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    UC refuses to make commitment to Albany on replanting trees

    tree at the Gill Tract

    Negotiation between the University of California at Berkeley and the city of Albany is going on as the 184 diseased Monterey pines at the Gill Tract in Albany are being cut down. Photo by Linjun Fan.

    The University of California at Berkeley agreed to satisfy several of Albany’s requests on its tree-cutting project at the Gill Tract, including surveying the site for hawk nests and testing the trees for radioactive materials, but refused to make commitment on replanting trees.

    The City of Albany withdrew its opposition to the removal of 184 diseased Monterey pines at the tract last week, but gave the university a list of requests* in the meantime.

    Under Albany’s request, the university has sent a wildlife biologist to the tract, who didn’t find active nests of Cooper’s Hawks there.

    “We will continue to monitor the site for nests as the tree removal proceeds, ” said Edward Denton, Vice Chancellor of the university, in a letter to Albany City Administrator Beth Pollard Wednesday.

    Denton didn’t promise to plant new trees after the removal, however, saying that replanting trees might conflict with a development plan for the tract and the nearby University Village.

    “As you know, the 2004 University Village Master Plan must guide our consideration of all future uses on the Gill Tract site, ” Denton wrote in the letter.

    The Gill Tract will be developed into housing units and recreation facilities for the university’s faculty and graduate students, according to the master plan. It’s not clear whether the site of the pine grove, located northeast of the tract, will be part of the development.

    Albany asked to use part of the site as a tree nursery for its parks and streets. Denton responded that it’s possible to allow Albany to do so “on a temporary basis” .

    Albany also asked the university to ease a portion of the land for building a bicycle path along the Buchanan Street. Denton said that the university has already sent a letter of support when Albany was applying for a funding to study the plan in 2006.

    “We are ready to discuss with city staff any issues regarding the path, ” Denton said.

    He also agreed to notify Albany at least two months in advance of cutting down another 133 Monterey pines at the tract, adding that the removal of these trees hasn’t been scheduled.

    Albany requested the university to test the trees for the radioactive materials of tritium and carbon 14, which were used for research in a university lab on the tract.

    Denton promised to conduct such a test after the tree removal, but described the materials as “naturally occurring in the area”.

    Click here to read the full text of the letter written by Denton.

    *The City of Albany made six requests to the University of California on the tree-cutting project:

    1. Conduct a bird survey prior to Phase I tree removal, including the possible presence of nests or mating pairs of Cooper’s Hawks, and provide documentation to the City; if nests or mating pairs are found, meet regulations and standards for tree removal for bird and bird habitat protection purposes

    2. Provide the City with a statement of intent regarding the replacement of trees on this property; such statement should include a commitment to confer with the City on a replanting plan and to develop a University funding plan

    3. Enter into negotiations with the City for City use of right-of-way along Buchanan Street for installation of a future Class I bicycle and pedestrian path.

    4. Explore arrangements for allowing the City to use a portion of the property for storing nursery stock trees for future use in city parks, or as street trees

    5. Perform sample testing among the trees removed for the presence of tritium and carbon 14.

    6. Work with the City, at least two months in advance, regarding any decision to proceed with Phase II tree removal.

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