OAKLAND (KCBS) – Opponents of a fire hazard reduction plan for the East Bay hills are calling it a guise to conduct massive clear-cutting of the area.

University of California, Berkeley, the city of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks District have jointly applied for a federal grant that would fund the project.

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UC Berkeley Environmental Projects Manager Tom Klatt said the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant would fund the removal of non-native trees in Oakland and Berkeley hills that pose the biggest fire danger.

“Experts have agreed for many decades that the eucalyptus trees are very fire-prone species and inappropriate for the urban wildlife interface for the East Bay hills,” Klatt said.

But the Hills Conservation Network disagrees. Compromised mostly of survivors of the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm, the group’s president, Dan Grassetti, said the plan as it stands is flawed.

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“The money would be spent on what we see as native plant restoration that would in fact not reduce the risk of fire, but probably actually increase the risk of fire,” said Grassetti.

Tens of thousands of trees would be cut under the plan.

FEMA plans to collect public comment through June 17.

Klatt said depending on the timing of the grant process, work could start as soon as the fall of 2014.

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