Page One

Albany Opposes Tree Removal, Aerial Spray

By Judith Scherr
Friday January 25, 2008

The little town of Albany stood up Tuesday night, first to the University of California, and then to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and its partner, the U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture. 

The City Council unanimously condemned UC Berkeley’s decision to cut down some 300 trees on the university-owned Gill Tract property at Marin Avenue and Buchanan Street, claiming that only some of the trees—home to Cooper’s Hawks and monarch butterflies—are diseased. The council authorized its attorney to go to court to block what Mayor Robert Lieber called “wholesale clear cutting,” if a delay in removing the trees—except seriously diseased Mon-terey Pines—could not be negotiated otherwise. 

The university, which says the trees pose a public-safety hazard, plans to begin removing 184 of the pines on Monday. “Campus officials emphasize that the removal has nothing to do with proposed development of campus-owned property nearby,” according to a Jan. 23 article written by Jonathan King in the internal UC publication The Berk-eleyan. 

Residents, including former Mayor Robert Cheasty, told the council they believe the tree removal is directly related to the proposed development. 


Council opposes spray 

Also on Tuesday, the council unanimously passed a strongly worded resolution opposing CDFA plans for aerial spraying to eradicate the light brown apple moth (LBAM). 

The state originally planned to begin spraying in Alameda County in the spring as part of ongoing efforts to eradicate the moth, but Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the council meeting, the CDFA/USDA released a statement saying they will delay the aerial spraying, John Connell, CDFA Plant Health & Pest Prevention Services director, told the council and some 45 people who waited until past 11 p.m. to hear the discussion on the LBAM. 

After the state sprayed in the fall in the Monterey and Santa Cruz areas, hundreds of people reported falling ill. Santa Cruz and Monterey counties filed lawsuits, alleging CDFA failed to perform a required environmental impact report before spraying. The EIR would have included a range of alternatives to the spray and would have considered public comment. 

CDFA says it did not need an EIR because the potential crop damage—to grapes, apples and other fruit—created an emergency situation. 

Connell addressed the decision to delay spraying: “In consultation with the technical working group, an international panel of experts, that panel recommended that CDFA/USDA take a look at other materials that have become available for [the eradication of] the light brown apple moth,” Connell said. “They do remain committed that this moth should be eradicated, and the primary tools to achieve that eradication would be an aerial application” of a product designed to disrupt mating behavior of the moths. New products are being developed and tested in New Zealand, Connell said. The CDFA expects to get the results of New Zealand trials by early April. 

Once they decide which product to use, the CDFA will first go back to the Santa Cruz/Monterey area to continue spraying there, then on to the Bay Area in early August, Connell said. 

The decision about which spray to use will be based on the product’s ability to eradicate the moth, not on health effects to humans, CDFA spokesperson Steve Lyle told the Planet Wednesday. It is the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency to certify the product on the basis of potential health impacts, he said. 

Meanwhile, the state plans to use other methods of eradication. It is evaluating, among other means, traps tied to host plants with pheromone-scents used to confuse males to get them to stop mating—mixed with a small amount of pesticide that would attract, then kill, the male moths, according to the Jan. 22 CDFA/ USDA statement. 

Neither the council nor the public was convinced that aerial spaying with any product should take place. 

“There’s no new information in what was released today,” Nan Wishner, chair of the Albany Integrated Pest Management Task Force, told the council. “The concern is that [the product] is used with aerial spraying.” 

The sprays used in the Santa Cruz area, Checkmate OLF-F and Checkmate LBAM-F, contain a synthetic phero-mone. When sprayed from the air, the pheromones are contained in microcapsules with ingredients some say are potentially harmful, such as formaldehydes. 

Opponents of the spraying say the microcapsules can cause lung damage, while the state says the product is safe. 

Albany resident Ed Fields told the council he objected to the state using a new product: “We will be the subject of the tests—they will try it out on us,” he said. 

The council was unanimous in its opposition to the spray: “Even a few people being hurt is not acceptable,” said Councilmember Farid Javandel. 

While the resolution cannot prevent the state from going ahead with its plans, Mayor Robert Lieber said it was important to take a stand. “We need a grassroots movement to say it’s not OK” to spray for the moth, Lieber told the Planet after the meeting. “We need to start having an effect on other communities.” 

Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring said she intends to bring a resolution opposing the spraying to the Berkeley City Council at its first February meeting. The state plans to make a presentation to the Berkeley City Council on the LBAM Feb. 26. 

A community meeting on the spray will take place Jan. 30 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Environmental Health, 528 61st St., Oakland.