Skip to content


Herbicides:  The Tools of the Trade

On April 20, 2010, at the meeting of the Board of Directors of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), the District’s “Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan”  was approved.  Nearly half of the speakers were critical of the Plan and asked for a variety of revisions to address their concerns.  The most frequent criticism was that the implementation of the Plan would require increased use of herbicides to prevent the regeneration of the eucalypts proposed for removal.  This criticism prompted supporters of the Plan to say that eucalypts cannot be killed without using herbicides.

We believe it is true that many non-native plants and trees cannot be eradicated without the use of herbicides.  The use of herbicides in projects called “restorations” strikes us as ironic.  In what sense is the land “restored” which has been doused with herbicides?  How does a project that is dependent upon herbicides manage to bill itself as being beneficial to the environment?

The Indestructible Eucalyptus

Eucalypts resprout from their roots when they are destroyed for any reason.  If they burn in a fire, die back in a freeze, or are cut down, they will resprout unless they are poisoned.  The stumps must be sprayed within minutes of being cut so that the poison is absorbed into the roots of the tree.  The herbicide being used presently for this purpose is Garlon with the active ingredient triclopyr.

The stumped is sprayed with Garlon and painted with dye to indicate that it’s been poisoned

Those who are responsible for application of the herbicide claim it is “painted” on the stumps, implying that this method of application eliminates drift of the herbicide into air and soil.  This description of the application method is contradicted by the manufacturer of the herbicide, DowAgra.  The manufacturer describes the method of application:  “Treat the exposed cambium area and the root collar (exposed bark on the side of the stump) down to the soil line. Be sure to treat the entire circumference of the tree. To ensure effective control on large trees, also treat any exposed roots (knees) that surround the stump.”  This method is illustrated on the manufacturer’s website by a person holding a spray applicator.

More recently, East Bay Regional Park District has claimed that an initial application of Garlon immediately after tree removal is “95% effective” to kill the tree and prevent its regeneration.  This claim is contradicted by other sources of information, including EBRPD’s own Wildfire Plan which says, “Follow-up treatments of respouts with foliar applications of triclopyr or glyphosate [Roundup] in 2% solutions are usually necessary for complete control.” (Appendix G, page 16) And “…implementing additional treatments are critical to prevent stump sprouting.” (page 167)

Definitive evidence of the need for repeated applications of herbicides for many years is contained in a letter submitted in support of an application for a FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grant (obtained by FOIA request; therefore in the public domain).  This grant application was submitted jointly by UC Berkeley, EBRPD, and the City of Oakland.  The letter regarding requirements for herbicide applications was written by the Associate Director of UCB’s Physical Plant to UCB’s manager of the “vegetation management project.”  The letter describes the requirements for herbicide follow-up as follows:

“This project will involve the removal of the eucalyptus…Ongoing maintenance for the next ten years is to ensure that the eucalyptus does not re-sprout (coppice) from cut stumps and to ensure that any seedlings from the latent seed stock are removed on a continuing basis, until the latent seed stock is exhausted.  I would recommend that two chemical treatments be made to both sites each year for 10 years, with the objective of treating sprouts with herbicide.  A basal bark treatment is recommended for the resprouts and a low volume foliar spray is recommended for seedlings.”  (emphasis added)

The author of this letter estimates that the cost of these repeated applications of herbicide will be $273,410 to prevent regeneration of eucalypts on only 111 acres. However, cost is not our primary concern on Million Trees.  Our concern is that the eradication of nearly a half million eucalypts on the properties of UC Berkeley, East Bay Regional Park District, and City of Oakland will require a great deal of toxic herbicide to accomplish.

What do we know about Garlon (triclopyr)?

Few studies have been conducted on triclopyr, but what is known about it is alarming.  The federal government requires the manufacturers of chemicals to report the toxicity of the chemicals they produce in a standard format called Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).  The MSDS for Garlon 4 Ultra states that it is a health hazard:

  • “This product is a “Hazardous Chemical” as defined by the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200.”
  • “Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 Title III (Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986) Sections 311 and 312:  Immediate (Acute) Health Hazard, Delayed (Chronic) Health Hazard”
Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) hired a consulting firm to conduct a risk assessment of herbicides that MMWD was considering for possible use.  The risk assessment reports the following risks of triclopyr, the active ingredient in Garlon:
  • “Triclopyr poses the highest risk to workers, the general public and most aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.  The primary factor contributing to high human risk is dermal exposure from handling the chemical during applications or from vegetation contact.”
  • “Triclopyr…[is] inherently more toxic to mammals.  Triclopyr is particularly toxic to pregnant animals, causing severe birth defects in the fetus if the mother is exposed during pregnancy…Triplopyr…[is] an order of magnitude more toxic to birds than the other herbicides, and triclopyr is the most toxic of the five herbicides to bees…”
  • “Although most of the field studies designed to measure triclopyr water contamination indicate that triclopyr will not run off in substantial amounts, actual monitoring data indicate that triclopyr contamination of waterways is occurring…In California, where triclopyr is used…11.5% of 227 samples contained detectable triclopyr.”

Nearly two years after this risk assessment was completed, Marin Municipal Water District has confirmed in writing that they are not presently using herbicides on MMWD properties.  Update:  In 2015, MMWD made a permanent commitment to NOT using any pesticides on their properties.  Read about why they made that commitment HERE.  

Courtesy Hills Conservation Network

The East Bay Regional Park District used 191 gallons of herbicides in 2008 according to its official Integrated Pest Management Report (IPM).   Its use of Garlon has increased 325% from 2003 to 2008.  Now EBRPD proposes to remove nearly one million eucalypts, which will require a huge increase in its use of Garlon.

 More articles about herbicides and pesticides are available HERE.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Brooks permalink
    August 29, 2012 7:29 am

    Please email me if you or your readership would like an article about the agencies (USFS, NPS, state forestry commissions, etc.) in the Southeast, USFS Region 8, and their “invasive wars”. Not that the routine use of herbicides in the course of commercial forestry management isn’t bad enough around here, but the NNIS pesticide use is going over the top.

    With the USFS only 75 years old this year, and old homesites in the forest going back to the Cherokee Indian removal, and before (early 1800s), the USFS has now decided little patches of wisteria and other “foreign” plants that have been deep in the forest at a few old homestead for almost two centuries must be poisoned…you know the story. Same for the many wildlife food plots that the state game and fish agencies cleared and planted with alfalfa, autumn olive, sorghum and other threatening non-natives. Hack and squirt, hack and squirt…

    More frightening is the widespread use of the new systemic poisons, like the neonicotinoids. These poisons, such as Imidacloprid, and clothiandin, now under an EPA comment period to decide if they should review it’s registration, are the main cause of pollinator die-offs and colony collapse among bees. They are banned in many countries, but sold in our hardware stores to anyone, just like RoundUp.

    These insecticide soil soaks and soil injections are going on all over to save chosen species (hemlocks, ash, etc.) from “invasive” bugs. Soak the soil, make the whole living tree toxic, including pollen, never mind that these dare necessarily highly soluble and mobile toxics and they cause irreversible nerve damage even with trace exposures. It’s akin to poisoning prairie dogs or coyotes, happening in every watershed, with no regard for downstream or food cycle consequences.

    The USFS used over $140,000 of stimulus money for herbicide applications (as part of NNIS exterminations) on the Chattahoochee National Forest last year, including the headwaters of the Chattahoochee RIver, the smallest watershed serving the greatest number of people in North America. Millions will be drinking the trace residuals. HTe USFS has added time release tablets (BAyer’s CoreTect) to the forest treatment regimen, so reservoirs of poison will be melting into our regions soil and water for a long time.

    These systemic synthetic neurotoxic neonicotinoids are discussed in a new article in press in the Journal of Environmental Immunology and Toxicology, titled “Immune suppression by neonicotinoid insecticides at the root of global wildlife declines”

    …Outbreaks of infectious diseases in honey bees, fish, amphibians, bats and birds in the past two decades have coincided with the increasing use of systemic insecticides, notably the neonicotinoids and fipronil. A link between insecticides and such diseases is hypothesised. Firstly, the disease outbreaks started in countries and regions where systemic insecticides were used for the first time, and later they spread to other countries. Secondly, recent evidence of immune suppression in bees and fish caused by neonicotinoids has provided an important clue to understand the sub-lethal impact of these insecticides not only on these organisms, but probably on other wildlife affected by emerging infectious diseases. While this is occurring, environmental authorities in developed countries ignore the calls of apiarists (who are most affected) and do not target neonicotinoids in their regular monitoring schedules. Equally, scientists looking for answers to the problem are unaware of the new threat that systemic insecticides have introduced in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
    Rosemary Mason, Henk A Tennekes, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, Palle Uhd Jepsen (2012)
    Immune suppression by neonicotinoid insecticides at the root of global wildlife declines. Journal of Environmental Immunology and Toxicology (in press).
    Corresponding Author: Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, PhD. University of Technology Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW AUSTRALIA.

    Great website–great research, writing, and pictures. Please keep it up..I’m sharing links to many others here in Appalachia who know where our water and food comes from and are under grave threat from those that don’t. And our wildlife are on the front lines…

    Webmaster: Thank you for your visit and for you informative comment. We will be in touch with you about writing an article for Million Trees. We can turn this around if we work together to inform the public of the destructive actions being taken in our public lands.

  2. September 20, 2016 3:54 am

    any more recent info?
    No date on your post, but the comment above is from 2012.
    South Africa uses Garlon on invasive Australian aliens, and we used it unwillingly on invasive alien trees in our garden.

    • September 23, 2016 8:28 am

      Put “herbicides”into the search box on this site or click on that category to see many new posts on that subject.

  3. December 16, 2016 8:33 am

    When I was 17 I was working with the DNR in Washington state doing hack and squirt for 3 months with wet gloves from dripping spray bottles. At the end of a work day tobacco tasted too sweet to smoke. Just wondering if that is the reason I’m sterile.


  1. Deforestation: US percentage highest « Save Mount Sutro Forest
  2. Restoration or Destruction? « A Million Trees
  3. Open Letter to the Sierra Club « A Million Trees
  4. Herbicide Subterfuge « A Million Trees
  5. The Sierra Club instructs FEMA « A Million Trees
  6. Pt Reyes Light sheds light on eucalyptus myths and an arborist adds context « A Million Trees
  7. Pt Reyes Light, an Informed Arborist, and Eucalyptus | Save Mount Sutro Forest
  8. Broom: “I’m ba-ack” « Death of a Million Trees
  9. “Mulch Madness” and other restoration mistakes « Death of a Million Trees
  10. “Museumification” of our parks separates children from nature « Death of a Million Trees
  11. “Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art, and Jewish Thought” « Death of a Million Trees
  12. Methods used by land managers to control “invasive” plants | Death of a Million Trees
  13. California Invasive Plant Council sticks to its guns aimed at eucalyptus | Death of a Million Trees
  14. Global increases in biodiversity resulting from new species | Death of a Million Trees
  15. Native Plant “Restorations” Continue to Use Toxic Herbicides | San Francisco Forest Alliance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: