Superior Court Rules County of San Diego's Plan to Reduce Fire Risk Through Widespread Vegetation Eradication Must Comply with CEQA

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In response to a lawsuit brought by The California Chaparral Institute, the Superior Court of California ruled against the County of San Diego and its plan to remove trees and vegetation without formal environmental review. The County had sought to institute its vegetation eradication program as an "emergency occurrence" without the need for public review as mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). However, the ruling confirmed CCI's position that the County violated state laws by exempting the tree removal project from public/environmental review. The ruling requires that negative impacts to taxpayers, fire safety, and nature must now be considered.

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The Superior Court issued its final ruling today in favor of the California Chaparral Institute requiring the County of San Diego to follow state environmental laws and conduct a full environmental review of its backcountry vegetation clearance and dead tree removal project. The court rejected the County's position that its three to four year, $7 million vegetation management project was a short-term project addressing an immediate, emergency occurrence. Hence, the project is not exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

"Removing dead trees nearly two football field lengths distant from roads and structures in the backcountry will not significantly reduce fire risk to people as the county claims," said Richard Halsey, director of the Institute. "In fact, besides potentially damaging habitat, such action may actually increase fire risk by introducing flammable weeds, giving people a false sense of security, and wasting taxpayer money that could have been used to create defensible space directly around homes and communities."

Requiring the county to conduct a public review of this project will allow objective scientific evaluation and citizen participation to help ensure public funds are used in a way that will protect lives, property, and natural resources in the most effective manner.

The ruling came in The Chaparral Institute v. County of San Diego (Superior Court of California, County of San Diego Case No. 37-2009-00091583-CU-TT-CTL). The final ruling can be found at the link below:

Additional background information regarding this lawsuit can be found on the California Chaparral Institute's website here:

About The California Chaparral Institute

The California Chaparral Institute is a non-profit science and education organization dedicated to promoting an understanding and respect for the chaparral ecosystem and helping communities reconnect with the natural environment.


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Richard W. Halsey
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