What does it take to save an oak? Three or four tree sitters, a spiral dance, national news coverage, a possible Native American burial site, celebrations, and a lawsuit, apparently. In December, along with a few other stalwarts, former Berkeley mayoral hopeful Zachary RunningWolf took up residence in a grove of old oaks on the UC Berkeley campus. The University regents had voted to replace the grove with a $125 million athletic training center for Cal’s football team. Although several less sensitive sites were proposed in the EIR, the university chose to put the center next to Memorial Stadium, which sits atop the Hayward Fault. In January, the California Oak Foundation, neighbors, and the city of Berkeley filed a lawsuit alleging violations of state earthquake laws and environmental concerns.
The University seems non-plussed. “There’s a lot of misinfor-mation out there about these oaks,” says spokesperson Marie Felde. “They are not ancient.” Ancient or old, oaks are home to 110 species of birds, 105 mammal species, and 58 species of amphibians and reptiles, according to the Oak Foundation’s Janet Cobb. “It’s a nice remnant grove that is rejuvenating itself,” says Cobb. “It seems like the university would want to pay attention to what it’s teaching in environmental science courses.” In late January, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller granted an injunction preventing UC from bringing out the bulldozers until the case goes to trial—likely within the next three to six months.