley and signed up Michael Morrison, associate professor of wildlife, to do a study. "Basically," says Morrison, "we found that very, very few species of wildlife use eucalyptus. That was no surprise to us because none of these species evolved with eucalyptus. When I said killing non-native trees is not immoral, they [POET] said: 'The next thing we're going to hear from you is getting rid of all non-native people is okay.' And I said, 'Where did you get that?' These people forced Parks and Recreation to spend well over a hundred thousand dollars in research funds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee time to justify removing thirty acres of eucalyptus. I thought that was obscene."
At the moment the department seems to be winning. But POET has a powerful new weapon-a poem lovely as an alien tree. It quotes the persecuted eucalypti as they cry out against arboricide:
We love our home
Here on the isle
We love our fellow trees, plants,
We would love to
But we have no voice
Because we are eucalyptus
And we are not native
Therefore, we must be
POET's great contribution to the environment is the lesson it teaches (or should) the nation-that the best time to make the land right by getting rid of wrong trees is before tree-planters try to fix the world with them.
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