Monterey Downs oak tree

A sticker—put there, perhaps, by a conservation activist—warns this oak tree on the former Fort Ord could be chopped to make way for Monterey Downs.

This afternoon, residents interested in the proposed Monterey Downs project listened to presentations, both for and against, over lunch at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula.

Beth Palmer, chief operating officer for the Downs team, said the project would remove 76 percent of the trees on the property. But most of those are of "dead, poor and fair quality," she added, and would be replaced with "high-quality" trees.

Michael Salerno of Keep Fort Ord Wild then outlined key points in opposition to the project, with a focus on deforestation. He estimated a total of about 41,000 oak trees would be razed, decimating "the last coastal oak forest in California."

Showing a slide of a stout, thick oak tree with a broad, dense green canopy, Salerno quipped: "There's one of those 'dead oaks.'"

According to the draft EIR for Monterey Downs, the mixed-use project would remove coast live oak trees on about 315 woodland acres of the former Fort Ord.

"There is no mitigation that would reduce the loss of approximately 315 acres of contiguous coast live oak woodland to a less than significant level," the EIR states.

Monterey Downs could negatively impact the following special-status species: pallid bats, Townsend's big-eared bats, Monterey dusky-footed woodrats, American badgers and coast horned lizards, the EIR states.

Other animal species of concern in the Monterey Downs project area: the Monterey ornate shrew, California tiger salamander and California legless lizard. Habitat destruction could also affect tree-nesting raptors, ground-nesting birds and migratory birds.

Special-status plant species that could be affected: Hooker’s manzanita, Toro manzanita, Sandmat manzanita, Monterey ceanothus, Eastwood’s golden fleece and Kellogg’s horkelia.

Read the Weekly's analyses of other Monterey Downs draft EIR sections here:

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