A rally to save oaks is not where you’d expect to find a guy who makes his living cutting down trees.
But Tuesday evening Ric Costales, who calls himself a timberfeller, stood microphone in hand on the steps of Berkeley’s Old City Hall, supporting some 40 people who had come to a rally called by Save the Oaks at the Stadium to rescue 38 oak trees from the UC Berkeley ax.
The university, which is not obliged under state law to follow local regulations such as the ordinance against removing oak trees without a permit, plans to cut down an oak grove to make room to expand the football stadium and build an athletic training facility.
“When we cut trees, they grow back, but in an area like this, you cut them down and they’re gone,” said Costales, who lives and works near the California-Oregon border and learned of the pending uprooting of the trees while visiting a Bay Area relative during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It seems like a university could figure out how to save the oaks,” he said, calling for a rational process through which discussions could be carried out with the university. “We should all know what rules we’re playing by. We’ve got to engage in intellectual debate.”
Emma Fazio of the Student Coalition to Save the Oaks also spoke: “I don’t want to pay tuition to a university that looks at a woodland and sees a place to put a gym.”
Before the rally Fazio told the Daily Planet that the students were preparing for training by Rainforest Action on tree-sitter rights.
Doug Buckwald who helped organize the rally told protesters the university was playing a public relations game, saying it would plant three trees for every one removed. “You cannot replace the eco-system with gardening projects,” he said.
Former mayor Shirley Dean also took a turn speaking to the rally. She called on the “number one public university in the world” to abide by the local oaks ordinance.
“We are a diverse group of people,” she said. “The University of California has united us.”
University spokesperson Marie Felde underscored that no trees will be cut until the Regents of the University of California certify the environmental impact report on the stadium project. A Regents’ subcommittee that can certify the report will meet Tuesday.
Buckwald told the Daily Planet that he is encouraging people to speak out at the subcommittee meeting, which will be conducted via phone. The public can join the meeting electronically at 4:30 p.m. at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay Campus Community Center, 1675 Owens St., San Francisco.
To reach the Save the Oaks group, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 510-841-3493.
Former mayor Shirley Dean speak to crowd opposing UC’s plan to cut the Oaks. Photograph by Judith Scherr.