Timber Industry Response to Oregonian Article

Posted on: October 24th, 2014

by Arwen McGilvra

Oregon Forest Industries Council From our friends at Oregonians for Food & Shelter and Oregon Forest Industries Council – Download the report here. Download the report here. (PDF)

In profiling the use of herbicides in Oregon’s forestry sector, two recent stories in The Oregonian (Story 1, Story 2) took great pains to sensationalize the practice by using extreme cases of negligence in application.  The safe and lawful use of herbicides in forestry – detailed below – is as vital to protecting young plants as it is for any farmer.  We take safety and the law seriously and fully support state action against anyone who violates the law.

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, forest landowners are responsible for 4.2 percent of all pesticides used every year in Oregon.  Among all pesticides used in Oregon for any purpose, the forest sector generally uses only herbicides.  These herbicides are some of the same type sold to homeowners for use in residential property.

Why are herbicides used in forestry?

The Oregon Forest Practices Act requires re-planting of new trees within 2 years of harvest and these new trees must be “free to grow” within 6 years.  When planting after harvest, forest landowners sometimes use herbicides to control weeds, brush and invasive species that compete with new trees for sunlight, nutrients, and water.

Without herbicides, these new trees may not survive and, by law, landowners must replant trees until they grow successfully.  Once new trees are strong enough to survive on their own, herbicides are seldom used again.  While homeowners often use herbicides on lawns yearly, forest landowners may only use them for 2 years in an area and then not for another 40-80 years.

A serious and growing problem for successful reforestation and productive forests is native and non-native invasive plant species on forestlands, thus herbicide use is an important management option.

Where are herbicides used?

It varies depending on local conditions.  In the Coast Range they may be used up to three or four times over that short span when new trees need help to survive.  In the Cascade Range they may not be used at all, or perhaps once or twice.  Slower-growing forest stands in eastern Oregon don’t receive herbicide treatment as often as forests on the west side.  Herbicide applications are expensive; therefore, landowners limit their use to meet management objectives.

What laws govern herbicide applications in forestry?

The Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) governs the use of all herbicides according to federally-approved labels.  The herbicide labels carry the full force of federal law.  FIFRA is administered and strictly enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Department of Agriculture

In addition, all herbicide use must comply with Oregon’s Pesticide Control Act, and applications in forests must be conducted in accordance with the Oregon Forest Practices Act and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) chemical rules.  Oregon law states clearly that a person is prohibited from applying pesticides in a “faulty, careless, or negligent manner” or in a manner “inconsistent with its labeling.”

Labels for the most commonly used herbicides prohibit application directly to water or to areas where surface water is present.  They also prohibit application in a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift.  ODF’s chemical rules require “no-spray” buffers around most streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands.

Oregon law gives these restrictions teeth by applying both civil and criminal penalties to any violation.  Taken as a whole, these laws ensure the safety of neighboring landowners and Oregon’s waters.

Extremists Cause Rift in Rural Oregon Community

Posted on: July 16th, 2013

by Marie Bowers

Out highway 36 in the community of Triangle Lake, just West of Junction City, Oregon, has been in turmoil for the last four years.

In early 2010, a group in the area known as the “Pitchfork Rebellion” made accusations that they were being exposed to toxic levels of chemicals by aerial applicators. The area is heavily forested and has quite a bit of commercial timberland. The group claimed when the trees were sprayed they were getting sick.

Pitchfork Rebellion at Triangle Lake

Demonstrators at a May 28th community meeting

The Pitchfork Rebellion took it upon themselves to have their urine analyzed. They took their own samples and sent it off to a lab. The results came back at somewhat high levels of 2,4D and Atrazine. Oregon’s Pesticide Analytical Response Center (PARC) opened an investigation, which the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is co-chair of and headed the Exposure Investigation.

Participating agencies in PARC include: OHA, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ODF, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and consultants from the Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU).

In late summer to early fall of 2011 the investigators were on the ground in the West Lane County community. They took urine samples from several community members as well as water, soil & homegrown food.

Finally in May 2013 the OHA released its Public Health Assessment on the exposure investigation.

I attended on May 28th a community meeting to review the results of the investigation. The meeting was quite interesting and the community open forum part of the meeting was intense and rather hostile at times. Watch on YouTube HERE, at 1:40 the open forum starts.

The results showed that there was some exposure of 2, 4D and atrazine however, not at levels concern and not different from the general U.S. population. No levels of toxicity were detected.

The oddest part of the “study” though was that they included the self-collected data from the Pitchfork Rebellion. They had no way of knowing what methods or protocol the group followed in collecting samples. The self-collected samples ironically contained the highest levels of pesticides in the urine.

They compared the sample-collected dates to the spray date records in the area. Out of 13 urine samples with pesticides and there had been no pesticides applied in that time frame of data collection. As the lead OHA investigator said it is a “real head scratcher” .

As of this moment there is a public comment period on the report. It is open until August 9th. The long-time members of the community are asking for the investigation to end since the it has indicated there is no risk from aerial spraying.

However the Pitchfork Rebellion is asking for more samples taken, including air samples. They are demanding a moratorium on aerial spraying until the study is completed.

I would encourage all members of Oregon Women for Agriculture to visit the Oregon Healthy Authority’s site. Read the full report and please send your comments to OHA by August 9th.

The community of Triangle Lake and our friends in forestry need our support. One group making wild accusations towards farmers & foresters in a somewhat remote part of Oregon does not mean it is an isolated or one time event. It could be yours or my community next. We must protect our right to Farm & Forest.

Pitchfork Rebellion at Triangle Lake

Demonstrators at May 28th Triangle Lake Community Meeting

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