Trees on the front line

Remove trees, strengthen levees?

Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late June regarding a policy that requires eradicating all vegetation on Central Valley levees except short grass, according to media reports.

Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sacramento’s Friends of the River filed the suit in federal court, saying the policy—which came about in 2007 to create nationwide uniform standards for levees after Hurricane Katrina—would especially affect California’s Central Valley region, where levee vegetation makes up most of the 5 percent of remaining historic riparian forest, and serves as habitat for endangered fish and birds.

The plaintiffs also charge that the policy violates both the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, as it was created without an environmental study or consultation with federal wildlife agencies.