Mt. Davidson in San Francisco (Courtesy Juan Carlos Pometta Betancourt)

Mt. Davidson in San Francisco (Courtesy Juan Carlos Pometta Betancourt)

Arguments against Natural Areas Program, biodiversity are flawed

“Stopping San Francisco’s biggest land grab,” Sally Stephens, Dec. 4

Sally Stephens’s recent articles make flawed arguments regarding biodiversity and the motivation behind the Natural Areas Program.

First, the term “native” species is not “arbitrary,” as she would have your readers believe. It is a specific term used in conservation biology to distinguish species that have evolved over a long time span (often tens of millions of years) in a local area and that play an important role in the healthy functioning of the natural ecosystem.

Second, the “brown, treeless, scraggly landscape” she evokes is misleading. The coastal oak woodlands and dune ecosystems native to the region are not only beautiful in their own right, but serve a multitude of ecological functions, with thousands of species dependent upon them.

Finally, her rhetoric stating that conservation advocates are “anti-immigrant” is strange. There is no place for the term “anti-immigrant” in the science of biodiversity — we should stick with facts, not import the political catchwords of the day: Eucalyptus trees were initially planted in San Francisco under the misconception that their timber could be sold for profit; unfortunately, the dream of quick economic gain rapidly gave way to the reality that the wood was a worthless fire hazard and the trees invasive pests that have decimated the biodiversity of the forest.

These are by no means “natural” or “lush, green forests,” unless we thereby refer to their green leaves and ignore the actual composition and health of the forest. When hiking through Mt. Davidson and Mt. Sutro, virtually all one sees in these “forests,” aside from Eucalyptus, are two other invasive plant species: English Ivy and Himalayan Blackberry; both thrive among the eucalyptus leaf toxins that prevent native plants from growing.

Invasive species are those that spread rapidly and cause ecological or economic harm in areas where they are nonnative. As a conservation biologist, my primary concern is preventing ecological harm and therefore I, consistent with conservation values, strongly support the NAP restoration project. This project plays an essential role in helping to restore the natural environment once provided by oak woodlands and dune ecosystems; moreover, such restoration will enhance, rather than diminish or disturb, the experience of those who wish to hike in our parks.

Jennifer Dever, Ph.D.

Professor of Conservation Biology, University of San Francisco

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

Stores including Walgreens and Safeway are required to pay their employees additional hazard pay under a city ordinance that is currently set to expire later this month. (Shutterstock)
Grocery workers could gain additional weeks of $5 per hour hazard pay

San Francisco will vote next week on whether to extend a law… Continue reading

The fatal shooting of San Francisco resident Roger Allen by Daly City police on April 7 prompted protests in both cities. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Daly City approves body-worn and vehicle cameras for police after fatal shooting

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police… Continue reading

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays attends an event to honor the San Francisco Giants' 2014 World Series victory on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Willie Mays turns 90: San Francisco celebrates the greatest Giant

By Al Saracevic Examiner staff writer I couldn’t believe it. Willie Mays… Continue reading

Ja’Mari Oliver, center, 11, a fifth grader at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, is surrounded by his classmates at a protest outside the Safeway at Church and Market streets on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in support of him following an April 26 incident where he was falsely accused by an employee of stealing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
School community rallies behind Black classmate stopped at Safeway

‘When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us’

Most Read