Destruction is the best short-term solution

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Once upon a time there was so much land that it was okay to throw your garbage anywhere. What was one small pile of garbage in this vast wilderness? Oh how times have changed. Now there is almost no wilderness left, yet we act as if the few remaining morsels are still most valuable as receptacles for our garbage. The truth is the garbage keeps coming, and as we continue to destroy the remaining bits of habitat, the garbage will keep coming. It may be easy right now to just throw it out, but the garbage will keep coming, even when we have destroyed the last woodland, the last river, the last scrubland, and the last grassland.

Let me get to the point. Debris basins filled with silt from dammed rivers need to be cleaned out. The silt in our engineered world is garbage, and it needs to be gotten rid of. These debris basins must be cleaned out now, and they will need to be cleaned out for as long as the rivers are imprisoned in these concrete channels and dams. Our solution: Chop down the trees and dump the debris. It will buy us time. After all, what is more important, century old oaks living in a healthy woodland, home to not only majestic oaks, but middle-aged ones and even saplings, or finding a convenient place for our garbage. Sure the silt keeps coming and the debris basins will keep filling, but we can figure out how to solve that problem later.

On December 4th I went with about fifty other concerned San Gabriel Valley residents to see the location selected for the dumping of silt from the Santa Anita Dam debris basin. All I can say is – and I am sorry for being so “emo” (Wow, never thought I’d have the occasion or guts to use this bit of slang. Hope I’m getting it right!) – it made my heart hurt.

Ribbon tacked to bark marks this large coast live oak for death.

It is difficult to pass by these wonderful and increasingly rare old trees without reaching out to touch them. Call me a treehugger – that is not something I am not ashamed of.

Group of concerned individuals tour the 11 acres slated for conversion from functioning ecosystem to garbage dump.

It may be the large, old trees that comfort us most, but it is the younger ones, along with the elders, that ensure the future health of this woodland.

Oaks, western sycamores, laurel sumac, toyon, California bay…

And here’s the solution.

In our despair about losing this wonderful property, there is talk of endangered species, owls, gnat catchers, and so one. The problem, though, is that in spite of laws and regulations intended to slow down our race to extinction, we still value short-term solutions rather than seeing these problems for what they are. They are long-term problems and we can no longer take the easy way out. The mathematics of mitigation for our continued recklessness tells us that one century old oak in a healthy woodland is worth three saplings in disturbed land in which exotic, invasive weeds are better adapted than most natives.

For more information on the Santa Anita Reservoir and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works project to dump silt on 11 acres of oak woodland see:

Last-ditch effort to save pristine native woodland from clearance
By Janette Williams, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
November 28, 2010

Got silt? Oak woodland to become dirt pile
By Jessica Hall, LA Creek Freak blog
December 4, 2010

Century-old oaks may make way — for silt
By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times
December 4, 2010

Debris-basin politics slams foothills again
By Larry Wilson, Pasadena Star-News
December 4, 2010

4 thoughts on “Destruction is the best short-term solution

  1. Barbara,<br /><br />This is so sad, such a beautiful place! I don&#39;t think people belong on this planet, certainly we must be aliens.

  2. Barbara,<br /><br />Thanks for the wonderful pictures and summary of the problem. I hope that everyone who reads this will contact Supervisor Antonovich and his local field office in Pasadena to let them know that removal of this Sycamore Oak Woodland should not occur.

  3. That&#39;s horrendous! How very sad.

  4. It just boggles my brain that a small house constructed in a city or here in the mountains, may be required to have an EIR before construction can begin, but the &#39;solution&#39; to an excess of silt is to destroy an ENTIRE functioning ecosystem? The result of which is a moonscape, that in your last photo shows the exact type of land that CONTRIBUTES to debris flows in the first place!! I

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