SCE About To Embark On Its Annual Decimation Of San Bernardino Forest Trees

By Dawn Elizabeth Rose
With the acceleration of the problems in modern cities, population growth, encroachment of green nature areas and frustration over heavy vehicle traffic, etc., it used to be that one could still take time for a break, take a moment to drive up to the mountains to experience the great beauty of the trees and know that the wooded forests exist there to protect the diversity of our wildlife, birds and most especially Earth’s endangered and threatened species. Nonetheless, over recent years we have witnessed a radical shift – and as a forewarning, there are changes afoot and not for the good. So, what has happened? We have witnessed thousands, indeed countless numbers, of formerly majestic and timeless mature trees in mountain communities placed on a continuous death spiral destined for cutting down by our electrical utilities.
For a while, we wondered: “Who could have done this?” But then we discovered the utility companies with funding from the State of California and their paid vendors have gone on a rampage determined to cause destruction to our mountain trees. By taking a short drive in the mountains, you can readily see that trees too numerous to count have been topped or had all of the branches taken off their sides. Tree upon tree upon tree has been sliced in half, top off, leaving it to look like a sad bush. And then, there are hundreds of many-years-old growth trees that have been carelessly mangled or cut down altogether. This destruction has occurred even at the picturesque historic trailheads such as at Rock Creek Trail and Strawberry Peak.
As caretakers of our nature and environment, we should be particularly concerned to hold accountable the persons, organizations and institutions responsible for this wanton disregard of our forest.
All Californians have become acutely aware of the increased prevalence of wildfires. The California State Auditor found that 19 percent of the fires during 2016-2020 were caused directly or indirectly by the electrical utility poles and lines owned and maintained by Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric. These were devastating California fires that burned millions of acres. The wildlife killed numbered in the tens of thousands at the least and very like exceeded a hundred thousand.
Under the classic model of criminal and civil responsibility, those who harm others, those who engage in the disregardful destruction of the environment, those who poison the air, earth and water, those who wreck the valued possessions of others or of the community of which we are all a part are prosecuted.
Are those who commit such hideous acts as knelling the death of our forests or significant swathes thereof, be they individuals or corporations, subject to another set of rules? If so, why?
It is noteworthy that the electrical lines that run through California’s forests have been covered and insulated. I have read articles and official statements from Southern California Edison in which its representatives and corporate officers have been quoted as saying insulated lines, which are referred to as “covered conductors,” are 100 percent safe. If these lines are insulated and covered, why are they still cutting trees around them? Doing further research, I called the company Parr, which installed them. I was told that the lines are indeed covered and insulated. Parr would know, since it was paid an astronomical amount of money to install them. The Parr company spokesman I spoke with said he was surprised that Southern California Edison was still cutting around these lines, as they are 100 percent safe. Even if a tree falls on one of those wire-containing lines, there is no external spark, I was assured. Thus, the electrical lines in Southern California’s mountains are covered or insulated with what Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric have touted as new technology, paid for through the billions of dollars given to Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric by California’s taxpayers. Southern California Edison has reiterated, in a forum no less august than the Mountain News, that the covered conductor is one hundred percent effective even in circumstance in which a tree falls on them. The supervisor at Parr, the company vendor who installed the insulated wire, said there is “no need to cut or trim around these covered conductor lines.” The protection of our wildlife is important as the San Bernardino Mountains contain 72 endangered species.
This new technology is important to protect and preserve the forest and natural habitats that exist in the forest. And yet Southern California Edison defies reason by not making any modifications to tree management programs in high fire areas in response to covered lines. Current regulations are for bare wire lines. We also again raise provisions of 14 California Code of Regulation §§ (sections) 1250 et seq., and specifically § 1257(a) that provides property located in state recreation areas are exempt from minimum clearance provisions in Public Resources Code § (section) 4293 when conductors are insulated.
I ask the question: “Why are they still cutting?”
I called The Utility Reform Network, which oversees utility rates and makes sure that Southern California Edison is not ripping people off. I was told by members of The Utility Reform Network that Southern California Edison is engaged in double dipping as long as it keeps hiring tree trimming service vendors to cut trees while it is is raising our electric bills to purchase equipment and materials to protect our trees, which should obviate the need for radical tree cutting and trimming. Through this double dipping Southern California Edison in turn gets millions more, as our rates go higher. The governor gave Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric billions of dollars to insulate the lines, yet they keep it secret or lie about it. In my own exchanges with the manager of the Southern California Edison operation in the San Bernardino Mountains, I was blatantly lied to. The manager said the lines were covered but not insulated. Parr, which installed these lines, assured me the lines are indeed covered and insulated. The questions thus present themselves: “Why would the manager of Southern California Edison up in the San Bernardino Mountain Communities lie about what the line covering which California’s taxpayers and ratepayers have paid over a billion dollars for actually do? What does Southern California Edison have to gain by continuing to destroy the mountains and wildlife habitat?
Mind you, this destruction comes after the company has already destroyed millions of acres in California and causing destruction to wildlife, including birds in their habitat. When we the taxpayers pay billions to cover these lines, we should also have the right to have our trees saved with this life saving technology not only for humans but for all life and our beautiful trees.
Every year for the past five years, Southern California Edison has brought tree service companies to the mountains, at the very beginning of spring and then having those companies remain through the entire springtime to cut and saw at trees with bird nests falling out of the trees, as they will once again this year. Many residents have seen the employees of these companies hired by Southern California Edison putting live birds in their grinding machines. They also have been removing dead trees with no scientific proof that dead trees pose any threat at all. In fact, dead trees are vital eco-systems to woodpeckers and our much-needed bees. Southern California Edison has also been removing bees from trees that are pollinating our mountain communities. Woodpeckers are slowly disappearing in our San Bernardino Mountains due to this destruction. One has to ask: “If the governor gives billions to cover these lines and we as taxpayers are paying for this, don’t we have the right to have our trees and the wildlife habitat we hold so dear protected?”
The San Bernardino Mountains are home to 72 endangered species. We must ask at what price are we allowing this destruction to happen. We must as a whole do our due diligence for these species and their homes, the trees they reside in. Southern California Edison has gone into creeks and have recently been putting orange tags around oak trees and every kind of tree they can see fit to single out for eventual destruction. These tags contain numbers on them. One must ask: “Why are these trees being labeled for removal, when in fact they are homes to birds and other wildlife, including many endangered species?” Interestingly enough, this has been done in plain sight, yet many are not looking or not doing enough to protect our nature and trees and wildlife habitat. The questions are: “Who are the guardians of our forest? Are they the successive city managers who have turned a blind eye for five years or the guardians of our wildlife fish and wildlife whose jobs are to protect our forest? Is it the environmental protection agency, which needs to tell Southern California Edison to stay out of our spring water creeks?”
Southern California Edison has left thousands of staples in trees, littering them all over our mountains. For the past five years, we have had birds killed. One of the workers of a tree service company employed by Southern California Edison said he and his coworkers can knock a nest out of the tree as long as the mother bird is not in it. He is wrong. That is illegal, as the Migratory Bird Act of 1919 protects all migratory birds. The Utility Reform Network said people need to get together to stop Southern California Edison and the destruction to our mountains. The Utility Reform Network has called for protests, to have mountain residents get together as a community to protect our trees from corporate interests.
Wildfire fear has resulted in the creation of a fire mitigation fund, which has led to corruption, as greed always does. We must stand up, because if we do not, the companies that Southern California has contracted with will bring their trucks around in the beginning of spring to saw knock bird nests out of trees and disturb wildlife as they are beginning new life. Southern California Edison has clearly become soulless. The company has, from time to time, hired contractors who refused to carry out the company’s destructive instruction. This has happened more than once. But Southern California Edison overcomes this by hiring another contractor and another until it gets a contractor to agree to take down a tree with bees that are going extinct. Bees are not invasive. They are here to pollinate and nurture our trees and flowers and beautiful mountains.
One must ask: “How is it that Southern California Edison can engage in this damage and destruction to our state and wildlife and still be around?” I think I have the answer. Look at the information relating to political donations to elected officials available on the California Secretary of State’s website. Southern California Edison has given millions and millions of dollars to the state’s lawmakers and our governors going back many many, years. If you give literally millions of dollars in campaign funds to our government officials, does the governor feel he is obliged to return the favor in some way? Southern California Edison has proven its incompetence as a steward of the public trust in our mountains and forest and wildlands, yet it is allowed to come up to our mountains and destroy without limit, regardless of the technology of insulated lines which should render that destruction completely unnecessary. Southern California Edison’s stock-in-trade is fooling the public by making people think we are all in danger. Clearly, billions of dollars’ worth of covered conductors – insulated lines – have been of no avail. This life saving technology should also be used to save our trees and stop the rate increases and get rid of the destructive tree cutters.
The major factor in the destructive fires in our state going back for some time has been the negligence/irresponsibility of Southern California Edison and Pacific Gase & Electric. The price is being paid by wildlife and wildlife habitat. The truth is trees do not start fire. Statistics show that electric companies do. Wildfire fear is doing nothing to stop fires. Covered conductors – insulated lines – do stop fires. The destruction to our trees up and down the state will indeed cause erosion and landslides as the roots to trees are key to preventing stop erosion and dangerous landslides.
There is no scientific proof that a dead tree is a threat in a fire. Dead trees contain vital ecosystems, not the least of which are bee hives, woodpecker feeding grounds and habitat for wildlife in the winter. Southern California Edison is making our woodpeckers extinct and removing bee hives that pollinate our mountains. Our wildlife and birds are disappearing. I am begging you – the citizens of San Bernardino County who live in the valleys and out in the desert – to join with us in the mountains to stop Southern California Edison from destroying our forest. Southern California Edison, through its hired contractors, has cut down 700-year-old trees up here and many other old growth trees of lesser duration. When mountain residents have sought to stop what Southern California Edison is doing, its employees and corporate officials harass and threaten them. This has been going on for five years. The contractors are selling the wood they have illegally acquired. Southern California Edison is using drones to spy on wildlife. Southern California Edison and its contractors with impunity trespass on private property. These people need to stop. They are destroying and disturbing wildlife.
Southern California has embarked on a new chapter in its depredations against nature, the residents of the mountains and the people of California. It is now going after our oak trees, again despite the consideration that the electric lines proximate to them are insulated. They are destroying – cutting down – birch trees, using the false justification that the birch trees are dead. Birch trees are naked in the winter, not dead, naked. It takes them one hour to get certified to destroy the homes of wildlife please stop them from cutting up here.
History tells us that once forest acreage is lost, it is gone forever. As the destruction takes place during the present, we not only lose what we have, we are surrendering to a soulless corporation the future homes of wildlife. Southern California in the next week or so will start cutting trees, right in the middle of nesting season this. This is horrific! This is evil!
The Camp Fire, which some refer to as the Paradise Fire, was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. There is no dispute that a Northern California electric company was responsible for this. The horrendous assault on our forests has not ended. Isn’t it time to take a reflective look at why we are continuing to allow these environmental criminals to continue the killing of our trees and the destruction of wildlife habitat. Why is CalFire and the U.S. Forest Service countenancing this?
It is time to stop the fear cutting. Stop the fear and save our forests and our wildlife habitat. This spring, let us honor anew and forever after the creation of life, starting here, at ground zero in the San Bernardino Mountains.

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