By Megan Dunn, Policy and Programs Director
NCAP is excited to be part of the Washington SSB 5597 Aerial Herbicide Application in Forestlands Work Group. As NCAP's Policy and Programs Director, I serve as one of three environmental representatives invited to join the work group.
Purpose of the Work Group
The work group was created by the 2019 Washington legislature to “review all existing best management practices and, if necessary, develop recommendations for improving the best management practices for aerial application of herbicides on state and private forestlands.” NCAP will be fighting for solutions that can offer protections for residents in forested areas and protections for our water and wildlife, including salmon species.
Visiting a Working Forest in Deer Park, Washington
For the work group's meeting on September 6, 2019, I traveled with the group to see a working forest in Eastern Washington and stages of clear cut and aerial herbicide applications. Participants visited three different locations on private land to see the results of aerial spraying applied several months ago, one year ago and three to five years ago. The host site and company shared how they manage forests and use pesticides in order to replant for an average 35-40 year harvest.
The area of Deer Park we visited burned in 2015 with the Carpenter Fire. In the photo at the top of the page, you can see dry dead land in the front, a portion that did not burn and greener growth to the back after being sprayed 3 years ago and replanted. In the center is a creek which is not directly sprayed but water is not tested for drift pollution.
The company harvests and sprays using aerial applications in stages like a checkerboard. This allows wildlife to move about the forest as it regrows in stages. But not all companies even provide this allowance for wildlife.
An Alternate Approach
We also heard a different perspective from Cory, a workshop representative from a local tribe that depends on forestry for income. They have a 100 year timeline and consider grazing, clean air and water, the ecosystem and salmon, slope stability, and cultural foraging. As a result, the tribal council banned aerial applications almost 30 years ago.
After about three hours in the field, we returned to the fire station to have a public recap, listen to public comment and share next steps and future agenda items. Touring the eastern part of the state was important for information gathering and to see dry forest areas, as opposed to the more temperate rain forest areas that are on the west side of the state.
Our goal in this work group is to raise awareness about the community and environmental impacts of pesticide use and exposure, and to offer a unique perspective to encourage ecologically and scientifically sound alternatives to harmful pesticides. We recognize the importance of working forests for the local and state economies, while cautioning that pesticides are dangerous for workers, residents and wildlife. They are inadequately tested and not tested in combination with other chemical exposure. We will work to provide balance in the final report and advocate for recognition that relying on pesticides for working forests brings unnecessary risks. We will provide technical assistance on policy recommendations that recognize an ecosystem approach to forest management.