Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
Claiming to "reforest a burn area," the Forest Service's massive herbicide treatments will kill back a healthy oak forest where pines and cedars are scattered amidst native wildflowers, brush, and groundcovers that have re-grown in the 17 years since the fire. The agency claims that reforestation will develop pine trees to benefit the California spotted owl and other old growth dependent wildlife, and will justify the destruction of food, shelter, nesting materials, birthing areas and over-winter cover for numerous species. The spraying will also pollute streams and creeks in a forest that is especially significant to the basket weavers and other members of the Me-Wuk Indians.
"The Larson Fire burned in 1987, and the Forest Service never got around to reforesting the area, said John Buckley, of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center. "In the meantime, nature did the job, with literally thousands of oaks, dogwoods, alders, and maples now dominating the site. Now, the Forest Service wants to wipe out 17 years of recovery and put the area back to the point just after the fire, so they can plant row after row of ponderosa pines."
Of several forest management options under consideration for the Larson Burn, forest service officials elected to spray glyphosate herbicides by helicopter on nearly 1,200 acres, and apply both glyphosate and triclopyr in ground spray on another 4,000 acres. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has termed glyphosate "extremely persistent" with U.S. field tests measuring half-lives longer than 100 days. The herbicide has been found in streams following agricultural, urban, and forestry applications. Despite the fact that the U.S. EPA placed glyphosate in a category of "non-carcinogenicity for humans" two studies have linked glyphosate with increased risks of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In studies with farmers, glyphosate use has also been associated with increased risk of neurological development effects, miscarriages and premature birth. Triclopyr has not been sufficiently studied to determine human toxicity and has been found to be moderately toxic to fish.
The spraying is expected to begin this fall and continue for years. Vivian Parker, biologist for the California Indian Basketweavers Association anticipates significant harm to wildlife, "If restrictions are necessary to protect livestock, such as periods of time that must elapse before livestock are allowed into a sprayed area, what about wildlife? How can wildlife be restricted from "entering" a sprayed area?"
In 2003, the Stanislaus National Forest sprayed 25,277 pounds of herbicides on tree plantations, more than five times the amount used by the Eldorado National Forest (which sprayed 4,263 lbs), the second highest herbicide user of all national forests in California. The Shasta-Trinity, the Klamath, Six Rivers, Mendocino, Modoc, Lassen, and Plumas National Forests are all big timber producing forests that do not use herbicides on tree plantations.
The Forest Service will spend about $6 million on the Larson Reforestation Project, at a time when taxpayers' dollars are insufficient to pay for schools, roads, and other vital needs. For that sum, a plant-killing chemical mist will repeatedly descend upon the rejuvenating Larson Burn, transforming a public forest into a tree plantation for the ultimate benefit of the timber industry.
Sources: Press Release, July 14, 2004, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, http://www.cserc.org/; Press Release, July 14, 2004, California Indian Basketweavers Association, http://www.ciba.org; Garry, V. 2002. "Birth defects, season of conception, and sex of children born to pesticide applicators living in the Red River Valley of
Contact: Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, (209) 586-7440; California Indian Basketweavers Association, email@example.com; PANNA.