Eucalyptus Battles Straddle the Globe

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In a recent letter to editor, another South Laguna resident made some sweeping statements (some out of context to the issue in Laguna) about planting trees helter-skelter in Laguna.

Laguna is considered a high-risk fire area by our own city, county, state, fire departments so eucalyptus are out of the question.  The California Urban Forestry Act was written in the ‘70s with a focus for the Central Valley not Laguna.  Since then the tone of this act has changed; now it says plant trees based on the geographic needs. Similar articles by this group and others note that drought conditions make it unfavorable to plant trees now; so many trees are dying or are being voluntarily removed because of the water shortage, including trees such as almonds.  Eucalyptus trees are known to drain groundwater and compete with other more productive vegetation.

The Pope did talk about combating global warming. The biggest priority is to stop the deforesting of areas where canopy trees exist using slash and burn to create cattle ranches, especially in Brazil.  On the same note, in a recent New York Times travel story about Lake Titicaca, the author states – “sunsets and other vistas are but all obliterated from this Island by water gobbling eucalyptus trees native to Australia that make it uninhabitable for both plants and people.” The article continues, “on a brief walk with a slight incline one can see barren land – water sucked dry by the eucalyptus” .. and “eucalyptus trees had irrevocably damaged some of the soil.”  She does not have an agenda on eucalyptus.

Three years ago, I traveled down the Inca Valley and magnificent vistas were blocked by eucalyptus trees. The Peruvian government is trying to get rid of the trees at great expense. In my travels to Africa, I learned that in Ethiopia they planted eucalyptus to give people jobs – cutting firewood and making charcoal briquettes, since farmland was scarce. In South Africa, the government  regrets having planted eucalyptus trees.  This is true in so many countries.

I have nine trees in my yard, none block views, make a mess for others to clean up, fall over, and I share fruits with neighbors and friends. The U.S. won’t sign any agreements along with China to cut back carbon emissions; planting a few trees in Laguna is not going to change that.

Ganka Brown, Laguna Beach

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