‘Herbicides are NOT the right way to manage our forests,’ Says Letter to the Editor

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Letter to the editorDear Community,

I thank Uri Driscoll and Kym Kemp for bringing to our attention that the National Park Service has teamed up with Monsanto, and is proposing a plan to control the non-native plant species found in our forested watersheds with herbicides.

Herbicides are highly toxic, oil-based, chemicals that are known to persist and accumulate in the environments into which they are released. They also persist and accumulate in fish, animals, and human beings. They even show up in women’s breast milk.

Monsanto is currently in court, battling a class-action lawsuit in which eight hundred people claim that using Monsanto’s herbicides gave them cancer. Monsanto is also fighting a ruling by the State of California, that demands its herbicides are listed as carcinogenic.

Yet, the National Park Service deems it a good idea to plan a wide-scale release of these chemicals into our local forests, our watersheds, our rivers, and our communities?

This plan would immediately and directly threaten the fisheries, Native American and non-native commercial fisheries. The rivers are already in grave condition with record low salmon runs. The state’s baseline use of herbicides is already implicated in degrading these river ecosystems, and their declining fish populations. A plan to release more of these chemicals is mind-boggling.

Incidentally, the use of herbicides also contributes to the state’s decline of wild bee populations, which, in turn, is closely associated with losses in wildflowers.

Herbicides are NOT the right way to manage our forests, and we cannot allow them to be used in our watersheds or near our communities.

Please come to the meeting at the Humboldt Area Foundation on Indianola Road, at 6:30 on Wednesday evening, to voice your concerns.

Please bring your family and friends. Bring the Baykeepers and the Riverkeepers. Bring the Waterprotectors and their allies. Bring the fishers and all the people who love to eat fish. Bring the kayakers and the hikers who love the forest. Bring anyone who thinks that Monsanto has no right to be dumping their chemicals into our watersheds.

Let’s tell the National Park Service, “NO!”

Elisabeth Keesling, in Westhaven



  • This comes as no surprise! While local herb growers are still being demonized for continuing to use best management practices. Land of the sheep home of the slaves.

    • Well it is so easy to place the blame on evil people trying to make a living. I can only think that this is being pushed now so that any ill effects can be blamed on the evil growers and not the actions of our trustworthly goverment. 2 birds one stone. Get the kick back moneies from the large chem folks and place the blame on the land destorying growers , see the evils they have done to the land ? Everything is dead because of growers …..

    • Bring back paraquat!

  • Thank you for this letter.
    How much better use of funding would be to put Real Humans to work in the Forests restoring the health of the streams and the land.
    So easy to solve 2 problems with one program.

    • The problem is money. Herbicides are by far the cheapest way to control unwanted vegetation, which is the logic justifying their use. I’d rather see the Park Service budget increased enough to have people armed with weed whackers and hand tools do this work.

  • Thank you Elizabeth for standing up. You bring up some very good points.
    A good friend of mine came out of the back country with his horse a few decades ago. They both took a drink at the trail head water trough as they had for years. The horse died. My friend got extremely sick. Upstream had been sprayed.
    His case was one of the first brought against the Forest Service. Fortunately he won the case but it didn’t make up for being violently ill, a dead horse and who knows how much wildlife.
    When the Park Service says “trust us” its gonna be a tough sell.

    • based on body weight, this story has a problem. IDLH conditions are also very uncommon after dilution. but the ridiculous amount of Silvex sprayed in our watersheds to combat hardwoods is one of the reasons we need a State of the Art Cancer Center.

      • Horses are extremely vulnerable to toxins because they can’t throw up. What goes in, goes through. And there are a number of substances that they are really sensative to.

        • feel free to google horses and herbicides. or get a degree in toxicology. the commenter is in a conflict of interest with his intentions backwards. he only cares about being able to cruise the beach in his horse and his horse shits a bunch of evasive species on the beach while cruising said beach. this isn’t a big deal to me, but certain individuals want to ban horses on the beach because of it and their failures in general. the war on invasive species is a war we will never ever even come close to winning and will have an ironic outcome I am sure some will regret. but this article is about the forest, which affects our drinking water.

          • This is not just about the forest. This DRAFT plan is about using an increased number of herbicides to try to kill some plants some people think don’t belong where they are. On the beaches, meadows, forests and watersheds.
            If you are saying its ok to kill horses with herbicides there probably is no hope for you. But I agree there is no way to win this “war”.

            • i know what this is about and i am also well aware of your war for beach rights. its not ok to kill anything that leaves a lingering legacy that indiscriminately kills more things but slower. its also not ok to leave your pet’s shit on the ground in a public place.

            • If they own the land they can do what the fuck they want to do it’s theirs and not fucking yours. Quit fucking whinning…

            • To make it clear this was a veternary journal report of 50 horses make ill with 4 who died from an herbicide.

              The second link was a trip down memory lane to when the same herbicide was being used by the government to kill pot grows. And the reason they now show up with shredders instead.

          • Local Observer, ” his horse shits a bunch of evasive species on the beach.”

            Evasive species? That’s a new one, only in Humboldt.
            Scratch the surface of these vegetation removal projects and damn if they aren’t
            directed to please the Monsantos and the Dows. Grow-up Humboldt, stop the
            incessant killing of plants and the use of herbicides. Pickard belongs in jail
            for her assault on our shoreline, that will take generations to recover.

            • your wetlands were created by a manmade structure just like the one created by the rail grade just to the north of you. let it go they aren’t natural. every time the deer shit in my yard a bunch of white flowers that smell like shit grow. they are pretty but they don’t belong in my yard. should I post the shuster photo again for others to see, I already know your eyes can’t see it for what it is?

              • Interesting, which Schuster Photo?
                If the wetlands were “constructed” it doesn’t matter,
                wetlands constructed or otherwise share the same protections.

                If you are referring to the early “Badlands” area from shoreline to
                the paleo-dunes, a desert,
                you’ll erase a wetland habitat, wildlife and stability for what?

                • the best way to search shuster photos is by year starting with “1946” and then select “any of these words”. you get every photo in order of date taken that year, then do the same for the next year.
                  I am all for dune stability with rising seas but I am also a stickler for proper intentions. these wetlands are amazing pacific tree frog habitat. they will slowly fill themselves in anyway.

  • Yes, because poisoning the environment always works out so well…..

  • There is a lot of unsubstantiated claims and miss information in this letter. I have a degree in biology with an emphasis in ecology. Monsanto is certainly motivated primarily by profit and is thus evil, but there is much more to this story. I’ll come back when I have time to comment further.

    • Cool. Because I have that same degree from HSU and it doesn’t mean much. I look forward to your defense of spraying herbicides in our National Parks. So I can use MY fairly useless degree to counter your argument…or perhaps you will have a specific example or two where limited spray was needed and mitigation was possible? Beware- this plan is not about that.

    • kickbacks from a distributer doesn’t seem like much of a story. nepotism could be a sub-story related to the main story.

  • DF&G dumped several thousand gallons of TCE (trichloroethylene) in Davis lake, Plumas Co. in an attempt to kill the Pike. TCE sinks in water, the pike lives near the surface and the trout live near the bottom. long story short they killed the trout and the pike made it to lake Oroville via the middle fork Feather and then the delta. Lake Davis is the drinking water supply for that area. TCE is a know carcinogen, used as solvent in many industrial settings and never previously used to kill fish intentionally. this project was a disaster to say the least and most knew it would be.

  • “They got this shit it’s called the 245-D, it ain’t good for you or for me/ they say to spray it on the trees and the wood, they say it’s gonna make the wood grow good/ but there is one thing that I and I know, poison never helped living things grow”

    Rod Fucking Deal

  • Nothing will be done. No spraying and no hand control of invasive species. Environmentalist will not put their money or labor where their mouth is and company’s can’t afford the labor. ‘Eventually the woods will burn. Then everyone will cry for a few days and point the finger and the cycle will start again.

  • After having read the actual NPS proposal I have to say both this letter writer (Elisabeth Keesling) and the previous one (Uri Driscoll) appear to be utterly clueless about what is actually contained in the proposal.

    The EA clearly documents a strategy of prioritizing invasive species to protect native diversity in high value areas and to focus on the most damaging species with an array of treatment options using herbicides only in limited areas for specific reasons. It does not say they plan on broadcast spraying herbicides all over the forest.

    There are some invasive species that simply cannot be controlled through mechanical (i.e. mowing) or burning though both are techniques being used where they are appropriate, as are goats. Some non-native species just keep coming back unless they are killed with herbicides because of prolific sprouting and widespread rooting. The NPS revegetates the treated areas with native species and under this plan uses an in-depth monitoring and assessment program to evaluate successes and failures and to adapt to new technologies as they come available and as appropriate.

    The rhetoric above is just fear-mongering by people who do not seem to understand basic ecology and certainly fail to grasp invasive species management problems. Stop the hand-wringing and read the actual text of the proposal before jumping to erroneous conclusions. And if you don’t understand the concepts involved, take a class and learn what they are talking about. In particular, learn about the principles of Integrated Pest Management which the NPS is applying to the non-native invasives problem.

    • Who do you trust?

      Yup. Right. The government’s here to help. Has the Park service addressed Uri’s question about what is considered a non native invasive plant? That would be a start. But I think the answer would be an invasive non native is what the government choses it to be- all according to the best science from their grant funded scientistsnat that moment.

      Sorry. It’s for the government to overcome its history of arrogance and violating trust. They have a lovely hearing process on proposals in which, by law, you can give or write your objections to an action. Even if the agents do not treat you as if you were a nuisance at the time, your input will disappear, never to see the light of day again.

      Then the weasel language in every government regulation kicks in and you find that their self imposed limitations are at their discretion and subject to changing of circumstances (or personnel or elections or which politician wants to have their fields treated.) Eventually an employee turns into a whistleblower, the government ends up in court and is ordered to correct their policy. Which they will til someone comes up with another bright idea to reinterprete everything. By then someone has paid the price with losing their crops due to inadvertent overspray or their well’s contaminated or the pond has a fish die off. Or they discover the herbicide sold by government bidding by a company that has contributed to the Senator’s campaign never goes away.

      There is hardly a national park that has not been subject to herbicide spraying yet there is no victory.

      • Uri’s question about what is a non-native invasive has been answered repeatedly in comments, in the EA, and in science in general. That he doesn’t accept the answers speaks more to him not liking the facts than anything else.

        The NPS is managing public land, specifically National Parks. Who else is going to do it? The suggestions above seem to be to do nothing and let ecologically damaging non-native invasive plants simply take over sensitive areas and devestate native diversity.

        • Who do you trust?

          So what is the answer? Which plants? It’s fine to say the question’s been answered but what is the answer?

          Frankly in googling this question it seems there is hardly a national park that is not already using herbacides regularly except where law suits have stopped it. It will never, ever stop and there will always be another plant coming along to be sprayed.

          • If you bother to read the EA put out by the NPS, they actually list all of the plants affecting the parks and their risk and priority for control.

            • The definition that the EA provides for non-native is an “alien” species. That is not a definition it is a synonym.
              There is no clear indication of where a plant becomes native and when it becomes non native. For instance the Monterey Pine is being eradicated 50 miles from the Monterey peninsula because it is not “native” there. The yellow lupine 200 miles from where it is “native” is being torn out. In the BLM’s EA (2002) spartina densiflora was identified as a native plant. A few years later the FWS is spraying it with herbicides and weed wacking it on the bay.
              Let’s bring in climate change. Where are plants and animals (and humans) supposed to go when local conditions no longer support them?
              I have read the EA. I attended their meeting last Wednesday. They do not bother to weigh the actual risks between some of their targeted plants and the herbicides themselves. The NPS basically seems to be itching to be a lot more trigger happy with poisons.

  • I’m going to assume your reading comprehension skills are adequate even if perhaps your education in ecology is a bit sparse. The plan documents a prioritization of the more obnoxious invasive non-natives and indicates the relative risk associated with those species as listed in the California Invasive Species list. It also listed potential herbicides that could be used to target priority species that are not well managed through other methods like goats, mowing, or fire. It lists a variety of herbicides along with the EPA trigger warnings because no one herbicide is universally appropriate for a particular plant species in a particular location.

    They also documented previous successes with removing non-native invasive plants and restoring native species as well as problem species that have not been well handled. No where does it suggest the NPS is itching to spray herbicides willy-nilly all over the landscape to try and poison everything.

    The NPS ecologists and botanists are people who deeply care about the lands they have to take care of and have no desire to “poison” the land. They also have extensive education and training about when and how to make the decisions about which tools are the best for a particular situation given the constraints put on them by laws, policies, regulations, and budgets. I’d wager that they know a veritable shit-ton more than the majority of the commenters about these issues. Even writing that EA required extensive background research and documentation.

    If you are really concerned about herbicides in the environment, look to the essentially unregulated use by homeowners and growers. The amount used by those groups outweighs the planned use by the NPS by several orders of magnitude. And a good bit of that use by non-professionals is either accidentally, or intentionally, a violation of the herbicide labels (which most probably never even read).

    Focus your concern and ire where it will actually do the most good. That isn’t sniping at a fairly small, targeted use for specific ecological reasons by the NPS. Of course, it’s a lot easier to pick at them than at the growers you support or your neighbors.

  • Cy you sound like a midwestern farmer.

    They argue all the time that homeowners are the real danger when it comes to applying toxic chemicals. I think simple maths would disprove their premise instantly (Amount of Land in Agricultural Production vs. Amount of Land in Residential Use). Even if every homeowner applied chemicals at a rate far exceeding guidelines, I doubt this would outweigh the amount used in Ag (even assuming government sanctioned Ag uses chemicals at industry standard rates). Of course, I don’t have any “science” to back this up because nobody is doing these studies.

    Even in the Triangle i doubt marijuana production surpasses other land use if you count all the wilds.

    The problem is when government is allowed to pass a bill that makes institutional the widespread use of toxic chemicals. “Hey look we even have these studies that we payed for that corroborate our thesis.” How can empirical science do anything but verify (validate) near history and the status quo?

    The point is we should reorient ourselves in relation to the changing world in which we live. Do toxic chemicals have negative effects? Are they the only option? Can we do better?

    They spray milkweed in the Midwest. This helps the corn grow but kills butterflies. What do you want more of?

    • The NPS proposal is specific to 2 National Parks with limited areas to treat so there aren’t any plans for the widespread use of herbicides that everyone seems to think is going to happen. No one wants to turn Redwood National Park into a cornfield.

      There are about 40 million acres of lawns in the US and a little under 14 million acres of corn. Ag use of herbicides is regulated, homeowner use is not. Homeowners regularly overuse herbicides (and fertilizers and insecticides) in order to keep their lawns green and “perfect”.

      The Park Service proposal clearly outlines all the alternative methods they plan on using and resorting to herbicides when the other methods are not adequate. Exactly what more do you want from them?

      • Starting what Uri said. What is to considered an invasive non native. If the goal is to recreate a non viable ecosystem, then herbacide use will be unending and will certainly have unintended consequences. It will be a process of ever changing herbicide resistance and more needed.

        I don’t think specific definitions are unreasonable. It helps protect against individual wants being good enough reason to spray.

        • I don’t really know how to make it any clearer than what has been previously stated but I’ll repeat it again. A non-native species is one that evolved in one region/country/ecosystem and was subsequently introduced into a different region/country/ecosystem either purposefully or inadvertently. An invasive non-native is a species that spreads rapidly into non-indigenous ecosystems. This invasion displaces native species and alters ecosystem function, diversity, and resilience. There are a variety of reasons why this happens and not all non-native species are invasive in all ecosystems. Some of the invasive non-native species have the potential for catastrophic ecosystem change (e.g. cheatgrass) that is very difficult, if not impossible to recover from. Which is why most land management folks try to contain and control the invasives before they have a chance to spread too far. Non-native invasive species cause billions in economic damage worldwide and have caused the extinction of species. Hence all the effort to try and control them and restore ecosystem diversity and resilience whenever possible.

          Is that clear enough?

          • No. A clear plan is the NPS “will be using X herbicide on Y dates to eliminate Z plant, which has invaded (whatever) percentage of this area.” A plan that says “herbicides will be used in up to 40% of park lands to reduce (not specified) invasive plants when ever we deem the conditions are right” is a carte blanche.

            It’s unfortunate that experts have to explain repeatedly and precisely to the non expert but that is (or should be) life in PUBLIC service. A real PITA. And I hope that’s what happens. I have circled the NPS documents online and came away with virtually nothing. But that is typical of the attitude where agencies are forced by law to have public meetings but not required go do other than shine on in them. The less precise they are and the less real information they give, the less they have to be bothered with the public.

            So give a link that says other than they plan to spray for any plant appearing on a national all inclusive list any time they want with any government approved herbacide in maybe up to 60% of the parks.

          • If as you say a non-native species is one that evolved somewhere else you would have to include any species that have evolved period. Species need to migrate to evolve. I hope you understand that. Migrating involves entering different regions. Climate is a significant element in those migrations. BTW you would have to define “region ” also. (see plight of the Monterey Pine above)
            You seem to be saying if a plant someone doesn’t like was introduced by another member of the human species then it is evil and needs to be terminated by some of the nastiest shit man has come up with. The other problem with your argument is that you have not addressed Time. In other words how long does a species have to be in a “region” to get the native sticker applied.
            This plan is about being able to put more poisons on our land. And I think the reasoning behind it is pretty flawed.

            • “Species need to migrate to evolve. ”

              No they don’t. I think part of the problem is that you don’t really understand the mechanisms behind speciation and natural selection or the length of time it takes for significant evolution to generally occur. Something doesn’t magically become native to an ecosystem simply because it has been there for a few years. Non-native species that have become widely established for years are often label “naturalized” but they do not become “native” in any human time-frame. “Invasive” simply implies that the species is spreading aggressively into new areas where it did not previously exist.

              I am trying to make clear that I view native assemblages in our ecosystems have value worth maintaining and the native biodiversity is worth preserving when and where it is possible. We know that keeping native biodiversity maintains ecosystem integrity, resilience, and function and we know that non-native species can drastically alter these processes with repercussions to native vertebrate and invertebrate species including extinction events.

              • You still have not answered the basic questions.
                What is native?
                How long does it take (in years) for a plant or animal living in a region to become native?
                What is a region?
                Is a region larger for one species than another?
                Is man required to establish and maintain regional boundaries with pesticides?
                I am trying to make clear how fuzzy these nativist theories are and how dangerous protecting the undefinable philosophy of nativism can be. Especially with poisons and bulldozers.

                • I have answered your question, multiple times, as clearly as I can. It’s a viewpoint backed up by decades of science and understanding about how ecosystems work and how we fuck them up. Invasive species are major fuck-ups in many cases and controlling the outbreaks does ecological good. Wishing them away doesn’t work and neither does ignoring them, much as you apparently think we should. I’m not ready to write off the biodiversity of the planet just yet though with more viewpoints like yours, it gets harder and harder to maintain.

  • With all due respect actually you haven’t answered these questions. You have only pretended that you are so much smarter than the rest of us.
    I am not at all against biodiversity it is just that nativism simply does not have the common sense element it needs.
    You know and I know that there is no way to stop evolution and migration. We need to be looking at what these “non-native invasive” species are doing. You seem to think they are evil. I tend to think many of them have a place. Two examples. Beach grass and Jubuta grass.
    Beach grass is holding our dunes together and protect other species from wind and erosion. It also helps create extensive wetlands. (Pickart) Also after it stabilizes the sand the grass loses vigor and other “native” plants move in. Take a long walk on the dunes and you will see what I mean. I would even go with you.
    Jubuta grass while kind of obnoxious also helps stabilize hillsides. Once trees are able to establish themselves they shade out the grass and we get a forest. I think both of those things are worth looking at.
    Add to the fact that it takes very high concentrations of herbicides to kill these two plants we end up with collateral damage that can be a bad problem.
    Bottom line is the difference between letting some of these species fill a niche or hammer the habitat with herbicides. I think we would be better off planting trees in some of these places rather than swinging a bigger hammer.

  • Uri– I don’t mean to be insulting but I have clearly defined what a native species is and why I think it’s important to reduce or remove non-native plants with a high potential for ecological change and spread.

    Leaving an invasive non-native means it will continue to spread (that’s kind of the definition of invasive) and many of these areas will maintain a near mono-culture type. I’ve had students do comparisons of diversity between Ammophila areas and where it’s been removed and there is a distinct increase diversity in removal zones, not only for the plants but for invertebrates as well.

    And you (and others) continually overstate how much herbicide is going to be used. A targeted application at the right time can be much less disruptive to the remaining ecosystem function than simply leaving the non-native plants alone.

    • spraying on sand is just dumb. last year they sprayed in October just before it rained which means chemicals made it to the groundwater below as there is very little carbon in the sand for the compounds to bond to. the locations sprayed on Woodley Island years ago are still obviously poisonous, feel free to look at them over the years on GE or go walk them.

  • Cy or who ever you are, You cannot define “native”. To be fair it cannot be defined. And yes you do mean to be insulting.
    You are clearly overstating the impacts of these species you want to call non-native invasive. And for some reason think that bulldozing or spraying them with herbicides is the answer.
    You do not know how much herbicide will be used and as the NPS people said this is meant to be used as a template for other parks so it could easily mean a lot more than just Redwood National and Sonoma Parks. So please don’t say I am over stating the potential use.
    Your studies that you have had your students do did not take into account the fact that ammophila has created living habitat areas that were once naked wave slopes. Yes ammophila is dominant on the harshest part of the beach but if you look at the inboard side of the foredunes in many areas you will see driftwood that had washed ashore and now has ammophila, native plants and emergent wetlands.
    You should not be teaching anything about dune ecology if you do not see this. If you need help seeing this I will be glad to take a walk with you and your students if you are not to threatened by another perspective.
    Please don’t try to tell me the futile efforts to remove ammophila has helped the Snowy plover.

    • Uri — Please don’t take this the wrong way but you are a blithering fucking idiot on this topic. For some reason you’ve come to the conclusion that your complete lack of formal education on the subject somehow qualifies you as an expert while people with decades of education, experience, research, and insight are somehow clueless. Your position kind of reminds me of Trump’s views on climate change. The native dunes were meant to move. That’s what they did. Stabilizing them changed the ecology — which is what we mean when we say non-native invasives like Ammophila have severe ecosystem impacts. Trying to save a small bit of the natural processes is all people are trying to do with the National Parks and is in fact what the parks were established to do. Herbicides are just one small tool they are trying to use along with a lot of other non-herbicide tools and you are painting them as agents of Monsanto who want to destroy the planet. Stop the hyperbole and use some common sense.

      • “People with decades of education, experience, research, and insight” ? “Your complete lack of formal education on the subject?” Where have I heard that sentiment before? Oh. Right. Just before something goes really, really wrong. From MTBE to nuclear power to wildfire policy to Y2K , some educated ideas have gone spectacularly wrong. And I can hear a chorus of “But the science said…”

        Anyone whose criteria for judgement includes a dearly held idea that a degree conveys infallibility or the right to dismiss everyone not so endowed is doomed to make very bad errors and hold on to them as they go over a cliff. You might think it. That’s only a very human emotion. But to say it is an embarassment.

  • Who is the “expert” in this subject Cy or who ever you are?
    The fact that you can’t even identify yourself shows that you are not. Add to the fact that your form of “education” seems to be upping the insults every time you talk down at those of us who challenge your indefensible point of view.
    If it is true that you are some sort of teacher, that’s what we have to worry about.
    Back to the subject at hand. If you don’t feel threatened I would be happy to take your students on a walk in the dunes and show them what I have learned from my extensive research and observation. If you do feel threatened then I won’t expect to hear from you and you might think about taking up a different line of work.

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