SAVE NEVADA COUNTY TREES

Citizens unite to lobby for City oversight on PG&E's proposed historic tree removal within City Limits

#saveNCtrees

Mission

Our goal is to save key trees from imminent cutting which are protected by city and historical ordinances. We are working to assert local control and oversight of PG&E's tree removal projects in Nevada County, specifically the extensive cuts planned (and currently implemented) under the Enhanced Vegetation Management program (EVM).

We are enthusiastic about taking every sensible step to reduce the very real danger of forest fire in our community, including tree removal when necessary.

We are emphatically resisting PG&E's assertion of unchecked authority over any and all tree clearing decisions within 100 feet of their lines, the lack of transparency, misleading property owners about their rights, and the unwillingness to collaborate with local government or citizens to pursue mutually acceptable methods of protecting specific trees of historical or cultural value without compromising community safety.

We stand with Nevada City Council, the Nevada City Planning Commission, multiple PG&E arborists, wildland firefighters, and over 1300 members of the community opposed to PG&E's unilateral power to undertake this work.

What is Happening?

You likely have noticed the massive vegetation removal projects led by PG&E for fire safety. What you may not know is that PG&E has marked hundreds of trees for removal in downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley, including protected historic landmark trees beloved by our community. Tree removal will begin September 14, 2020 in Nevada City and is already underway in Grass Valley. 263 trees are slated to be cut in a 2 block span of upper Nevada City alone, 106 on city property and the remainder on private property. This will drastically change the look and environmental conditions of this historic Gold Rush community. This is phase one, and next year they will return and continue with excessive removal instead of upgrading and undergrounding the lines.

We agree that fire prevention is serious, and we absolutely want to ensure the safety of our towns!

Most of these trees should come out, as they are shrubby fuel trees or unhealthy, and we are grateful to PG&E for their work.

BUT some of these trees are healthy and not endangering lines or our cities and have significant cultural value.

The Nevada City Planning Commission was unanimously in favor of limiting the scope of PG&E's downtown tree removals and inserting local oversight into the process, and PG&E has been entirely unreceptive to negotiating. City ordinance clearly gives the Planning Commission jurisdiction over tree removal, although PG&E argues that their rights supersede all municipal law, property law, and civic law and authority. PG&E representative Joanne Drummond said "it would set a terrible precedent" for needing to negotiate with other towns in the September 1st meeting (link in Further Reading below).

PG&E further argues its actions are justified by SB901, but has failed to file adequate impact reports as required by that law, and has also failed to follow the stipulations of the same law that require the use of ISA-certified, union represented employees to make these determinations, instead relying on contractors with as little as three days training. They claim they have had licenced professionals determine every tree's risk, yet in the records they divulged, only some were signed by a certified arborist and none by a profession certified in Individual Tree Risk Assessment.

Furthermore, more than half of these trees within city limits are on private property. Property owners have the right to refuse tree removal, gain second opinions, and also opt for limbing instead of removal. However, we have numerous reports that PG&E representatives misled and even bullied owners, asserting they have no rights and no ownership over the trees and that they will cut them no matter what. Also there are reports of owners who agreed to limited cuts and then left for work and came back to discover cuts that far exceeded agreed-to parameters, as well as removal being made against owners expressed wishes.

There is a compensation program called "right tree right place" meant to provide $500 for property owners to buy new trees, but J Drummond has been actively manipulating that amount to both entice objectiing owners (with up to $2000) and punish them (with a reduction to $200). On Orchard Street, one owner stands to loose every tree on his property, over six tall healthy pines and cedars. Property owners often do not feel educated or empowered in the course of this process.

SNCT is fighting to:

  • Halt cutting of the contested trees on city property until our reasonable terms are met.

  • Empower property owners county-wide to understand their rights, and support their informed decisions.

  • Support the municipalities and PG&E to work collaboratively towards effective fire safety preparations that include a variety of proven methods, not just excessive tree removal, here in Nevada City and all over California.

We are advocating for finding alternative solutions to less than 5% of the trees tagged for removal within city limits: 13 trees.

In the News

Since we have been in the News so much, we made a whole Media Page with everything. Below are the most recent updates.

November 2nd Update - Call to Action

Crane in place to dangerously attempt to remove sitter

Police, security, protestors, workers, and media all onsite

Workers prepare for the day ahead

If you are able, please come down to the Pioneer Cemetery to witness TODAY, as this is mounting into its crichendo right now!

The pressure has been building over the past two weeks as tree sitters have held a constant presence in the Pine grove in the Historical Pioneer Cemetery in Nevada City. Aside from some short respites, due to the red flag events, PG&E contractors, city police, contracted security, protestors, and media have been making for a colorful scene atop Broad Street.

Tensions intensified significantly as the ground crew for our tree sitters were arrested, though not charged (for trespassing on public property), and then chain linked barricades were erected surrounding the cemetery to keep protestors out. The lone tree sitter, Brandon Jonutz aka Tarzan, has remained in his 85 ft high perch, fully supplied and resolute.

Early this morning a crew of 40 PG&E workers and police brought in the massive crane to forcibly remove Tarzan and remove these trees which Master Arborist Zeno Action has deemed the lowest level of risk possible, and are 130 feet from the closest powerlines. Lines which will be moved underground as soon as the city gets its ducks in a row.

As of the writing of this (2p) the crane is attempting to remove Brandon, our peaceful protestors surround the site, and chainsaws are running on Orchard street where property owners have been fighting and protesting to save some of their, also low risk, trees. Media has been a constant presence and we are bringing in folks from OSHA, as this situation is VERY UNSAFE.

The reason why tree sits work is because its too dangerous to remove them. The reason why protests work is because its too dangerous to cut trees with people standing around.

We need your help now more than ever. Please come in person to witness the continued disturbing mismanagement by PG&E. If you come or don't come, please give OSHA a call. 800-321-6742 (OSHA) tell them you are deeply concerned people are imminently going to be hurt. Ask them to send a representative to shut this operation down now!

And know that when you do arrive onsite, we have kept with the peaceful and generous mode of operation, including providing pastries for all (generously donated by Briar Patch CoOp). If you come onsite, be sure to connect with SNCT leadership to see how your presence can be coordinated to make the best efforts.

There was a woman who jumped in the mix today and needlessly was arrested, we don't know who she was and she was not a part of her coordinated effort. If you want to get arrested, great, let us know and we can make sure it is strategic and useful!

As always, the quickest way to stay in the loop is to join the Facebook Group, set up notifications, and check it daily to stay up to date on the blow by blow events and calls to action.


Call to action from SNCT Founder Matthew Osypowski:

We need enough witnesses that law enforcement will be reminded of their accountability to the community. We need enough bodies on the ground that everyone (including those watching the news coverage at home) will understand that PG&E is not dealing with a single “radical extremist” (as state senator Brian Dahle referred to us after his $240K in PG&E campaign donation), but with an entire multi-generational community of residents who feel protective of our town's natural heritage and deeply disgusted with a corporation that has been rewarded for decades of failure with an unprecedented level of power, which they have used recklessly, excessively, and in direct opposition to the testimony of experts and the proper process for scientific tree risk assessment.

And this photo shows both the low platform on the right side of the tree and the upstairs platform high on the left. It also shows the tree's slight but inevitable lean to the left, and the power lines off there in the distance 130' to the right. This wasn't the kind of tree cut that anyone had in mind when PG&E were granted their original easement rights to remove "hazards" to their lines.

Remember: the lines that are the hazards, not the trees.

Most Recent News Stories

Review our Media Page for the archives of all media coverage.

Plus this awesome Cartoon featured in The Union

September 26, 2020

Our Reasonable Demands

PG&E must defer cutting controversial trees until these terms are met:

Open Dialogue

PG&E must formulate a dialogue with Municipalities that involves room for negotiation and alternatives to determine the fate of controversial tree cuts.

Transparency

PG&E must supply records on exactly who did the tree risk assessment, their qualifications, and stated reasons for each tree's classification in a clear format.

Second Opinion

Nevada City will contract an official report by a third-party certified arborist to provide an unbiased opinion on contested trees within city limits. (Update: This has been done, his full Report is just below, and agrees our contested trees are low risk!)

EIR & CEQA

PG&E must run thorough Environmental Impact Reports and California Environmental Quality Act review, especially in regard to the proposed clearcut of the Pioneer Cemetery, as required by law.

PG&E can focus their tree removal and limbing efforts on non-contested trees while these demands are being negotiated, thus still making progress towards EVM goals.

Nevada City's Official Independent Arborist Report supports our cause: suggesting 16 trees marked for removal are low risk.

September 15, 2020

"My objective analysis of each tree and my nuanced opinions provided are aimed to assist in decision making. Of the 38 trees I inspected I believe good faith conversations regarding retention could be had regarding 16 of the trees... Given the large quantity of trees inspected by PG&E it is easy to see how contractors would favor interpreting every abnormality as a potential defect. This is, of course, not the case. "

~Master Arborist Zeno Acton

Read the Full Report Here

PG&E Contracted Arborist responds to Acton's report:

"Zeno Acton's report is quite thorough and follows all the proper standards and best management practices for Arboriculture. Much appreciation for his use of context behind the report and his genuine contemplation combined with his expertise when assessing these trees. The city should be commended for finding and retaining such a skilled Arborist to do this report to shed more light on what is going on with these trees.

The value of these trees, when given context, surely outweighs the associated risk of most of these trees with respect to their individual failure potential. Especially, as we see in the Arborist Report, that the PG&E contracted arborists likely did not perform a thorough enough inspection or have enough expertise to be assessing these trees in the ways that they are required by PG&E to do. "

Read his Full analysis of the report here September 17, 2020

Note, this ISA Certified Arborist has been in regular communication with our group but wishes to remain anonymous at this time.

We care about Fire Safety!!!

We can't emphasize this enough. We are advocating for alternative solutions for and professional re-examination of historic landmark trees, and support PG&E and the City in their fire safety preparations. We believe tree removal is an important part of safeguarding our town from future fire risks. However, unchecked corporate authority on that process, aimed primarily at lowering their direct liability, is not the optimal route.

We will not be safe from fire if we allow PG&E be the sole actor on the issue.

Get Involved

To support this movement

  1. NEW! Show up in person to the Pioneer Cemetery anytime for any duration. Bring water and healthy snacks for our tree-sitters. Check in with leadership on site for more ways to get involved.

  2. Collecting statements from anyone who had a bad with PG&E in this County, regarding either their methods, manner, professionalism or workmanship. This will help our case with CPUC on the mismanagement of this situation. Please email us and we will provide further instructions.

Raise Awareness:

  1. Share this website on social media with a personal statement. To be more effective: Tag local friends.

  2. Use #saveNCtrees #nevadacity on all posts.

  3. Join the Facebook group Saving Nevada City's Trees and invite local friends to join.

  4. Call/text your neighbors to make sure they are informed.

  5. NEW! Pick up a printed Flyer on Property Owners Rights and share with your neighbors, copies available at Wheyward Girl Creamery and Rainbow Rock Shop.

  6. Educate yourself by reading the Statements and exploring Further Reading below.

  7. Donate to our GoFundMe funds go to legal fees, and there are lots.

  8. Email or call us directly if you want to add your voice to this movement, if you have any trees to add to our list, or if you need support as a property owner saveNCtrees@gmail.com 530.268.5073

Contact Those in Power

You may wish to reference this website in your contact

  1. Important! Send us your complaints to file together with CPUC email us savenctrees@gmail.com

  2. NEW! Get in touch with the Governor Here

  3. Call PG&E rep. Jason Thompson at 530.205.5149 jason.thompson@pge.com and express your concerns and support of SNCT's demands.

  4. File a Complaint with California Public Utilities Commission, who oversees PG&E's interactions with the public and municipalities to say you are concerned about what is happening and demand alternative structures be immediately put in place for saving highly valued trees. You can cite this website. We also highly encourage anyone who has had a questionable interaction with a PG&E employee or contractor to file a complaint.

  5. Nevada City Council NevadaCity.Olson@gmail.com

  6. Nevada City Mayor Erin Minett at erin4nevadacity@gmail.com and let he know you want them to not give up the fight for these trees!

For Private Property Owners

Fliers with this same information are posted for pickup at Wheyward Girl Creamery and Rainbow Crystal Shop

________________

Did PG&E say you have no choice when it comes to the removal of trees on your property?

That is not true! Here are resources and facts about your rights. We are here to help you keep your trees and find alternative solutions to important fire safety issues.

If you contest tree removal on your property this is what you can do:

  • Kindly refuse the work being done and call PG&E to ensure the request is properly recorded. (The number previously listed for this has since been disconnected... we are looking into any additional channels).

  • It is suggested that the yellow markings on the refused trees be removed or painted over in dark paint or similar unharmful dressing, as workers have been known to remove trees recorded as refused simply because the markings still exist.

  • Remain vigilant in the coming weeks, staying home as much as possible to ensure your wishes are respected. Kindly interfere if you see workers approaching your trees.

  • LET US KNOW and we will add you to the contested list and you will get our legal protections, Contact SNCT directly and we will come support you immediately or as needed, in person, working to kindly support your wishes for your property.

This is what you should know:

PG&E is supposed to contact all property owners before entering their property, according to both the hotline rep and the Pride employee. If a property owner is unclear on the nature of the trees marked for removal or pruning, they should seek clarification by a credentialed professional, first through PG&E's channels and, if disagreeing with their determination, seek an outside 3rd-party through the resources listed below.

A reputable arborist will create a report of their findings, often for a fee, to include a narrative, pictures, diagrams and recommendations. Some may give a more basic estimate for free. Should cost be a concern, multiple homeowners could band together to retain services, as deals are often made by arborists working on projects involving more trees.

Somewhat similarly, homeowners can have their own ISA Certified Tree Workers conduct any tree work near power lines, although fees are naturally incurred if going this route.

In the meantime, the affected property owner should kindly refuse to allow the work to be done, and state as much via the (whoops now disconnected) PG&E hotline at to ensure the request is properly recorded.

For those who agree to the work prescribed on their property:

The PG&E representative is supposed to generate a Vegetation Management Request for Wood Management and Removal form (WM-0109081) which indicates the number of trees marked for work, and what will become of the removed wood as well as cleanup. This is to be signed by the property owner as well as the PG&E rep prior to work occurring. You can refuse to agree to this if it does not meet your terms!

From what has been researched, while many removed trees are of merchantable size, tree workers typically buck the sections into smaller unmerchantable sizes for easier removal and transportation. Most wood is then transported to various contractor yards, such as Mountain Enterprises' Lotus facility, to be chipped and acquired by biomass facilities who then sell that energy back to PG&E. Nothing indicates however that the contractors nor the property owners cannot sell the wood products themselves to similar facilities or sawmills provided they print out a copy of the related utility exemption.

It has been verified that PG&E does sell merchantable timber from these cuts.

This information was directly quoted or paraphrased from THIS REPORT created by ISA Certified Arborist & California Registered Professional Forester (RPF) James Scheid, May 2020. Read it for a thorough account.

Matthew Osypowski ~ Founder of SNCT

"I've been in extended contact with three separate PG&E arborists over the course of the last couple weeks. All three fully support annual maintenance efforts. All three are deeply disturbed by the scope and lack of careful scientific analysis that is occurring in the execution of the Enhanced Vegetation Management program implemented this year. One has expressed to me in extremely stark language that he feels PG&E is asking its arborists to violate the ethical codes of the ISA on a daily basis as the work on EVM projects. Healthy, low-risk trees are being cut around the state by the thousands.

We don't have to agree on the relative values of these things. But please understand that there are informed voices on both sides of the issue, and that our specific, targeted efforts to save individual trees in this town are neither naive nor reckless."

Map of Trees

Note that due to the opacity of PG&E's plans, matching their tree maps and reasons for cuts have been nearly indecipherable. This is a map created independently by SNCT to catalogue and map the most important trees marked for cutting that we are discussing.

The specific trees we are fighting for:

  1. Historic Blue Atlas Cedar tree at Bennett and Broad streets, which is on the Official Tree Tour of town (#41a) and is affectionately called "Bella Blue", was planted by the renowned horticulturist Felix Gillet.

  2. Pine Grove, Oak and Cedar at California Historical Pioneer Cemetery, which are entangled with the Historic Monument of National Hero Republican Senator Aaron A. Sargent as well as the grave of Felix Gillet and many other historical figures and folks who deserve to rest in peace.

  3. Any trees on private property that rightful owners contest removal or opt for limbing instead of removal.

--------------------

  1. UPDATE OCTOBER 14th, the two trees in the Catholic Cemetery were actually owned by the Dioses, and they sent a representative to oversee cuts. Both the City and PG&E were wrong with their original claims of them being City Property. These two trees were killed October 14th.

  2. UPDATE OCTOBER 16th, The report of the bad health of the old Blue Atlas by our trusted Arborist, Mr Acton, has caused us to withdraw our contestation. We will be holding a vigil this weekend and expect her to be executed next week. We continue to hold strong on the Pines in the Pioneer Cemetery and with the private property owners along Orchard Street.

An ISA Certified Arborist's initial impressions from reviewing the contested trees:

"My brief inspection of the Atlas Cedar leads me to determine there is nothing hazardous about the tree itself in relation to its potential to fail and strike the power pole or high voltage conductors, and there is likely no reason for removal. PG&E should be able to welcome a third party to make the more thorough assessment that an arborist is ethically bound to provide when making an assessment of any tree. Atlas Cedar almost always have codominant structure in the leaders, which makes it seem like a hazard, although in this specific tree all codominant leaders, if they were to break, would strike away from the PG&E facilities due to their placement and the orientation of their weight. There is also nothing indicating there is significant decay in the trunk or root zone.

Similarly, the cemetery Ponderosa pines do not appear, from a brief assessment, to pose any immediate threat to PG&E's system. There are a few pines that would require a more thorough inspection and assessment to determine if they are in fact holding significant failure potential. It appears that these pines are marked for removal because they could hit the power lines, and have not been adequately assessed by a certified arborist with a report thorough enough to show they are making independent judgments and are qualified enough to speak to the hazardous nature of any of these trees." (Anonymous, Sept. 2020).

What About PSPS?

We all experienced the damage to our businesses and way of life that the PSPS outages precipitated last year, and we are getting another taste of that now. PG&E argues that these tree removals will help those shutoffs to stop, and they are using that to pressure governing bodies for non-interference and total compliance in their strategies and implementation.

Please understand, these tree cuts will NOT ensure power stays on! Especially not the dozen we are advocating for. PG&E does not guarantee these shutoffs will stop. The weather conditions are the driving factor of the PSPS, not trees. It is in fact guaranteed PG&E will still do prolonged shut offs, as they are a short term defense to mitigate a very complex and mounting issue of faulty infrastructure.

Furthermore, PG&E slated this particular section of lines as the first in this multi-year EVM plan (this is year they only address a small fraction of the town) because it runs electricity to the Rood Center and Jail, important Nevada County buildings. In order to keep these lines energized during PSPS, they chose this high impact approach. However, since this project was put into the pipeline, the County has installed its own backup system and has no need whatsoever for the lines to remain energized during a PSPS event (reports CEO of Nevada County), removing the sense of urgency.

Discussion including PG&E representative and statement by Matthew Osypowski and other SNCT representatives. September 9, 2020

Thank you for caring about our community!

Stay Safe. Be Well. Do Good.