Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


Model Monterey Pine Forest Ecosystem Protection 

Ordinance for County and City Use

The following model ordinance was drafted by HOPE using improvements provided by bird, animal, plant and forest ecologists, and other environmental experts. It also had the benefit of improvements suggested by an accomplished land use attorney, an administrative law attorney and an agency Counsel.

As of 2009, it has been given to more than 200 knowledgeable people for review and suggestions (as well as appearing on this website since 2002) and received comments for improvements from about 45 - 50 people.

If you have any ideas for further improvement - please send your suggestions - either wording changes or conceptual ideas to MPFInfo < at > 1hope dot org


Internationally Important, Endangered, Rare & Declining

Monterey County's native Monterey pine forest ecosystem is important locally and internationally for its tremendous aesthetic, ecological, intrinsic, and economic values. Monterey pine forest ecosystems are native today to only in five limited locations worldwide, all on North America's West Coast, totaling about 3,000 hectares. The Monterey Peninsula area hosts the largest and healthiest of these remaining native ecosystems.
The native Monterey pine forest ecosystem has experienced a considerable decline recently that continues today. The cause is primarily the cumulative human actions of development, development of roads and buildings, lot clearing, tree trimming and fragmentation. This decline has weakened the remaining forest to increasing attack by pests including the pine pitch canker fungus and Bark Beetle. Much of the remaining forest is degraded, perhaps only 1,000 acres remains in acceptable ecological health.
This unwanted decline has independently caused the native tree and forest ecosystem to get official recognition as endangered by the United Nations and the California Native Plant Society. This significant and continuing decline requires immediate meaningful protection.

Aesthetic Values

Native Monterey pine forests define the look of the Monterey Peninsula landscape. They are splendid to behold both from a distance and from within the forest, where one can experience the visual beauty, strong silence enhanced by uncountable bird songs, cooling shade and fog, soft breezes, fragrance of mint, pleasant encounters with fascinating wildlife, and the serenity of untouched forests.

Economic Values

The beauty of the native Monterey pine forests has drawn millions of tourists and residents to our Monterey Peninsula generating billions of dollars locally, its biodiversity contains a broad genetic foundation for a vast international timber industry, which has generated additional tens of billions of dollars.

Intrinsic Values

This biota has inherent value in addition to its economic, aesthetic and ecological benefits. The very existence of the unique Monterey pine forest community has intrinsic value and is worth preserving. The native vegetation type, associated habitat and soils have adapted to local conditions that have evolved over millennia.

Ecological Values

The native Monterey pine forest is ecologically more than the sum of its parts. The Monterey pine forest is a dynamic system where all of its indigenous constituents, from soil to canopy, animals and plants, living and otherwise, are in balanced, appropriate proportions and locations. These extraordinary geological, meteorological and ecological conditions support interconnected and interdependent life forms which include a broad diversity of tree, plant, soil and animal species, communities, ages, and genetics.

Monterey Pine Forest Ecological Values include :

All Living Trees - Seedlings, Old Trees and Dead Trees.

As a Monterey pine grows larger or matures, its landmark and habitat values continually increase reinforcing that there is no biologically or ecologically recognized concept of "over-mature." For millennia, native Monterey pine forests have provided habitat for Grizzly Bears and Condors, and today still provide habitat for Great Horned Owls, Eagles, Woodpeckers, Squirrels, Peregrine Falcons, Possums, Deer, Bobcats, Mountain Lions, and Black Bears.
The forest moderates temperature extremes and prevents soil drying by shading the ground and understory from the hot drying sun, protecting it from the prevailing winds and moistening it with fog drip.
Areas of healthy regeneration with high densities of seedlings also have great value, as the seedlings promise future landmark trees and adequate genetic diversity to fend off future pest attacks.

Dead Standing Trees Needed for Habitat

Some 80 bird species make their homes exclusively in dead or dying trees because dead wood is softer for establishing cavities for nests. For example, native local Hairy Woodpeckers will not carve a nest in living Monterey pine trees because the wood is too hard. These woodpeckers will only nest in dead standing trees, particularly large snags, or living trees with especially large dead, or dying branches.
If Monterey pine trees are cut before they die, or if dead standing trees "snags" and dead wood are cleared from the forest, the woodpeckers abandon the habitat. Thus, the greater risk of destruction or loss of dying large Monterey pine trees, the greater the endangerment to the native woodpecker and others with similar habitat needs.
Loss of such biota and then its native woodpeckers allows an increase in the harmful insects that are food for those woodpeckers. This includes the Bark Beetle, which carries the Pine Pitch Canker fungus.


More than 30 plants living in the Monterey Pine Forest ecosystem understory have obtained official legal protection. These include the Gowen Cypress, the delicate orchid Yadon's Piperia, Hickman's Onion, the extremely rare Hickmans' Potentilla, Monterey Clover and Pacific Grove Clover. Additionally, small ground dwelling animals such as the Gray Fox, Ringtail, Opossum and Striped Skunk need the forest understory cover to hide from predators.

Fallen Trees

Fallen trees are part of the forest understory, providing important habitat for ground dwelling animals, spiders, worms, millipedes and helpful microorganisms including bacteria and fungi.

Living Soils

Native Monterey Peninsula Monterey pine forest ecosystem soils can exceed one million years in age and contain over 1,000 distinct microorganism species in every cubic inch. The unique forest floor is perfectly suited to Monterey Pine seedling regeneration as well as that for the other endangered plants, which depend upon a healthy native forest for protection and nourishment. Orchids and some trees are extremely dependent upon specific tiny mycorrhiza fungi. Living soils and their structure are easily destroyed by heavy equipment compaction and can be suffocated by roads blocking rain runoff from infiltrating ground to nourishing their microorganisms.

Trend - Significant and Declining

  • Whereas alarming amounts and portions of the historic native Monterey pine forest habitat have been lost to development of roads and buildings, lot clearing, fragmentation and attacks from pathogens including bark beetles and the pine pitch canker fungus.
  • Whereas the Monterey pine tree and its forest were recognized as Endangered by the United Nations in 1986,
  • Whereas the California Native Plant Society, legislatively recognized by Monterey County for its expertise, deemed the Monterey pine as only one step away from extinct in 1994 as "Endangered or Rare in California and elsewhere."
  • Whereas the native Monterey pine tree and its forest ecosystem are continually threatened by further loss of its native habitat area from development, lot clearing, fragmentation, and cumulative tree trimming which singly and collectively increase the risk of harm from pests including bark beetles and the pine pitch canker fungus,
  • Whereas Mitigation measures offered in response to previous loss of Monterey pine forest have proven inadequate; where the immediate loss of tons of magnificently integrated living biomass and its broad genetic diversity cannot be replaced by planting a handful of seedling clones outside the fog belt of the forest's native range; such mitigation cannot replace the forest's million year old soils replete with a perfectly balanced and rich native structure of understory plants and microorganisms.
  • Whereas ecologists are trained to evaluate ecosystem health and interdependence while biologists, foresters and arborists are not,
  • Whereas the native Monterey pine tree and its forest ecosystem have little if any substantive legal protection,


Therefore -

  • The native Monterey pine forest ecosystem shall be fully protected from further loss and harm. Its ecosystem shall be defined to include all of its native animals, trees, understory plants and soils - whether young or old, dying or dead, standing or fallen, and all of their parts. 
  • No part of a native Monterey pine forest ecosystem shall be killed, damaged, moved, trimmed(1) or such affected parts possessed, unless it has a specific exemption and approval limited to those explicitly described below. 

Proper Expert - Forest Ecologist

  • The agency shall hire a Forest Ecologist to advise and consult with all departments and other agencies on the application of this ordinance.

(1) Tree Trimming Harmful 

While trimming pine trees may seem innocuous, trimming releases chemicals called turpenes. The scent of turpenes can attract swarms of bark beetles, which can carry the pine pitch canker, and in sufficient numbers can kill Monterey pines, especially those weakened by pine pitch canker.


Emergency Risk and Hazard Exception

An individual tree which provides presents an emergency and immediate risk to life or property is not fully protected but shall require a permit which includes Evidence and Reasoning as detailed below, and public notice.

Fire Prevention Exception

Individual trees which are required to be trimmed or cut by fire protection laws may not be fully protected but do require a discretionary permit and shall undergo environmental review to include mapping of trees before and after biomass alterations and public notice.

Planted Trees Exception

Individual trees clearly planted for tree farms, ornamental or landscaping purposes are not fully protected but shall require a discretionary permit and undergo environmental review to include mapping of trees before and after. This exception does not apply to native trees planted or set-aside for mitigation purposes.

Exotic / Invasive Plant Exception

Exotic or invasive trees or plants are not protected but shall require a discretionary permit limited to taking only the exotic plants and undergo environmental review to include mapping of trees before and after biomass alterations. The County shall consult a list of exotic and invasive plants prepared by the California Native Plants Society. 

Outside Native Habitat Range Exception

Monterey Pine trees growing more than a mile inland of the mapped boundaries of the historic forest extent are not fully protected but shall require a discretionary permit and undergo environmental review to include a map of their location. Mapped boundaries are all native Monterey pine forest areas identified on maps prepared by Roy (1966), Forde (1964), Huffman (1994), Dunning (1916), McDonald (1959) and other areas outside the Monterey Peninsula supported by historic documentation (e.g. Little Sur, Doud Ridge). 

An individual Native Monterey Pine tree might not be fully protected, but before any cutting begins the following minimum steps are required:

  1. No tree may be cut without written reasons and clear photographic evidence for its proposed cutting. This includes a) a color photograph of the tree, b) the soil around its roots, and c) to illustrate the problem - the portion of the tree that is causing the Emergency.
  2. Public Notice: At least 30 days in advance of the decision, public notice must be given, particularly to those who have requested it. Public Notice shall be given even in rare instances of an Emergency when it must occur after the tree or branch is removed. 
  3. Approval by the (Department of Environmental Health's) Forest Ecologist providing evidence and reasoning, and acknowledging that the Emergency is an event - not an ongoing condition,
  4. Appeal of Approval at no cost, to a governmental body shall accompany the Public Notice.
  5. Updating a publicly available map of all cumulative permitted Monterey pine forest ecosystem biomass modification.

Permit Evidence and Reasoning Required

In addition to the narrative and description for each tree --

  • Provide the compass direction the tree is leaning - if any.
  • Measure and describe the angle the tree is leaning - if any.
  • An estimate of the tree's mass or weight.

Mapped with Description

  • So an ordinary person can find the tree, each tree’s location shall be identified with GPS Coordinates (feature available on many cell phones) and placed on a meaningful map of the parcel or area (Planning Departments typically use software that can make parcel maps using GPS coordinates and street names).
  • An up-to-date map of all cumulative permitted and un-permitted Monterey pine forest ecosystem biomass removal and modification shall be maintained. 
  • Each tree must be clearly marked with a bright international orange ribbon that surrounds the tree, sufficient to identify the tree as marked from at least 100 feet away.

Checkboxes --

Dead versus Dying

The Permit form shall have the following two question boxes one of which must be filled in;

  • One to be checked if the tree has NO living foliage, and
  • A second if the tree has ANY living or green foliage.

Hazard (Threat Checkbox)

  • Describe the specific hazard. (e.g. whole tree falling, or only a branch falling.)
  • Separately rate the hazard on a scale of 1 to 10

Risk (Likelihood Checkbox)

  • Describe the specific risk to life or property (e.g. potentially falling on a home, road or a trail.)
  • Separately rate the risk on a scale of 1 to 10.

Urgency Checkbox

  • Describe the physical (not legal) urgency of the threat.
  • Separately rate the urgency on a scale in days or years.

Environmental Review - CEQA

After filling in the above checkboxes, a CEQA Initial Study shall be conducted, with particular attention to the imperiled state of native Monterey pines and cumulative impacts described herein.

Cutting Limitations

  • Mitigation shall include trimming of branches when it is not necessary to cut down an entire tree.

After Cutting

  • To preserve ecosystem biomass trees and branches shall not be removed to remain as habitat for the native forest animals.

Harm Prevention

To limit harm to people in buildings and to limit liability if a tree falls, when buildings are constructed or remodeled near heavy native, trees or their ecosystem - the building code shall be updated to require structural steel bars at the height and edges of buildings in the native Monterey pine forest similar to a racing car roll-bar.


Violations of this ordinance shall be assessed by weight of living material - biomass. The fine shall be $1 per pound of Monterey Pine Forest Ecosystem biomass harmed, removed or killed. Each violation exceeding 10,000 pounds of biomass harm shall be a felony. The fines shall be used only for enforcement of this ordinance or purchase of native Monterey pine forest land. 
Each act of harm to an understory plant or animal listed officially as a Special Status species shall separately be a fine of $1,000. Each violation exceeding 10 plants or animals shall be subject to a $10,000 fine and a six months in jail. 

Intervenor Compensation

When successful enforcement of this ordinance is brought and accomplished by any person or entity other than Monterey County the successful plaintiff is to be awarded $5,000 civil penalty from defendant and any other fees and costs deemed appropriate by the court including those awarded pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 1021.5

Feedback - Info(at)

831 / 624-6500 P.O. Box 1495, Carmel, CA 93921

Search HOPE's Website:

powered by

Or Search the whole Web with IxQuick


This Page Last Updated September 1, 2010

General Plan Model Elements