Environmentalists oppose naval facility tree thinning

May 17, 2010 6:25:14 PM PDT
After years of neglect, the federal government has begun thinning the trees at the Concord Naval Weapons Station. It is a project some say poses a major threat to the many species of birds that inhabit the area.

Environmentalists and some neighbors say the thinning of eight groves of eucalyptus and pines at the Concord Naval Weapons Station could not come at a worse time. It is work being done by the U.S. Forest Service in consultation with federal wildlife experts.

"It looks like we're getting lip service here concerning the environmental issues and concerning the nesting of these birds, the damage that might occur, either their injury or their death because this is the height of the nesting season," said neighbor Pete Stuart.

According to an wildlife biologist hired by the citizens' group, Concord Naval Weapons Station Alliance, thinning these trees in peak nesting season threatens an array of birds -- everything from hummingbirds to wild turkeys.

"I think they should wait until the birds are through with their nesting process," said neighbor Bev Marshall.

The Navy's base closure manager for Concord says the tree thinning must happen now to reduce a fuel load that has built up over many years; one that poses a serious fire danger to residential neighborhoods.

However, some residents say they do not think concerns about fire danger should be put ahead of what is best for the birds.

"They're claiming it might be all for safety's sake, but they never asked us that when they planted the trees in the first place," said neighbor Jeff Britton.

The city says they have been assured no harm will come to the birds.

"Forest service biologists have been out there. They have looked at the trees, they have looked for nests," said Michael Wright with the city of Concord. "If they missed one and a tree comes down and it has a nest in it, then there are a set of procedures of what they will do to rescue the nest if there are eggs or small birds in it."

Any birds or nests that are found would be sent to Walnut Creek's Lindsay Wildlife Museum for safe keeping.


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