Save Knowland Park Coalition Urges Zoological Society Trustees to Halt Illegal Oak Removal

Zoo executives speeding ahead with rare habitat destruction without required permits; financial questions continue to dog project

Aug 28, 2015, 13:23 ET from Save Knowland Park Coalition

OAKLAND, Calif., Aug. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- A broad cross-section of Oakland residents and conservationists is calling on the East Bay Zoological Society's Board of Trustees to alter its expansion plans for the Oakland Zoo. The Zoo is moving forward rapidly with plans for massive development that would destroy sensitive native grasslands and other wildlife habitat. The first step in the project is the cutting down of more than 48 protected coast live oak trees slated to begin this fall.  

These 48 oaks are a symbol of the struggle between the Zoo and Oakland residents concerned about its expansion plans. The Zoo intends to build in open space instead of expanding within land adjacent to the zoo. Removing heritage trees would have a significant impact on wildlife that relies on Knowland Park for limited remaining habitat. Species found in the Zoo's proposed expansion area include the imperiled Alameda whipsnake, California cougar, migratory song birds and 44 locally rare plant species.

Per Oakland City Ordinance, tree removal of this type can only be undertaken when all related construction permits are in place. The Zoo is pushing forward with tree removal while still lacking over twenty building permits required to complete its more-than $61 million expansion project. Zoo staff recently indicated that approximately $8 million still needs to be raised to fund the project.

Beth Wurzburg, vice-president of the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and a member of the Save Knowland Park Coalition, added, "If the Zoo management won't proceed responsibly, we call on their corporate and community sponsors to insert themselves into the process."

Trustees of the Zoological Society include representatives from Bay Area corporate institutions including Clorox, PG&E, Wells Fargo and Kaiser Permanente. To date, the Oakland City Council and Mayor Libby Schaaf are sitting silently by as the Zoo moves forward with the destruction of sensitive habitat.

Concerned Oakland residents have appealed the move to cut down protected oaks at this juncture. If the appeal is successful, tree removal operations must be suspended until all project permits are in place. A hearing officer will issue his decision on the appeal in the coming weeks.

 

SOURCE Save Knowland Park Coalition