Forestry, Ecology Experts to Help Guide New Mount Sutro Management Plan

By Louise Chu

Trees in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve have been stricken by the recent drought.

Trees in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve have been stricken by the recent drought. Photo by Susan Merrell

UC San Francisco is convening a panel of environmental, ecological and fire protection experts to help develop a sustainable management plan for the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.

Standing in the heart of San Francisco, the 61-acre parcel – home to a dense woodland with public hiking trails – has been stricken by California’s recent drought, which has led to widespread decline in the Reserve’s overall health. Despite recent rains, experts say many trees are already dead or dying – posing a safety risk to visitors and nearby residents if winter storms knock down limbs or whole trees. During the dry season, these conditions can increase the fire risk.

“There are significant issues on Mount Sutro – defoliation of canopies and increased mortality of trees brought on by drought has made the Reserve more susceptible to diseases and pests. A dense understory combined with the declining trees can increase fire risk and impact public safety.  We need to act now to mitigate these risks and restore the Reserve’s health,” says Julie Sutton, UCSF Facilities Services’ landscape program manager and campus arborist.

Already UCSF is taking steps reduce the fire hazard by thinning shrubs and trimming tree branches surrounding structures in the Reserve and replanting in those areas. Goats have been brought in since November help remove a lot of the flammable vegetation.

But to ensure the Reserve’s long-term health, UCSF plans to create a comprehensive Mount Sutro Open Reserve Management Plan over the next year, with help from community input and an expert Technical Advisory Committee.

Technical Advisory Committee Meeting

UCSF will hold the first of three TAC meetings, which will include a public comment period.

January 14, 2016
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Millberry Union Conference Center
500 Parnassus Avenue

Please contact Christine Gasparac for additional information.

The committee is comprised of experts with extensive experience in forestry, fire hazard-reduction, biology and habitat restoration who are volunteering their time to assist in this important process. They include:

  • Peter Brastow, Senior Environmental Specialist for Nature, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, San Francisco Department of the Environment
  • Peter Ehrlich, Forester, Presidio Trust
  • Joe McBride, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, University of California Berkeley
  • Lew Stringer, Restoration Ecologist, Presidio Trust
  • Richard Sampson, Forester/Division Chief, CAL FIRE

The committee will provide guidance on the scope, techniques and best practices for the management plan. UCSF plans to work with the committee and independent forest management consultants to develop a draft plan for the Reserve that will be vetted by the community, then begin the environmental review process.

“We’re tapping some of the Bay Area’s most respected experts in forest management to help us create a smart, sustainable plan for Mount Sutro,” says Paul Takayama, assistant vice chancellor for Community and Government Relations at UCSF. “With their help, we can make sure the Reserve remains a treasure for the San Francisco community for generations to come.”

UCSF will hold three committee meetings beginning on Jan. 14, and each meeting will include a public comment period. Learn more about safety work on Mount Sutro »