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Herbicide Subterfuge

May 5, 2010

The public is unaware of the scale of herbicide use in our parks and public lands.  Nor are they aware of the toxicity of herbicides to humans and animals.  We will describe just two examples of the subterfuge that is used by “restorationists” to hide the use of herbicides.

The management plan of San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program (NAP) includes a description of the NAP’s herbicide use. Table 4-2 of the plan identifies 16 species of non-native plants and trees on which herbicides (Roundup and Garlon) are used.  Although the plan states specifically that herbicides are used, the Initial Study of environmental impact of the program says absolutely nothing about the use of herbicides. It does not acknowledge that herbicides are used or analyze their impact on the environment and its inhabitants.

Twin Peaks, San Francisco

The use of herbicides by a program calling itself the “Natural Areas Program” is particularly ironic in San Francisco, a city that has officially adopted the Precautionary Principle.  The PP theoretically obligates the city of San Francisco to ban any substance that might harm the environment or its inhabitants, even if there is not yet scientific evidence of that harm.  In the case of herbicides, there is plenty of evidence of the harmful effects on humans and other animals.

The East Bay Regional Park District is also using herbicides without acknowledging the risks in doing so.  In its Wildfire Plan, EBRPD misinforms the public that the Marin Municipal Water District is using herbicides:  “Using herbicides to control invasive [AKA non-native] plant species…can be an efficient and cost-effective method…Recent studies conducted by the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD)  confirm this approach; the results of their studies on the use of non-chemical control methods for the control of invasive non-native plants indicated that non-chemical alternatives are ineffective for large-scale vegetation management projects. (see Appendix H…)”  (page 92) .  In other words, EBRPD in its Wildfire Plan is inaccurately claiming that MMWD is using herbicides when they are not.  MMWD has confirmed in writing that they have not used herbicides since 2005.

But, EBRPD doesn’t stop there.  When the public pointed out to EBRPD during the public comment period on the Environmental Impact Review (EIR) that MMWD is not using herbicides, EBRPD responded (Response to Comments) as follows:  “As of March 2010, MMWD’s draft reports and analyses have shown no significant risk associated with the use of the chemicals studied on human health, animals or non-target plants, and a greatly increased average annual cost for eradicating 100 acres of the 750 acres of broom without the use of herbicides…”  (page 394) Whoever wrote that sentence has either not read MMWD’s risk assessment of herbicide use or is misrepresenting it.  In fact, MMWD’s risk assessment is perfectly clear in describing significant harm to the environment caused by herbicide use.

No wonder the public is in the dark about the use of herbicides.  Every effort is being made to keep them in the dark.

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