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    UC starts cutting down trees at the Gill Tract; Albany withdraws its opposition

    tree-cutting sign

    A sign put up by the University of California at Berkeley at the Gill Tract in Albany. Photo by Linjun Fan.

    The University of California at Berkeley started cutting down 184 trees at the Gill Tract Monday after the city of Albany backs down on its opposition to the cutting.

    Workers contracted by the university have brought down several diseased Monterey pines Monday, and will remove about 180 more in the following two weeks.

    Albany City Councilmember Joanne Wile said that she had changed her mind after a visit to the pine grove last Thursday.

    “Unfortunately we had to agree with them about the cutting and public safety, ” said Wile. “Because the trees were planted so close together the disease goes from one tree’s roots to the next rapidly.”

    Most of the trees were infected with pitch canker, an infectious disease common for Monterey pines. Albany City Council passed a resolution last Tuesday urging the University to postpone the tree-cutting plan after expressing various concerns, including lack of community involvement and potential harm to wildlife.

    Albany would consider seeking an injunction if the University ignores its concerns, says the resolution.

    Albany Mayor Robert Lieber has also changed his position. He said that he was influenced by the opinion of Wile, and also by the advice of those who are trying to protect Cooper’s Hawks at the tract.

    “Basically they are saying that if you get an injunction, you delay the removal of the trees, and by delaying the removal of the trees, you may impact the hawk more badly, ” Lieber said.

    The hawks, which have been nesting at the pine grove for the past several years, have not yet come to the place this year. They could still build nests on the remaining trees, and would be harmed less if the tree-cutting happens prior to their nesting season, according to Lieber.

    Albany is still asking the university to replant trees after cutting down the current ones, which is not part of the university’s plan.

    “The City Council has asked UC for various things, such as replanting other trees, and that response will probably take a number of days, ” Wile said.

     Click here to read various commentaries on the issue from Albany residents.

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