Recently, while scanning the news in the San Diego Union Tribune, I came across this article about “Taking Inventory of County’s Trees”.  The article describes Robin Rivet’s  “ambitious effort to map every urban tree in San Diego County”. Rivet is an urban forester-arborist at the Center for Sustainable Energy California and she  “aims to quantify the value of all local trees and make a statement about a huge but often under appreciated resource.” My concern is that this article may be alerting San Diegans to more regulations, costs and loss of property rights coming our way.

Through California’s legislative sustainable development and smart growth initiatives SB375 and AB 32, look for the implementation of ‘urban forests’ to be another area of focus by the State of CA and environmental NGOs to significantly reduce GHGs by 80% to below 1990 levels by 2050.

“The website  keeps a running tab of the trees’ “yearly eco impact.” The nearly 300,000 trees listed as of Thursday, according to the site, have reduced 19,622,883 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere, conserved 83,213,745 gallons of water, conserved 8,502,988 kilowatts of energy, and reduced 46,244 pounds of pollutants from the air.”

This project is being funded by CalFire. Why? Details in the CalFire AB32 Scoping Plan for Forestry reveal that CalFire is looking to assess CO2 sequestration in all forests and range lands across the state in order to mitigate GHG emissions. Capturing a map of San Diego County’s canopy becomes useful data to the state of California that is about to launch their highly controversial and lucrative Cap and Trade auction in November. The CalFire AB32 Scoping Plan states:

“Unlike engineered projects or measures that reduce emissions at a point source (e.g. stack or tailpipe), the forest sector sequestration benefits are accrued through tree growth over large areas of the landscape, including urban areas. With such a large land base carbon benefits need to be accounted for in average stocks (amount of carbon stored).” p.2

Not only has the state of California legislated the reduction of GHG emissions through AB 32, it is mandating General Plan changes via SB375. SB375 is requiring municipalities (MPOS) to update their Regional Transportation Plans (RTP) and local land use plans to “reverse sprawl” with the intent of mitigating GHG emissions. Through the forest sector, CalFire suggests that if landowners saw the economic value of carbon sequestration, they would resist selling their land to developers and choose to participate in the carbon off-set market instead.

“The creation and maintenance of carbon markets for forest carbon, both
voluntary and compliance-based, will increase sequestration by providing
landowner incentives to increase carbon stocks on their ownership. The value of
carbon at $10/t is sufficient to interest landowners in changing their management
practices to increase carbon storage. Updating the current California Climate
Action Registry (CCAR) Forest Protocols can create the opportunity for a larger
number of forest landowners to participate in carbon offset markets. The success
of these markets will depend upon quality of the carbon that is being sold, which
will depend upon the accounting principles applied in development of forest
protocols used to verify and register carbon sequestration projects.
Other incentives include providing landowners reduced tax or regulatory
liabilities, which will encourage the retention of working forest landscapes, instead of land division and development. Additional opportunities may exist for subsidies or carbon taxes/fee revenues collected and reinvested in carbon sequestration projects.” p. 3

The CalFire AB32 Scoping Plan for Forestry is full of useful information that can help us to understand and assess future regulations that might develop from their global warming mitigation and adaption schemes.

“Tree planting under the urban forestry strategy has direct overlap with the goals
of the “Cool Communities” strategy in the Land Use sector to encourage the development of communities that have lower surface temperatures. Urban tree
planting may also have overlap with the Land Use sector strategies for
“Landscape Guidelines” and “Smart Growth”. In addition, the forest sector Reforestation mitigation measure would require developers to provide 1 to 2 acres of reforestation as mitigation for every acre lost to development when converting forest land to other uses.” p. 8

Based on what I know about sustainable development and smart growth, I propose we watch out for the adaptation portion of this urban forestry implementation plan in San Diego.

Potential areas for regulations could include and probably already do include*:

This map shows the future intentions to grab private property for the purpose of creating animal biodiversity corridors.

1) removal of non-native species from all land for the purpose of restoring CA to its original landscape

2) protection of forests by creating buffer zones with limited and controlled human access (see map)

3) increased conservation easements on private property

4) changes in land use policies that would punish/prevent certain types of landscaping and would reward others for the purposes of influencing vegetation type



Methods to enforce ordinances, codes, regulations, etc…

 “In California, local government also can affect the use of forest lands. Influence occurs in a variety of ways, particularly through zoning and nuisance ordinances, the General Plan process, land use policies, and project review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).” P. 7

 Costs associated with these plans (sampling):

1) municipalities might be subjected to a massive overhaul of tree reforestation if trees that are currently established are deemed invasive, non-drought tolerant, fuel for fires and/or non native

2) to mitigate and adapt to global warming, municipalities might be required to plant trees on every city street incurring material and labor costs, tree maintenance, irrigation, water and other incidentals like concrete damages associated with roots

3) increase price of water to force ‘voluntary’ change in landscape design

4) Fines for cutting down protected native species reducing individual control over the use of private property

I guess there is a lot more to the Union Tribune story than tree inventory in San Diego county.


*In the BioDiversity Assessment (1996) Chapter 10 now Chapter 13 it is stated:

10.4.4 – Restoration and Rehabilitation

“Widespread degradation of natural ecosystems is occurring worldwide as a result of human-induced activities such as fragmentation, livestock grazing, logging, invasions by feral animals and plants. Rehabilitation involves the repair of damaged ecosystems, while restoration usually involves the reconstruction of a natural or semi-natural ecosystem. Rehabilitation involves two components: first, the factors leading to degradation must be treated. Second, components of the ecosystem which have disappeared have to be replaced. The only solution to extensively fragmented landscapes is the large scale restoration as a whole, rather than at the scale of individual fragments. This involves treatment of the non-conservation sectors of the landscape, and modification of production practices so that conservation issues are considered. Revegetation could be used to provide buffer zones around remnant areas, corridors between remnants, or as additional habitat. Landscape restoration aims at improving the design of the existing system of fragments by increasing habitat area and connectivity, and by providing buffer zones around existing fragments to protect them from external influences.”