Friday, January 7, 2011

Action group begins fight for pesticide-free public lands

Pesticide Action Network asks Ketchum to adopt weed-management plan


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

Grazing goats can be used, as seen here, as an alternative to chemical pesticides for controlling the spread of weeds. Photo by Mountain Express

A local action group has asked Ketchum officials to abstain from using pesticides for weed control on public lands—a request it will soon make to other local governments.

"The responsibility to control weeds is a very real one," said Kathryn Goldman, campaign director for the fledgling Pesticide Action Network, "but it can be done without chemicals."

Goldman told the City Council on Monday that her organization is working to implement a valley-wide pesticide-free weed management plan, starting with Ketchum, and followed by other Wood River cities, county government, Blaine County School District and Blaine County Recreation District in January and early February.

The organization is also asking the governments to institute a notification policy requiring anyone who's spraying pesticides on their land to notify their neighbors.

"We want people to know where they're used so they can take precautions," she said.

Goldman said the main reason for the request is to protect children who are, for several reasons, at greater risk to complications from pesticide exposure.

Studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—available on its website epa.gov/peseticides—suggest that children are more likely to have adverse reactions to pesticides because their internal organs are still developing and pesticides can interfere.

"There are 'critical periods' in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual's biological system operates," the EPA asserted in a January 2002 report.

Plus, children may be exposed to pesticides more than adults because of their behaviors, such as playing on the floor or on the lawn where pesticides are commonly applied, or putting objects in their mouths. The EPA reports the adverse effects of pesticide exposure as ranging from mild symptoms of dizziness and nausea to serious, long-term neurological, developmental and reproductive disorders.

The Pesticide Action Network stated that it wants to start by eliminating pesticide use on school lawns, parks and other public places, such as along the paved Wood River Trail bicycle path stretching the length of the Wood River Valley.

Jennifer Smith, director of Ketchum's Parks and Recreation Department, said the city "very rarely" uses pesticides, and not in places prone to attracting playing children, such as rights of way along roads. She said Hemingway Elementary School also contracts the department to take care of its lawn, and it uses the same practices there. Smith said the department instead reverts to weed pulling and "soil amendment," meaning keeping the soil healthy to prevent weeds from taking hold.



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