September 9, 2020

Photo is of Mayor Minnet, Matthew Osypowski, Joanne Drummond (behind post) Zeno Acton, and Doug LaMalfa gazing into the Blue Atlas, Bella.

Certified Arborist who wishes to remain anonymous:

"As an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist for 12 years with a Utility Specialist designation, and over a decade of experience within PG&E's vegetation management program as a contractor, I am appalled by PG&E management's arrogance and effort to usurp the knowledge, expertise, and code of ethics that all ISA Certified Arborists are bound to when making judgments as to risk assessment concerning individual trees. More specifically, I am dismayed by the scope of work here in downtown Nevada City related to their Enhanced Vegetation Management program that is scheduled to remove historic trees which are, as many Certified Arborists have already stated, perfectly healthy and with no evidence of being hazardous.

PG&E is choosing to treat the trees as the hazard, and not their system. We are not morally obliged to agree with that choice.

PG&E is one of the biggest culprits as to the causation behind California's ever increasing drought & tree mortality rates we are seeing, and regardless of whether PG&E has some law on their side protecting them in their efforts to remove these trees, they must be stopped and ordered to reassess their efforts in a way that both protects the healthy trees that pose no risk or very limited risk, while simultaneously protecting communities from wildfire that is a possible result of the very real threats that exist when a tree is truly a hazard. Every single tree that stays alive is a matter of climate resiliency for the state of California.

PG&E must be held accountable for their ineptitude within this scope of work, and in which they are proceeding to hold absolute dominion over the well being of California, its forests, its individual trees, and its communities. We must demand that their contracted ISA Certified Arborists that are assessing trees near their facilities are given sovereignty and the tools to follow the code of ethics that they are bound to."


Katelyn Johnson ~ Certified Arborist

"I'm a certified arborist of five years. I've also been doing tree work for PG&E for a year and a half. I will attest that there have been many, many trees I've come across that I am expected to remove that have extremely negligible threat to the power lines. The kind where you look at your coworker and ask, really? Is this the right tree? Of course this isn't always the case, but I think that based on firsthand experience, this group should absolutely be questioning the tree removals in Nevada City.

These types of decisions should follow logic and science. I just looked at some of the marked trees. Some of the big beautiful ponderosa pines marked in the cemetery are leaning away from the lines. Others are plumbed perfectly straight and have no visible defects or reason to believe they should be hazardous. Unless the laws of physics stopped applying, all while a perfectly healthy tree decided to fall over for no reason, I think it's safe to say they are fine. Maybe some of the marked trees are justified (I'm sure there are many and I haven't seen them all), but it would be sad to see these harmless giants go.

I've seen some poor decisions made on tree prescriptions since I've worked under PG&E. I'm glad I found this group because I'd love to help!

Sheri Brown Dion ~ Landscape Architect

"We are advocating for sound long-term planning. Healthy heritage trees should be protected, young trees interfering or within 12 feet of a line should be limbed or removed, and the power lines through this section of town should be placed underground as was approved by City Council approximately five years ago. We want a good plan not a reaction. Trees are part of our community infrastructure just like utilities, roads, etc. We need to care for them and plan around them whenever possible, not treat them as expendable."

Matthew Osypowski ~ SNCT Founder and lifelong Nevada City Resident

"That Blue Atlas Cedar was planted thousands of miles from its North African home in the Gold Rush days, when every white person and black person and Chinese person in this town was uprooted and far from home. The old non-native trees of Nevada City are to me some of the clearest anchors of our municipal identity, steeped in long, complex histories of hope and displacement and exploitation and beauty. The arrogance of a utility company putting power lines through the branches of that old grandfather of a tree and then turning around a few years later as if in surprise to point out that the tree had the audacity to be near its lines — it bothers me, it really does. And I know there's no simple solution — moving lines underground or elsewhere, installing technology that would deactivate the lines when something fell on them, all options but none simple. I'll say to the powers that be that it's their job to find a solution, with their abundant resources and their specialized training. My job to say that the choices they've made to this point are unacceptable.

The Ponderosas up in the graveyard are a simpler issue for me. They're tall and straight and healthy and old. Far from the lines. Doing what they've always done. Surrounded by graves and spirits. Keeping watch from the highest vantage point in downtown, towering over everything. They've been respected elders my whole life. I walked through them when I was a restless teenager, sat by the graves in their shadows, writing bad poems and struggling against the darkness and trying to make sense of myself. Walked there with my son when he was a baby, falling asleep against my chest. I don't want to see that hilltop bare. I don't believe those trees will start any fires.

And yes, I am fighting for these specific trees because I'm too small to fight for them all. I didn't like to hear PG&E's representative talk earlier this week about the "terrible precedent it would set" if her company were to make any compromises for our town. How it might make other towns feel like they could fight to preserve what they held sacred. It's about precedent for me too. But it's also about that Blue Atlas Cedar, beautiful and ancient and awkwardly lingering through this moment in history. And it's about that grove of pines in the cemetery, their roots forever embracing our dead. They are, specifically themselves, as this place, sacred to me. I'll fight for their right of place. In doing so I'll fight for my own. It's all one story."

Anonymous Forester, Arborist, Firefighter, and Homeowner

“Thanks for sharing the Saving Nevada City's Trees Facebook page, which I shared with some professional colleagues in hopes of drawing attention to the greater issue at play affecting our industry (not to mention other areas). I have faith an effort will be made to stand up against this mismanagement of our natural resources. It's refreshing to hear others that feel the same way.

One key takeaway is that the contracted employees making tree cutting decisions are often working without any certification whatsoever and with as little as 3 DAYS OF TRAINING. Another takeaway, reinforcing something I've heard from numerous landowners over the last few days: EVEN IF PG&E AGREES TO SPARE A TREE, THEIR CONTRACTORS ARE LIKELY TO CUT IT DOWN AS LONG AS ITS MARKED WITH THE 'X.' I think there's an important role to be played here by a concerned citizen with a can of black spray paint (once the decision to spare the tree has been made by the proper authorities, of course)."

~ This post comes via a well-respected and highly placed professional in the forestry business, who found time in the middle of a long week fighting the fires in Santa Cruz to write us.

Xylem Larla Dey, Educator

"We're not objecting to limbing here, but to removing whole trees, and only objecting to certain trees at that. Have you been to the trees up in the cemetery? They certainly look over 100 feet away [from the lines], and while I saw two that are leaning toward the lines which I could concur would be dangerous if they fell and might need to be removed — the other 6-8 marked trees that are over 100 years old do seem to be angled actually away from the lines and wouldn't be in danger of falling on them.

The ask is for stalling on cutting these heritage trees until we can get some professional second opinions about their actual risk level.

Did you see the big trees taken along the 49? The wood was not left, but I saw at least one round loaded onto logging trucks, and so it looks a lot like a timber sale to those of us who know what that looks like. I'm guessing that would be the same in these also very public areas where it would not be appropriate to leave large logs.

Finally, there's a LOT of trees that are woven through with power lines, and we need to talk about that. In a few cases, like the Blue Atlas Cedar at Bennett and Broad, some trees might need to be extensively limbed, but we'd like a second opinion about whether that's survivable for the tree and, there's alternative electrical options that would be great to explore in these few more controversial cases perhaps there's spots where underground could be considered, though I tend to agree after learning the complications that it's not the best solution. Rerouting lines to run away from certain trees could be an option too, and finally, the synchrophasors that turn off the power in less than a second when a line is hit these seem really promising. Not for large scale use perhaps, but in historic zones when historic trees are in question, it seems worth a conversation."

Freddie Williams

"We absolutely need PG&E to do their job and maintain the integrity and safety of the power grid. However, since the massive fires from 2017, and especially 2018, PG&E has experienced unprecedented backlash as they've had to navigate billions of dollars in lawsuits due to their choice to neglect the upkeep of their equipment in favor of high dollar executive bonuses which has caused catastrophic fires, such as the Camp Fire, which PG&E recently concluded their court hearing for resulting in the utility being charged with 84 counts of manslaughter.

Since all this happened, PG&E has conjured an empire of vegetation management workers who are NOT, contrary to what we're being told and what many people believe, focused on keeping the public safe from fires. How many times has corporate or political corruption ensued under the guise of public safety?

I've worked with at least thirty vegetation management crews since early 2019 in order to mitigate an excessively ruthless approach to vegetation management in order to save healthy, ancient trees from being cut for no real reason other than to give workers more work opportunity. This isn't something I am just pulling out of thin air. I had a very heartfelt conversation with an arborist working for one of these companies who expressed similar concerns regarding the misdeeds being performed by these vegetation management crews. He attested to the reality that much of the excessive work is just being done to give them more jobs to do and isn't guided by the decision to mitigate ecological damage while also properly maintaining the safety of the grid.

I have watched countless historic trees be removed all over Nevada County, and I've watched beautiful roads get trashed by these operations. More importantly, I've watched highly flammable, fast growing, invasive plant species rapidly move into the areas where old healthy trees have been removed and pose a GREATER risk of wildfire hazard.

The old trees growing throughout this land provide incredibly important functions to the native ecology, one of which is to help stabilize the health and resiliency of the environment. This means resiliency to fires too. Old trees shade the understory beneath them helping to inhibit the growth of brushes and other flammable invasive species such as blackberry brambles and Scotch Broom.

All over California old trees are being removed, many of which do not pose a real threat to power lines and are being removed excessively by veg management crews who are just trying to make more money. The result is that a tree that may have been living for several hundred years, which provided an abundance of food and habitat for many different species within the local community, and whose presence helped to make the local environment less susceptible to very large fires by reducing understory growth, is removed. Growing in its place are vast swaths of fast growing, highly flammable, invasive plant species which burn fast, hot, and provide ladder fuel allowing the blaze to reach up into the canopy and become a devastating mega fire; for what could have otherwise been a low burning fire.

The work being done to "make us more safe from fires," is actually about removing PG&E from any liability WHEN a fire does come, and when it comes it's going to be much more destructive and dangerous than it would have been if we as a people were collectively focusing on improving the health and resiliency of our forests and native ecology. This is what is actually going on with the PG&E veg management movement underway currently.

Stand up for your trees and understand the ecology in which you live. We are living in unprecedented times where the stability of the environments in which we live are unraveling and natural disasters are amping up resulting in terrible consequences. We have only two choices in the current predicament we find ourselves in. We can either get focused and make the task of taking care of the health and resiliency of the ecosystems a very high priority, or we can continue to try and fill the leaks of the Titanic with plumbers putty and hope that she doesn't sink."