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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Heritage trees felled by PG&E

August 2011
Bay Tree StumpThis 9-foot diameter (measured with a tape) California Bay Laurel, felled by a PG&E contractor, is across Hwy. 9 from the power lines. A rough count of the tree rings yielded an age estimate of 200 years. Photo: Ventana Staff

by Kevin Collins

These photographs of huge old- growth tree stumps were taken along Highway 9 in the Sycamore Grove section of the City of Santa Cruz Greenbelt property known as the Pogonip. There are many more fresh tree stumps just north of the location of these giants. The heritage trees were felled near the first major pullout in the "preserved" land along the River north of Golf Club Drive. A Pogonip park entrance sign stands adjacent to two giant bay laurel stumps. This part of the Pogonip reaches the San Lorenzo River and is adjacent to Henry Cowell State Park.

The native trees were cut down by contractors to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E). PG&E applied for and received Heritage tree cutting permits from the City of Santa Cruz.

During the past three years PG&E has dramatically expanded its tree felling near all their power line corridors all over Santa Cruz County claiming that the expanded logging is necessary to prevent power outages. Trees are being destroyed that are very far from any power line or that show no indication of creating any immediate problem.

The large bay stump in the photo to the left is of a tree on the opposite side of Highway 9 from the power lines. The stump is well set back from the road.

There is no environmental review and minimal oversight of PG&E's tree cutting. Neither the County nor the cities have been willing to protect trees targeted by PG&E. State resource agencies such as Fish and Game do not review this activity unless forced into it by strong political pressure. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which does regulate PG&E, is not a natural resource agency and has shown no interest in environmental review.

The County of Santa Cruz has a "franchise agreement" with PG&E that was written in 1955. This 56-year old contract completely ignores modern County resource codes such as the Riparian Protection Ordinance.

How to help

Bay Tree StumpThis fallen California Bay Laurel is also on the other side of the highway from the power lines. If this tree and other old growth giants were considered a threat to the lines, was cabling or pruning considered? The trees were in a forest with no homes nearby.
Photo: Ventana Staff

Contact your County Supervisor or City Council member. Show them these photos. Pressure needs to be brought upon the County Board of Supervisors and the Cities to update their contracts with PG&E to reflect current natural resource protection standards. Otherwise, this kind of careless destruction is going to continue. PG&E sends its contractors back every year to cut more big trees at the same sites. This is a continually expanding tree removal campaign on the part of PG&E. Many giant old trees have already been destroyed or severely cut.


"Trees, trees against the sky -
O I have loved them well!
There are pleasures you cannot buy,
Treasures you cannot sell,
And not the smallest of these
Is the gift and glory of trees. . . ."


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