San Francisco Herbicides 2015: Why Better Isn’t Good Enough

SF Natural Areas Pesticide by Active Ingredient 2008-2015 sm

NAP’s pesticide usage is down again in 2015

We have some nearly good news. After years of increasing pesticide until 2014, the 2015 data shows Natural Areas Program (NAP) again used less herbicides than in the year before – though they applied it more often. The volume of herbicide used was the smallest amount since 2010, but the number of applications the highest since 2008 (the earliest data we have).

So why isn’t this good enough?

  • The main reason is the growing consensus that herbicides are more toxic than the manufacturers claim. Roundup (glyphosate), long regarded as a “safe” pesticide (though not by us – we wrote about the worrisome scientific data HERE and HERE) has been declared a probable carcinogen. Herbicides don’t have a place in our parks where they could impact people – especially those who have reasons to worry about their toxic load – children, who are more sensitive because of their size and fast growth, and pets. People just don’t want any herbicides in our parks, especially in “Natural Areas.”
  • SF Natural Areas Program Number of pesticide applicns 2008-2015 sm

    But the number of applications is up.

    The second is that though NAP has reduced the amount of herbicides they use, they have considerably increased the number of applications. This means that park-goers have a higher probability of encountering pesticide use.

  • Some of these pesticides remain in the soil and environment for months, even years, after application. Imazapyr’s breakdown product is a neurotoxin. Many of the Natural Areas are on high ground, or in watersheds, and poisons applied there can spread unpredictably.
  • NAP used a dispropotionately large amount of the most toxic herbicides compared with all of SF Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD):
    • 35% of the Roundup (glyphosate);
    • 80% of the Garlon (triclopyr) and
    • nearly 100% of the Stalker (imazapyr) and Milestone (aminopyralid).

GARLON USAGE: TOXIC AND UNNECESSARY

A case in point is Garlon (triclopyr). This is one of the most toxic herbicides permitted on city-owned properties, with a Tier I (Most Hazardous) rating.

Photo credit: Badjonni (Creative Commons - Flickr)

Photo credit: Badjonni (Creative Commons – Flickr)

NAP is the most regular user of Garlon, mainly to poison yellow oxalis.  In 2015, it accounted for 80% of the Garlon used by SFRPD.They are trying to reduce usage with a new surfactant (the stuff used to dilute the herbicide and let it spread better), CMR Silicone Surfactant. We are unsure whether this is an improvement but will research it further. The Label is here: Cmr_Silicone_Surfactant_(0198050402)_Label

If NAP stopped trying to poison oxalis each spring, Garlon could be removed from the approved list of pesticides. Instead, they used Garlon five times in December, on Twin Peaks, Glen Canyon, Mount Davidson, and McLaren Park. These are places where children and pets could easily encounter the herbicide.

coyote pouncing in oxalis field - copyright Janet Kessler

There’s no need to battle oxalis. It’s beloved by children, attractive to bees and butterflies, useful to other wildlife in the food chain, and a valuable plant that improves the soil for grasses. Moreover, it disappears after its flowering period is over. There is no evidence that it adversely affects other plants in what is essentially a non-native grassland.

ROUNDUP, THE PROBABLE CARCINOGEN

Roundup is the most commonly used pesticide in our parks, and NAP uses a disproportionate amount. It applied Roundup over 70 times in 2015, and the volume used was more than in 2014. We would have expected that after the World Health Organization finding, NAP would stop using this herbicide. It appears not.

The problem is that NAP targets a lot of plant species it considers invasive – at the last count, around three dozen different species. Unless it changes its objectives, it will always need herbicides – Roundup, Stalker/ Polaris, Milestone VM, Garlon 4 Ultra. If it reduces one, there’s a temptation to increase another.

GETTING RID OF HERBICIDES IN NATURAL AREAS

San Francisco can get rid of herbicides in natural areas. It will mean a change in the mindset of land managers. Non-native plants are valuable in wild places for their ecological benefits – carbon capture, wildlife habitat and food, soil enrichment and erosion prevention among others. If we must create native plant gardens, they should be small enough that they can be managed by manual gardening. Though we have issues with what UCSF is doing in Sutro Forest, in one matter they have a clear win: No pesticides have been used there since 2008, and UCSF have committed not to use any herbicides in Sutro Forest. That includes the native plant garden on the summit.

SFRPD REDUCES HERBICIDE USAGE IN 2015

SFRPD Pesticides (ex Harding and NAP) 2013-15SFRPD reduced its herbicide usage in 2015 as well. The numbers for 2014 were exceptionally high because of large amounts of Tier I pesticides used in the Kezar Stadium renovation, and mistakenly in Gleneagles Golf Course. Without those two factors, usage would have declined in 2014 and been nearly flat in 2015.

A word about Greenmatch and Avenger. These are based on lemongrass oil, or what is called a “botanical.” It’s actually considered acceptable for organic gardening. However, it’s classified as Tier II because it can cause allergic reactions in its undiluted form.

KEZAR STADIUM TIER I USE CONTINUES

The renovation of Kezar Stadium has used a lot of Tier I herbicide.

  • In November and December 2014, they used 208 fluid ounces of Drive XLR8 for turf renovation. This was a one-off Tier I pesticide use, and may have been associated with bird deaths in the area.
  • In February 2015, they used 320 fluid ounces of Fiesta, also classified as Tier I, followed by 24 ounces of Aquamaster (which was subsequently classified as Tier I).
  • In June 2015, they used 16 ounces of Turflon (triclopyr), also Tier I and one of the few times any SFRPD department but NAP used triclopyr.

They have also used some Tier III herbicides – actinovate and fosphite – which we presume are a lot less toxic. (Edited to Add: They are not included in the graph above for that reason.)

Report on San Francisco Pesticides Meeting – Next is Jan 11, 2016

On January 11th, 2016  the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDoE) will hold its Policy Committee meeting , to review the rules about which pesticides may be used on city-owned properties (the “reduced risk” list). If pesticide use in our public parks worries you, this will be an opportunity to comment. The meeting is in in City Hall room 421, at 5 p.m. on January 11th 2016.

Spraying pesticides in Glen Canyon March 2013

We think the SF DoE has been attempting to reduce pesticide use. Nevertheless, we still have concerns, which we addressed in a series of recent articles (click on the titles to read the articles).

parent and child with oxalisTHE NATURAL AREAS PROBLEM

SF Recreation and Parks Department continues to use hazardous pesticides such as Roundup (glyphosate), Garlon (triclopyr), Stalker (imazapyr) and Milestone (amino-pyralid) – especially in areas managed by the Natural Areas Program (NAP). These are all Tier II (More Hazardous) or Tier I (Most Hazardous) pesticides. NAP is the most frequent user of Garlon, primarily against yellow oxalis.

The proposed new guidelines will still permit Natural Areas to use Tier I pesticides.

In a discussion papers for the  meeting, Natural Areas are given the highest priority for toxic pesticide use – on par with airports, golf courses, and inaccessible roadway medians. You can see that document here: justifying toxic herbicide use 2016.

dog and frisbeeThe argument is that its risk is low:  “for public due to inaccessibility, dispersal of treatments; low for environment due to dispersed treatments.” This is not true: The Natural Areas are widely used by joggers, hikers, and families with children and pets. Many dog-play areas are in natural areas. And many areas are repeatedly sprayed. Regular users of the parks see pesticide notices quite often. And much of the spraying is on slopes where the pesticides can contaminate watersheds and communities. Many of them are both persistent and mobile in the soil.

REPORT ON EARLIER MEETING IN DECEMBER 2015

The January 11 meeting is the second of three annual meetings. The first, held on December 16th, 2015, was a hearing to get public comment. Nearly everyone opposed to the use of Tier I and even Tier II pesticides in our parks. (The only exception was Jake Sigg, considered the doyen of the native plant movement in San Francisco, who wanted fewer restrictions. Of which more later.)

The meeting ran two and a half hours. An audio recording of the meeting is HERE.

SF DoE made a presentation showing that pesticide use had dropped sharply since 1992, when Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was first implemented. They admitted that their early data may not be complete or accurate, and recent data is much better.

Other points:

  • Roundup has been changed to a Tier I (Most Hazardous) rating from  Tier II (More Hazardous).
  • They’re reducing Roundup amounts per application by changing to a new type of sprayer nozzle that gives better coverage and more targeting.
  • SFRPD is working to reduce usage of Garlon, routinely used by the Natural Areas Program against oxalis, (the pretty yellow flower that children love to nibble). (It’s even more toxic than Roundup.) They noted that a new surfactant should allow them to use less Garlon, and anyway, there was now less oxalis to fight. [However, the very next day, Mount Davidson was being sprayed with Garlon for oxalis.]
  • SF DoE is no longer permitting any use of neonicotinoids (“Neo-nics”), a kind of pesticide that is dangerous to bees and possibly other insect life.
  • No pesticide use within 15 feet of paths, except for poison oak and hazardous trees.
  • No Tier I pesticide for strictly cosmetic use, or on playgrounds.
  • Spikes in pesticide usages (e.g. SF RPD’s spike in 2013) are related to golf tournaments. SF DoE is working to reduce Harding Park’s usage of pesticides. [Harding Park Golf Course, managed under contract by the PGA Tour, uses a lot of pesticide to stay “tournament ready.”]

PUBLIC COMMENT AT THE DECEMBER 2015 HEARING

There was extensive public comment at the hearing. The main themes:

 1) Tier I pesticides should not be used in public parks.  “I would feel safer for myself, my children, my pets if we just didn’t use pesticides,” said one speaker. Many of the speakers also felt Tier II pesticides should be prohibited as well. Said another: “Quit using my tax dollars to poison me and my pets.” Another speaker, who is a long-term resident of the city and an African-American community activist talked about the health hazards of pesticide use and said, “San Francisco is better than this. We’re not living up to what we have been, what we are.” A speaker who is HIV-positive and has a beautiful golden retriever service dog, said, “I worry about my health and my dog’s health. I live down in Mission Bay, where they spray Aquamaster all the time. Monsanto’s own website says dogs should not be allowed in contact with glyphosate.” Another speaker attributed her dog’s death to Roundup.

Only one speaker favored more pesticide. Jake Sigg, trivializing the risks of pesticides in pursuit of open grasslands, said: “I wish I’d brought pictures of San Bruno Mountain where they sprayed whole mountainsides of oxalis.”  He favored fewer restrictions on their use: “I hate to hear all this unwarranted fear about herbicides. I was a gardener all my life, and I’ve used herbicides and I’m 88 now. I’ve used a lot of them, and it would seem if they’re really that bad I would have problems now! Requiring gardeners to wear Tyvek suits sends the wrong message, it’s like you’re applying some dangerous chemical. Most of these herbicides are not that dangerous.” 

Natural Areas Program pesticide notice2) Better notices are needed. Pesticide applications should be prominently noted both before and after pesticides use. However, the notices are on trails or on the perimeter of the park, making it impossible to know where exactly they have been applied.  Other times, the notices are inconspicuous. One commenter – who is an HIV survivor and regularly walks in parks with his service dog, a golden retriever – said he only realized pesticides were being used when he actually saw workers spraying. The notice was inconspicuously posted on a pole that bore dog-control notices.

3) Which plants are of value to the community? The new guidelines provide for pesticide use to kill plants that threaten plants “of value to the community.” This seemed to imply native plants under the Natural Areas Program. But many non-native plants like blackberry and oxalis are valued by the community while many native plant are not. How can the SF DoE accept claims from native plant advocates that their preferences override others’ values? “What is the community and who decides?” asked one speaker.

4) Enforcement: What are the repercussions for abusing or violating guidelines? Commenters were skeptical about monitoring or enforcement.  There were apparently no consequences for violating pesticide use guidelines. One speaker said she was told that pesticide use in Natural Areas was limited spot application – but then she saw recent video of a worker spraying blackberry bushes along a wide area of trail. Another reported seeing pesticide spraying along the banks of Mission Creek and in parks where young children practice soccer. “Nothing is going to change with new guidelines – 20 different land managers will apply it different. How can you stop someone from misusing the guidelines? What are the repercussions when there’s abuse?”

Some of the other  comments:

  • The 15-foot rule is not enough. No one knows what a designated trail is – parks are full of social trails that people use all the time.  Also people do not stay on trails – they explore, especially kids.
  • The playground rule isn’t enough. What’s the difference between a playground and a park when kids play in both places? And we want kids to play outdoors in the parks.
  • SFRPD is not credible about environmental responsibilities. For example, the Natural Areas Program is in full swing despite EIR not yet certified.
  • Anti-tree bias. When the PUC asked for an exemption to treat eucalyptus trees with a chemical (Bonide Sucker-Punch) to prevent suckering after a stem was removed because it intruded in the right of way, SF DoE has instead asked PUC to remove the entire tree and then treat the stump with toxic herbicides to poison its root system. “Why is SF DoE encouraging the complete destruction of eucalyptus trees when only some of their branches are in the way?
  • SF DoE and the IPM program has done a good job reducing rodenticide use, and thus the poisoning of predators who feed on poisoned rodents.  When rat poison must be used for human safety, procedures should be in place to collect the poisoned rodents.
  • Children are especially vulnerable to pesticides. One speaker said: “Today I went with my child’s nursery school, about thirty 3- and 4-year-olds walking through Glen Canyon, and every single one of those kids was picking sourgrass [oxalis] and eating it.”  What should have been an interaction bringing the children closer to nature instead made her nervous because she was worried about Garlon on the oxalis.
  • People strongly oppose pesticide use. A petition against toxic pesticides in our parks now has over 11,000 signatures. [You can sign it HERE if you have not already done so.]
  • Exemptions for “needed objectives” – e.g. Natural Areas – are the problem. Deploying hundreds of workers is not the solution. We need to change the objectives. While 88-year-old Jake Sigg has not been affected by pesticides, others may be adversely affected depending on age, exposure, and chemical sensitivities. NAP applies Tier I and Tier II pesticides on 36 different species of plants. Natural areas cover over 1000 acres.
  • Because of kikuyu weed in Mission Bay, workers spray pesticides on the banks of Mission Creek, a place with abundant birdlife, and in the park close to paths and play areas. This is a place where 4 year-olds learn soccer.
  • Though it’s stated that pesticides are used as a “last resort” – “Last resort” happens all the time, with over 100 applications. 
  • It’s not just Roundup (glyphosate) which is a problem. Garlon (triclopyr) is even more toxic. Stalker/ Polaris (imazapyr) persists for over a year, and moves around in the soil. Milestone (aminopyralid) is so persistent that if an animal eats it and poops it out, the poop still contains active herbicide. All these herbicides are used by the Natural Areas Program.
  • No exemptions are needed. They should prohibit the use of Tier I and Tier II. Sharp Park doesn’t use herbicides even on poison oak. Medians can be dealt with by closing a lane of traffic.
  • Contractors are allowed to experiment with new chemicals – but this should be done with extreme caution.
  • The land managers should co-ordinate with park users before applying herbicides. In 2010 a Clapper Rail – a federally endangered waterbird [now known as the Ridgeway’s Rail] – showed up in Heron’s Head park. A year later, 2011, mated and produced two chicks that became juveniles. Nine months later, with no discussion with park users or the birding community, imazapyr was sprayed to remove cordgrass – and then the Clapper Rail was gone. [The Million Trees blog did a story about this, HERE ]
  • NAP sprays imazapyr under trees – which would damage them – despite the contrary instructions from the company itself. Either NAP is not obliged to follow company instructions, or they actually want to damage the trees – much like when they girdled thousands of trees in San Francisco.
  • SF DoE must recognize the stories of people here, they’re heart-breaking: The bird that disappeared, the dog that died, the kids that nibble on oxalis.
  • Permaculture and organic solutions are preferable. A apeaker’s ranch property had rattlesnakes – but she brought in feral cats, which ate the rodents, and the rattlesnakes disappeared. She didn’t need traps or poisons.
  • Mount Davidson is worse since since Natural Areas Program took over with pesticide spraying and habitat destruction. Natural Areas should be wild and natural – but NAP is trying to turn them into Native Gardens. The roof of the Cal Academy is a native plant garden – which is irrigated, weeded, replanted. Native Plant gardens are not sustainable without intensive gardening, and the use of poisons.
  • Poisons are sprayed without regard to health of parkgoers, wildlife. Blackberries are being sprayed, though they’re eaten by people and also by wildlife.
  • A few speakers supported the NAP. One said that they supported more wildlife. Jake Sigg said, “People love the Natural Areas Program, they like the open areas for views and kite-flying.” (Of course, if people stay on the designated trails as the NAP wants, they cannot fly kites. People do love the Natural Areas. They just dislike the Natural Areas Program, with its tree-felling and habitat destruction, regular use of toxic herbicides, access restrictions, and use of our tax dollars to do these things.)

THE PROBLEMS OF NATURAL AREAS PROGRAM

NAP is one of the largest users of Tier I pesticides in the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) .

toddler holding oxalisNAP is a regular user of Garlon (triclopyr), a pesticide that is even more toxic than glyphosate (Roundup). It uses it mainly on oxalis, which is both pointless and dangerous. It’s a plant that is very popular with children. As Jill Fehrenbacher pointed out, preschoolers frequently nibble on oxalis for its sour taste.

Kevin Woolen of SFRPD said they would be reducing their use of Garlon using a new surfactant – and that there was less oxalis this year perhaps because of prior years’ spraying. However the very next day, signs on Mount Davidson indicated that Garlon was sprayed on oxalis.

MtD-Garlon Oxalis 1

MtD-Garlon Oxalis 2

It claims to be for “spot treatment” but since oxalis is a spreading ground cover, we do not understand how this is possible.

NAP also uses Roundup (glyphosate) on a wide variety of plants. In fact, in the time we’ve been following the issue, NAP has attacked over 30 different species of “invasive” plants with Tier I and Tier II herbicides.

There’s only one good way to reduce pesticide use: To change the management objectives for which these pesticides are used. There is no reason to kill oxalis with toxic herbicides, or to use Tier I and Tier II herbicides in a futile effort to create native plant gardens.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOLF COURSE?

Whenever we address pesticide use by NAP, someone raises the issue of golf. Only Harding Park routinely uses pesticides. (Other city golf courses use them less than once a year – or not at all.) Harding is not managed by SFRPD, but under contract by the PGA Tour, which requires herbicide use to keep its fairways tournament ready.

We are not as concerned about this as we are about the Natural Areas. Herbicide use is concentrated on the greens, which are not accessible to children or pets.The surrounding vegetation is better habitat, so wildlife use of the fairways is limited. Golfers can choose to play a different course where chemicals are not usual like Sharp Park which uses none at all.

There are concerns, of course, and we appreciate the SF DoE attempts to reduce pesticide use there. The golf course is beside Lake Merced, which could be affected by pesticide runoffs. The lake attracts wildlife, and hosts nesting cormorants and herons. These chemicals could have adverse effects.

2013-05-142 double-crested cormorants nest

CAN SAN FRANCISCO DO BETTER?

Many cities are working on eliminating the use of glyphosate (Roundup) or all synthetic pesticides in their public parks and in some cases, even on private property. Some examples:

  • Encinitas, California has banned Roundup and other glyphosate herbicides in public parks. It has also got its first “organic park” where no pesticides are permitted except organic ones. Ironically, it’s called Glen Park and contrasts with our own Glen Park where a lot of Tier I pesticides have been used.
  • Boulder, CO has stopped using Roundup and is trying to phase out synthetic pesticides.
    Portland, Maine: “Portland officials are talking about passing an ordinance that would further limit or ban the city’s use of pesticides and possibly extend it to private use.”
  • Takoma Park (suburb of Washington DC): “While a handful of cities in the country have banned certain pesticides for use on public lands, Takoma Park’s City Council charted new territory by restricting what residents can use on their own lawns.”
  • Rotterdam, Nederlands: Dutch City of Rotterdam Bans Monsanto Glyphosate Roundup Herbicide
  • Menlo Park, 4 parks: Menlo Park: City bans spraying of herbicides in four parks
  • Fairfax, CA:  Fairfax law forbids property owners from spraying herbicides and pesticides unless they first notify their neighbors. And Belvedere doesn’t spray herbicides in its public park.
  • Barcelona, Spain: Barcelona bans glyphosate in public parks

kid and pesticides2

People are becoming much more conscious of the risk of pesticides, to adults but even more to children. From an article that dates back to 2001: “Dr. William Rothman of Belvedere, a retired physician, has voiced concerns about the effects on children of popular herbicides such as Roundup, the world’s most popular weed-killer. ‘Children crawl on the ground and put things in their mouth. They’re exposed to more pesticides than adults,’  Rothman said. ‘They have fewer cells in their body, so if they’re exposed to a toxic chemical, they have a greater concentration of it in their bodies. Their cells are growing, so their cells tend to divide more. The cells that multiply more quickly in the body are more susceptible to toxins.'”

There is, in fact, a Roundup cancer lawyer…. “The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently [in November 2015] accepting Roundup induced injury cases in all 50 states.”

OUR CALL: NO PESTICIDES IN OUR PARKS

The San Francisco Forest Alliance calls on the city to ban synthetic pesticides in public parks – and especially in Natural Areas, which are places where families recreate, people hike or bike or explore and harvest wild berries and foods, and wildlife abounds. Our parks are no place for pesticides.

glen canyon glyphosate imazapyr 2012 barack doggie

Public Opposition to Pesticide Use in our Public Parks

This article has been republished with permission from ‘Death of a Million Trees,’ a blog that fights unnecessary tree felling in the San Francisco Bay Area.

PUBLIC OPPOSITION TO PESTICIDE USE IN OUR PUBLIC PARKS

On November 19, 2015, a visitor to Mount Davidson park in San Francisco video recorded a pesticide application that is available here:

glyphosate spraying on Mt Davidson - nov 19, 2015

One of the people who saw that video reported several concerns regarding that pesticide application to the city employees who are responsible for the regulation of pesticide use in San Francisco. Here is the email he sent to Kevin Woolen in the Recreation and Park Department and Chris Geiger in the Department of the Environment:

To: Kevin Woolen kevin.woolen@sfgov.org

Dear Mr. Woolen,

I understand that you are responsible for the records of pesticide applications on properties managed by San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department. I have heard you speak at public meetings, so I am aware that you have some expertise in that area. Therefore, I am writing to you about a pesticide application on Mt. Davidson on November 19, 2015. That pesticide application was recorded by this video: https://www.facebook.com/ForestAlliance/videos/934479473312166/?fref=nf

I have several concerns about this pesticide application:

  • One of the herbicides that was sprayed was Stalker with the active ingredient imazapyr. I notice that most of the spraying was done around a tree, which was not a target of the application according to the posted Pesticide Application Notice. As you may know, imazapyr is not supposed to be sprayed under and around non-target trees according to the manufacturer’s label: http://www.cdms.net/ldat/ld01R013.pdf: “Injury or loss of desirable trees or other plants may result if Stalker is applied on or near desirable trees or other plants, on areas where their roots extend, or in locations where the treated soil may be washed or moved into contact with their roots”

Here is a newspaper article about unintentional damage done to trees by spraying an imazapyr herbicide beneath them: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2012/09/no_quick_fix_for_herbicide_dam.html

  • The Pesticide Application Notice says that the application method will be “spot treatment/daub cut stem.” This does not seem to be an accurate description of the application method on November 19th. It seems that “backpack sprayer” would be a more accurate description of this particular pesticide application.
  • The Pesticide Application Notice says that Himalayan blackberries were one of the targets of this Pesticide Application. As you know, birds and other wildlife cannot read the signs that are posted to warn the public about these applications. Can you assure me that the Himalayan blackberries were no longer fruiting? Does the Recreation and Park Department have a policy against spraying vegetation when there are fruits eaten by birds and other wildlife? If not, would the Recreation and Park Department consider adopting such a policy?
  • Although Garlon was not used in this particular pesticide application, it is often used in San Francisco’s so-called “natural areas.” Therefore, it is worth mentioning that Garlon is also known to be mobile in the soil and there are documented incidents of it damaging non-target trees when it has been sprayed on the stumps of nearby trees after they were destroyed.

Thank you for your consideration. I hope you will share my concerns with the staff and contractors who are engaged in these pesticide applications.

Cc: Chris Geiger chris.geiger@sfgov.org

This is not an isolated incident. Park visitors in San Francisco have been complaining for years about pesticide use in parks that were designated as “natural areas” over 15 years ago. Ironically, those areas were never sprayed with pesticides before being designated as “natural areas.” In fact, they really were natural areas prior to being officially designated as such. Plants and animals lived in peace in those places before being “managed” by people who are committed to eradicating all non-native plants in many of San Francisco’s parks.

What can you do about it?

If you are opposed to pesticide use in San Francisco, or you object to the pointless destruction of harmless plants that are useful to wildlife, here are a few things you can do to express your opinion and influence the public policy that allows pesticide use in the public parks of San Francisco:

  • You can join over 11,000 people who have signed a petition to prohibit the use of pesticides in public parks. The petition is HERE. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on pesticide use in San Francisco’s parks and the petition against that use. (Available HERE)
  • You can sign up HERE to be notified of the annual meeting in which pesticide policy in San Francisco is discussed for subsequent approval by the Environment Commission. That meeting has been scheduled in December in past years. Update: The annual meeting has been announced. “Annual Public Hearing on Pest Management Activities on City Properties and San Francisco’s Draft 2016 Reduced-Risk Pesticide List 4:30-7:00 pm
    Wednesday, December 16, 2015 Downstairs Conference Room, 1455 Market St. (near 11th St.; Van Ness MUNI stop)” The meeting agenda is available HERE.
  • You can apply for one of the two vacant seats on the Environment Commission. These seats have been vacant for nearly a year. In the past, the Environment Commission has actively promoted pesticide use in San Francisco’s “natural areas.” Qualifications and duties of commissioners are available HERE.
  • Appointments to the Environment Commission are made by Mayor Ed Lee. If you don’t want to serve on the Environment Commission, you can write to Mayor Lee (mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org) and ask him to appoint people to the Commission who do not support the use of pesticides in San Francisco’s public parks.

The parks of San Francisco belong to the people of San Francisco. They have paid to acquire those properties for public use and they are paying the salaries of those who are “managing” the parks. If you don’t like how parks are being managed, you have the right to express your opinion. Our democracy works best when we participate in the public policy decisions that affect us.

What does this have to do with the East Bay?

Our readers in the East Bay might wonder what this incident has to do with you. Parks in the East Bay are also being sprayed with herbicides for the same reasons. HERE are reports of pesticide use by the East Bay Regional Park District.

Many of the pesticide applications on the properties of EBRPD are done by the same company that sprayed herbicides on Mount Davidson on November 19, 2015. That company is Shelterbelt Builders. You can see their trucks in the above video. Pesticide use reports of San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department often report that pesticide applications were done by Shelterbelt.

Shelterbelt began the eradication of non-natve vegetation in Glen Canyon in November 2011

Shelterbelt began the eradication of non-natve vegetation in Glen Canyon in November 2011

Shelterbelt Builders is based in the East Bay. One of its owners is Bill McClung who is a member of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy and a former officer of that organization. The Claremont Canyon Conservancy is the organization that is demanding the eradication of all non-native trees on public land in the East Bay Hills. Here is a description of Mr. McClung’s responsibilities on Shelterbelt’s website:

“Bill McClung joined Shelterbelt in 1997 to help refocus Shelterbelt on native plant restoration and open land management/fire safety. After his house burnt down in the 1991 Oakland Fire, this former book publisher became interested in how wildland and fire are managed in the East Bay Hills. He became a member of the Berkeley Fire Commission in 1994 and has a strong interest in the vegetation prescriptions of the Fire Hazard Program & Fuel Reduction Management Plan for the East Bay Hills issued in 1995 by the East Bay Hills Vegetation Management Consortium and the East Bay Regional Park District Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan Environmental Impact Report of 2009/10. He has managed many properties in the East Bay where wildfire safety and native habitat preservation are twin goals, and continues to work on interesting and biologically rich lands in the Oakland Hills.”

Claremont Canyon Conservancy

The Claremont Canyon Conservancy held their annual meeting on November 15, 2015. Oakland’s Mayor, Libby Schaaf, was one of the speakers. Although she took questions at the end of her presentation, one of the officers of the Conservancy called on the questioners. There were many people in the audience who are opposed to the FEMA projects that will destroy over 400,000 trees in the East Bay Hills and many of us tried to ask questions. With one exception, the person controlling the questions only called on known, strong supporters of the FEMA project. Therefore, those who wished to express their opposition to the FEMA projects to the Mayor were denied that opportunity. Fortunately, there were many demonstrators outside the meeting who could not be denied that opportunity.

Demonstration at meeting of Claremont Canyon Conservancy, November 15, 2015

Demonstration at meeting of Claremont Canyon Conservancy, November 15, 2015

Norman LaForce was the other main speaker at the meeting. He is an elected officer of the Sierra Club and he identified himself as one of the primary authors of the project to destroy all non-native trees in the East Bay Hills. (An audio recording of his complete presentation is available here: https://milliontrees.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/norman-laforce-sierra-club-11-15-15.m4a ) This is the paraphrased portion of his presentation specifically about the herbicides that will be used by the FEMA project:

“Part of the FEMA program will be to use herbicides in a concentrated, careful program of painting or spraying herbicides to prevent the trees from resprouting. It may need to be done more than once but ultimately the suckers give up. There is no other way to do that cost effectively.

People are saying that glyphosate causes cancer. Radiation causes cancer but when people get cancer they are often treated with radiation. Nobody tells them they can’t have radiation because it causes cancer.

There are a lot of people of a certain age in this room who are probably taking Coumadin as a blood thinner for a heart condition. Coumadin is rat poison. Nobody tells them they can’t take Coumadin.*

You must take dosage and exposure into consideration in evaluating the risks of pesticides.

Nature Conservancy used glyphosate on the Jepson Prairie.

State Parks used Garlon on Angel Island when they removed eucalyptus.

The European Union says that glyphosate does not cause cancer, so I don’t know if it does. I’m not going to take a position on that.

Now they are saying that red meat causes cancer.

We need to put aside the question of pesticides. They will be used properly. We must proceed in a scientific manner.”

We leave it to our readers to interpret Mr. LaForce’s justification for pesticide use. He seems to be suggesting that pesticides are good for our health. There are instances in which pesticides do more good than harm, but using them to kill harmless plants in public parks isn’t one of them, in our opinion. Since many chemicals accumulate in our bodies throughout our lives, it is in our interests to avoid exposure when we can. If we must take Coumadin for our health, that’s all the more reason why we should avoid unnecessary exposure to rat poison when we can.

Connecting the dots

We have tried to connect the dots for our readers. Here are the implications of what we are reporting today:

  • Pesticide applications in San Francisco are probably damaging the trees that are not the target of those applications. The food of wildlife may be poisoned by those pesticide applications.
  • You can influence the public policy that is permitting pesticide use in San Francisco.
  • The same company that is spraying pesticides in San Francisco is also doing so in the East Bay.
  • That company is also actively engaged in the attempt to transform the landscape in the San Francisco Bay Area to native plants. They have an economic interest in native plant “restorations.”
  • The Sierra Club is actively promoting the use of pesticides on our public lands.

*Coumadin is prescribed for people who are at risk of heart attack or stroke caused by blood clots. Coumadin thins the blood and suppresses blood coagulation. Rat poison kills animals by bleeding them to death. There is a fine line between preventing blood clots and bleeding to death. Therefore, people who take Coumadin have frequent blood tests to check that the dosage is at the optimal level. Rat poisons are killing many animals that are not the target of the poison. Animals such as owls, hawks, vultures are often killed by eating dead rodents that have been poisoned. We should not conclude that rat poison is harmless because humans are using it in carefully controlled doses. Herbicides being sprayed in our public lands are not being closely monitored as Coumadin use is.

 

Truck-size Loopholes in San Francisco’s Pesticide Plan

If you oppose the use of toxic herbicides in our parks, you may wish to attend a San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDoE) hearing on  Wednesday, December 16, 2015, 4:30-7:00 pm in the Downstairs Conference Room, 1455 Market St. (near 11th St.; Van Ness MUNI stop)

glen canyon glyphosate imazapyr 2012 barack doggie

Did Roundup Kill this Dog?

SFDoE manages the Integrated Pest Management program, which decides which pesticides may be used on city property.  It classifies the permitted pesticides into three tiers: Tier III is the Least Hazardous; Tier II is More Hazardous; and Tier I, Most Hazardous. It recently reclassified Roundup /Aquamaster (active ingredient glyphosate) as Tier I after the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen.

SFDoE is going to discuss some new rules restricting Tier I pesticides. We were hopeful, because we believe SFDoE does try to reduce pesticide use, and we thought the recent public outcry  would strengthen their resolve to prohibit pesticides unless public health and safety were affected.

(There’s a good article on the public opposition here: Public Opposition to Pesticide Use in Our Public Parks.)

For the record, and as our supporters already know: San Francisco Forest Alliance stands for No Pesticides in our Parks.

So we were hopeful, in fact, until we read the draft rules. They contain truck-sized loopholes, and will not substantially reduce pesticide exposure for San Francisco’s park-using families, including small children and pets.

SF Draft Restrictions on Tier I Herbicides Nov 2015

(You can download the PDF here: San Francisco Draft Restrictions on Tier I herbicides )

“NATURAL AREAS” GET A FREE PASS TO USE TIER I HERBICIDES

Exception number 11 says that these herbicides may be used on “Invasive species posing a threat to species or ecosystems of value to the community.” Since that’s the entire justification that the SFRPD’s Natural Areas Program (NAP) gives is that it’s using these toxic herbicides on invasive species, they won’t need to change anything they do.

toddler holding oxalisWhat this means: NAP claims large areas of our parks as so-called “natural areas”  – over 1000 acres in 32 parks. It includes most places people like to hike with kids and dogs like Mt Davidson, McLaren Park, Glen Canyon, Bernal Hill, and Pine Lake. They spray Tier I and Tier II herbicides on over 30 different species of plant. Some are close to the ground, like oxalis. Others are bushes, like blackberry, where they don’t stop spraying even in the fruiting season when everyone including kids are eating berries off the bushes.

This video showing glyphosate and imazapyr being sprayed on blackberry was taken on Mt Davidson only a few weeks ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X4A3JKZVgc

WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?

parent and child with oxalisProposed rule number 4 prohibits use of Tier I pesticides on “the grounds of schools, preschools, or children’s playgrounds.” This is certainly an improvement, but it’s hardly enough. Playgrounds and preschools in particular are often inside parks, and if the parks can use these pesticides, then the children may well be exposed on their way into or out of the area, especially if they stop to hike or play in natural areas. Glen Canyon is an example – a preschool abuts the natural areas, which, as we noted above, gets a free pass. In McLaren Park, much of the park is a natural area, including areas close to playgrounds. (All the colored areas on the map below are claimed by NAP.

mclaren NAP Map 1

LANDSCAPE RENOVATIONS AND OTHER EXCEPTIONS

Another permitted use is in landscape renovations (Exception 10). We presume this applies to such projects as Kezar Stadium and Marina Green, both of which used substantial quantities of Tier I herbicides. It requires the public to be excluded for 4 days after the spraying. However, there’s growing evidence that some of these pesticides are persistent for a lot longer than 4 days.  Again, these are landscapes where our kids and pets play, often for hours at a time.

Two other exceptions also increase risk of exposure: Tier I herbicides may be used on poison oak near paths, and on trees or weeds posing a public safety, public health or fire hazard. Since pretty much any shrubs or trees can be deemed a hazard, this again means that herbicides can be freely used. And as more trees are removed near paths and trails, poison oak thrives in the sunnier areas – and justifies more Tier I herbicides.

In fact, another document for the meeting suggests a more aggressive attitude to trees. If any department wants to use pesticides not on the approved list, it can ask for an exception. The SFPUC wanted an exception for “Bonide Sucker Punch.” The problem, as they set it out was as follows:

When only some of the stems of eucalyptus and acacia of a multi-trunk tree are cut, the response of
the tree is to produce a vigorous re-growth of stump sprouts and suckers. The usual treatment of stumps is to paint the cut surface with a translocating herbicide, such as glyphosate or triclopyr. However this treatment kills the root system of the tree, killing the standing live stems of the tree. These present a hazard if they subsequently fall over. NAA is a synthetic plant hormone that suppresses re-growth  of suckers without killing the roots.

The exception was rejected, with this solution proposed instead – cut down the entire tree, not just the bits that are intruding into the right-of-way! And then paint the stumps with a Tier I herbicide (Roundup or Garlon), which will destroy the entire tree and, if other trees are nearby, potentially damage their roots as well. So instead of a solution that preserved the tree while limiting the damage, SFDoE approved a method that would be much worse.

We also note that in recent months, SFRPD NAP staff have apparently been deployed to apply herbicide on SF PUC property. This suggests that SFPUC is also buying into the destructive NAP approach.

THE ANNUAL PUBLIC HEARING

Each year, SFDoE holds a hearing where they review changes to the list of approved pesticides, listen to the justifications for exceptions during the year, and take comments from the public. It’s usually held in a round table format in City Hall, with free discussion. This year, they will also discuss the new rules. With the recent outcry against pesticide use, they expect a much larger turnout and have changed the venue. Please be prepared with a comment of no more than 2-3 minutes long.

Annual Public Hearing on Pest Management Activities on City Properties  and San Francisco’s Draft 2016 Reduced-Risk Pesticide List

4:30-7:00 pm Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Downstairs Conference Room, 1455 Market St. (near 11th St.; Van Ness MUNI stop)

kid and pesticides2

Did “Round Up” Kill My Dog? (and why you should care)

This article by Dr. Victoria Hamman was published recently in “The Natural Newsletter.” Dr Hamman is a licensed naturopathic doctor who lives in San Francisco. It’s republished here by permission with minor edits and added pictures.

RIP, good dog Barack.

Barack & Miney

Barack & Miney

Most of you knew my dog Barack. He was my office companion, always quick with the announcing bark and wagging tail when folks arrived at the gate. Barack healed many a person of their fear of dogs with his gentle way. When someone was upset, he’d come over and lie at their feet. He loved people – especially children. I never had to worry about Barack, even when toddlers hung onto his fur.

Barack died on Sept 18 from a horrific oral cancer that killed him less than 4 months after the diagnosis. I’ve had dogs my entire 58 years, been around many other people’s dogs and worked as a vet assistant during my college years, and never have I seen an cancer like this.

I accept that death sometimes arrives sooner than expected. Many dogs have died of cancer at younger ages than Barack. People die too “before their time,” for reasons that medicine all too often cannot explain. Veterinarians told me that sadly, these types of oral and nasal cancers are on the increase in San Francisco dogs, but they had no idea what was causing them.

Then it came to my attention that the City of San Francisco sprays the herbicide “Round Up” (glyphosate) liberally in parks and dog parks. And then California became the first state to demand that Monsanto place a “black box” warning on its product that Round Up “Probably Causes Cancer.” Recently I noted that the SF Recreation and Parks Dept. posted notices all around a preschool in Glen Park warning that they had sprayed Round Up. Children who crawl around on the ground share an increased risk of exposure with dogs (and other animals) who have their noses and mouths directly in the sprayed vegetation.

Barack always had his nose in the Round Up-sprayed grass and, being a ball retriever, he was constantly picking up some of that herbicide on his ball into his mouth: the mouth that developed cancer. So I started doing some research on this herbicide – the biggest-selling herbicide in the world. And what I learned alarmed and infuriated me.

Natural Areas Program pesticide notice

A recent study by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Mikael Eriksson of Sweden has revealed clear links between glyphosate) and non-Hodgkins lymphoma – a common and often deadly cancer in humans. There has been convincing evidence for decades that Round Up causes a wide variety of cancers. 30 years ago the Environmental Protection Agency warned that Round Up might cause cancer.

Round Up indiscriminately kills a wide variety of “weeds.” Now, due to Monsanto’s bioengineering, 71% of genetically engineered( GE) crops are designed to be resistant to Round Up. This means that the crops are not killed by the herbicide, thus farmers are spraying 3X as much Round Up as they used to in an attempt to kill the weeds (which themselves are becoming increasingly resistant.) GEs dramatically increase the amount of pesticides sprayed. Round up residues on GE soybeans have increased from 6 parts per million (ppm) in 2005 to 20 ppm now.
Monsanto now makes seeds for soy, corn, canola, cotton, alfalfa and beets that are “Round Up Resistant”. Round up is a $6 billion dollar per year product. A large portion of the GE soy and corn become animal feed where the chemical accumulates in the fat of the cows and pigs that eat it, and the human consumer is exposed to an even bigger dose.

Round Up negatively impacts human health in other devastating ways besides cancer: endocrine disruption, organ damage, birth defects, and kidney failure.

There is an area called “The Soy Republic” in Latin America – 125 million acres in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay devoted to GE soy production. A National University of Argentina epidemiological study of 65,000 people revealed breast, prostate and lung cancer rates 2-4 times higher than the national average. In some heavily sprayed farming villages, 31% of residents have family members with cancer (compared to 3% in ranching villages.) A 2009 study of American children with brain cancer showed that if either parent was exposed to Round Up during the 2 years before the child’s birth, the risk of that child having brain cancer doubled.

A study done in France (published in 2012 but silenced until it was re-published in 2014,) showed a doubled increase in breast tumors in people exposed to Round Up. The tumors were also more aggressive. There was also an increase in cancer of the pituitary gland. Furthermore, all of the animal studies showing high cancer and death rates were done with much lower doses proportionately than what we are being exposed to today. We are being exposed to Round Up residue 500-4000 times higher than the dose that has been proven to cause cancer. As if that’s not enough, a group of international scientists reported that Round Up leads to antibiotic resistance in the most common disease-causing bacteria.

Did Round Up kill Barack? I’ll never know the answer to that question. But the evidence is clear that chemical pesticides/herbicides are killing untold numbers of human beings. What can you do to stop the carnage?
1.) Never spray chemical pesticides on your own plants and never use chemicals to kill pests such as rats, mice or cockroaches. There are plenty of natural alternatives. (google organic gardening.) Talk to your friends and neighbors; if you live in a complex, talk to the management. Protest the spraying of carcinogenic chemicals anywhere near you.
2.) Always buy organic produce, meat, eggs, milk and cheese. Support organic farmers.
3.) Contact your local government agencies and demand that they use non-toxic alternatives to chemical pesticides/herbicides in your area.

glen canyon glyphosate imazapyr 2012 barack doggie

Think Globally/Act Locally! I’ve listed contact information below for San Francisco:

SF Recreation and Parks Dept.
McLaren Lodge, Golden Gate Park
501 Stanyan St., San Francisco, CA 94117
Pest Mgmt: 415-831-6306

SF Environment Dept.
1455 Market St., Ste. 1200
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 355-3700
environment@sfgov.org

SF Mayor’s Office
Mayor Ed Lee
City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlet Pl
SF, CA 94102
(415) 554-6141

Thank you for getting involved. It will not be an easy road; Monsanto is one of the biggest companies in the world and heavily supported by the U.S. Govt. But it is a battle that we must fight, for the sake of our own health and those we love. To quote Margaret Meade:

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

 

 

McLaren Park walk: Looking at the Future, Minus 800 Trees

[Apologies: Some glitch on the website caused Draft versions of this post to be published. Please ignore the earlier posts.]

On a Saturday in late August 2015,  the San Francisco Forest Alliance organized a walk in John McLaren Park – Natural Areas for a  group of our supporters and other interested people. It wasn’t just about a walk through this fascinating park on San Francisco’s southern edge – we all wanted to understand what was planned for its future.

DSC00001

The group wanted to learn about the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (“SFRPD”) plans for the Park:  elimination of 8.3 acres of dog play areas; the removal of 809 trees ( eucalyptus, Monterey cypress and Monterey pine);  and using herbicides to poison the  “non-native, invasive” vegetation. The idea is to expand native plants – mainly scrub – in the Park.

In McLaren Park, nearly all the areas that are not actually built up or used for sports, are designated as “Natural Areas.”The Natural Area covers 165.3 acres and is made up of grassland, scrub, and blue gum eucalyptus trees. These are subject to the “Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan” – or SNRAMP (pronounced Sin-Ramp).

mclaren NAP Map 1

All the colored areas in the map above – brown, tan, and olive – are subject to SNRAMP.

SNRAMP McLaren Map

Outlined areas (with diagonal lines) will be “restored.”  Trees and shrubs are to be removed. Native species will be planted.

The walk was led by Tom Borden, bicyclist, and Ren Volpe, long-time dog walker both of whom know the park and RPD’s plans for McLaren.

THE TREES THAT ARE GREEN NOW

So with SNRAMP maps in hand the group walked 3+ miles around the Park to see the trees that the city wants to remove. According to the SNRAMP document for McLaren Park:    “… Tree removal at McLaren Park is planned mostly for individual trees or small groups of trees within grasslands. …”

We started the walk parallel to the Mansell St corridor, where the city plans to change 4 lanes of traffic into 2 lanes for vehicles and 2 lanes for pedestrians and bikes.

We believe the city will remove these trees along Mansell.  See link to the City’s plans here.

Trees along the north and south side of Mansell will be removed

Trees along south side of Mansell Street will be removed ” to preserve the grasslands … “

These other trees will likely be cut in this area along Mansell:

DSC00004

Trees to be removed to “…allow coastal scrub and oak woodland communities to become established…”

“... In the area downslope of Mansell Street, near the water tanks, the overall plan is to remove enough trees to preserve the grasslands and allow coastal scrub and oak woodland communities to become established. This would involve thinning the stand, which would leave the edges intact and would not result in a substantial change in ground‐level wind hazards and windthrow.

We walked along the trail to the Upper Reservoir and saw where the removal of “invasive” trees is planned and the reintroduction of native plants will be undertaken.

Guide Tom points out the area

Our guide points out where “invasive” trees will be removed … to be replaced by “sensitive plants to prevent the extinction of rare or uncommon grassland plants”

According to the SNRAMP document for McLaren Park: “… in some locations, trees would be replaced by native scrub or grassland species, which would open up views that are currently blocked by trees….

We diverted our walk to take in the magnificent views from this part of the Park.  The views from the Water Tower provided us with a 270 degree view looking west and north to the downtown skyline:

We walked along the Philosophers Way trail where Tom noted that trees along the sides of John Shelly Drive will be removed. This is presumably to open up to yet more views of the downtown skyline  – and to the wind.

 

At the east end of the Redwood Grove and picnic area, Tom shows which trees are likely to be removed

RESTRICTIONS ON PETS

We observed signs around the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater that dogs would be allowed off-leash around the amphitheater “unless there is a permitted event“.   Someone pointed out that dog-walkers needed to know when there is a “permitted event’ so that they could avoid the area or leash their dogs.  No one knew how SFRPD planned to communicate a  “permitted event.”

According to the SNRAMP document for McLaren Park: “… DPAs [Dog Play Areas – off leash] would be reduced by 14%. The existing DPAs at this park are 61.7 acres…

Our walk continued to the open grassland area  south of the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater and parallel to Mansell Street.  This photo show where grasslands will created by cutting down trees, and will be closed to people (and dogs).

Open grassland with threatened trees

Grassland, now open as a dog play area, will be restricted use and probably fenced off

More dog walkers will be coming to McLaren Park when the GGNRA clamps down on dog access in areas controlled by the National Park system (the Presidio, Fort Funston, etc).  This will force more dog walkers into an ever smaller area. It’ll be smaller still if NAP further restricts the existing boundaries that NAP is planning for the off leash dog area (now within the John Shelley Drive loop) – which is entirely possible.

RESTRICTIONS ON BICYCLES

Tom reminded us that the SF Urban Riders and McLaren Bike Masters had donated thousands of hours for trail-building in McLaren Park – and then were shut out of the trails they’d helped to build.  (We wrote about that HERE.)

Our tour included the grasslands area that looks down to Visitacion Valley and the Gleneagles Golf Course. We were informed that trails have been closed to bicycles where previously biking was allowed.

Looking down to Vistitacion Valley

Looking down to Visitacion Valley and the Gleneagles Golf Course

Lower trails closed

This portion of the Philosopher’s Way trail has been closed to bicyclists since earlier this year

In the area south of Mansell Street, near the 2 water tanks, NAP plans to remove enough trees to allow establishment of a coastal scrub community. That means many of the trees in the picture above will be removed.

RUINING THE AMBIANCE AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

Local residents of San Francisco (people, bicyclists, dogs and wildlife) get enormous benefits from the beauty of McLaren Park.  It’s a  welcome respite for a very urban population, surrounded on all sides by freeways and boulevards. Local residents come here to enjoy the serenity and beauty that is just a few minutes from their homes.  A lot of that ambiance will be taken away when the City removes hundreds of trees.

It’s not just beauty. The trees in McLaren Park provide valuable ecosystem services. They fight climate change by sequestering carbon; and mature trees absorb more carbon than smaller young ones. They help fight urban pollution by trapping particles on their leaves, keeping them out of the air and our lungs. It cleans the air, especially fighting particulate pollution, by trapping particles on its leaves that eventually get washed onto the ground. They regulate water run-off and reduce the load on our sewer system.

In San Francisco, we have few wildland fires – and when we do, they’re grass fires. When the fog rolls in over the trees of McLaren Park, moisture drops on the ground, allowing for a dense damp understory that fights drought and resists fire. Trees  provide wind breaks, thus reducing the impact of wind on surrounding neighborhoods, and also reducing fire hazard.

TREES ARE GOOD FOR OUR HEALTH

Trees are good for our health. A New Yorker article linked here references a recent study that shows that ten additional street trees on a city block had the same health impact as giving each household $10,000 – or making all the adults seven years younger. Other studies have shown trees improve mental health, reduce stress, and aid healing.

SNRAMP is bad for health. Aside from blocking opportunities for outdoor exercise and recreation, it would require the use of large quantities of poisonous herbicides to prevent resprouting of the felled trees – herbicides that are likely get washed down the hillsides and into surface and ground water.

The City plans to remove 809 trees in this park since they are labelled “invasive”.  We strongly oppose this action.   Aside from the beauty of the Park, and the undisturbed wildlife habitat that would both be destroyed, we think it is environmentally irresponsible. Trees sequester carbon; eucalyptus, with its dense wood, its size, and its 400-500-year life-span, is particularly effective.

MORE WALKS, AND STAYING IN TOUCH

We plan to organize more such small-group walks through beautiful areas that will be impacted by SNRAMP.  They are always free, and no donations are expected. They’re guided by people who know the place well.  (HERE is a post about our recent visit to Sharp Park in Pacifica.) If you would like to know about the planned walks, as well as get updates about issues of trees and access restrictions, please stay in touch. We encourage you to enter your email address at the top right (“sign me up”) in order to receive our updates directly to your email.

If you’re on Facebook, please “Like” our page. https://www.facebook.com/ForestAlliance  We currently have 475 “likes.” Help us to take it over 500!

Let us know how we can be more effective and inclusive  at this email address: SFForestNews@gmail.com

 

Roundup Reclassified as Tier I – SF Dept of Environment

A few weeks ago, we reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) had found that Roundup (glyphosate) was “probably carcinogenic.” It’s the herbicide the Natural Areas Program (NAP) uses most, either by the name Roundup or the name Aquamaster. The chart shows glyphosate use as olive green bars. (NAP is a program of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department – SFRPD)

We were interested in how San Francisco’s Department of the Environment (SFDoE) would respond to this finding. They regulate what pesticides may be used on city property, including the Natural Areas.

NAP Herbicide use by active ingredient 2014SFDoE called a public meeting in response. They have reclassified glyphosate from Tier II (more hazardous) to Tier I (most hazardous).  We received notes from someone who attended and found it encouraging. This is based on those notes, and is not a comprehensive report on this meeting.  It focuses on issues the observer considered important.

—————————–

NOTES FROM THE JUNE 2015 INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT MEETING

by a Concerned Citizen

This meeting drew a huge crowd.  I’d say there were 100 people in the room.  Chris Geiger [of the SFDoE] asked how many people were employees of public land agencies.  Most were.  When he asked how many people were “concerned citizens,” fewer than 10 people raised their hands.  I did not see Lisa Wayne [who heads NAP] nor any NAP gardener.

Chris Geiger said the meeting was organized in response to the recent categorization of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of WHO.  He said the purpose of the meeting was informational as well as to consider the question of how the city’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy should respond to the new classification.  In that regard, Geiger announced that the city has reclassified glyphosate as a Tier I pesticide (most toxic).

The presentation was made by Susan Kegley, Ph.D. Chemist and Executive Director of Pesticide Research Institute.  She is the author of the risk assessments of herbicides for Marin Municipal Water District and California Invasive Plant Council.

[Read the presentation HERE: sfe_th_kegley_sf_ipm_glyphosate_7-2-15 ]

Dr Kegley described the process used by IARC of WHO to classify pesticides.  Usually, they publish a monograph which details all of the studies they reviewed in making their decision.  In this case, they have yet to publish the monograph and so much of what Dr Kegley said was speculation about what studies they used to reach their decision.  Based on the studies she summarized, the evidence of glyphosate causing cancer in humans is “limited” but the evidence of glyphosate causing cancer in laboratory rats and mice is stronger.

The most significant thing that Dr Kegley said was one of her last slides when she expressed her opinion of an appropriate policy reaction to the WHO classification.  Basically, she said that landscape decisions should be re-evaluated with the goal of reducing the need for herbicide use.  Her final recommendation was one she uses in her own garden, that is, to create shade in the garden which suppresses weed growth.  (The obvious example of that strategy is TO QUIT DESTROYING THE TREES THAT CREATE SHADE.)

[Edited to Add: Another observer present at the meeting drew our attention to an important point in Dr Kegley’s presentation – that glyphosate was present in the urine of 44% of tested subjects in European Union countries where glyphosate-tolerant crops are not grown. In the US, the percentage would likely be considerably higher because of the greater use of glyphosate.]

An employee of SF’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) demanded that the IPM program tell the PUC they must continue to use glyphosate because he can’t deal with weeds without it.  He was disruptive and behaved inappropriately.  Mr Geiger asked him politely to “stand down.”  This employee illustrates how the use of pesticides is in the hands of irresponsible public employees.

Natural Areas Program pesticide notice - Roundup on fennelMr Geiger then asked employees of public lands to explain what they are using glyphosate for.  Kevin Woolen of SFRPD described his efforts to reduce herbicide use by SFRPD.  He sounded responsible and convincing.  Good public relations for SFRPD.

A concerned citizen asked an excellent question about climate change.  Basically she asked why herbicides are being used to kill non-native plants that are better adapted to the changed climate and asked if it is still realistic to try to re-establish native plants that may not be adapted to the changed climate.

Mr Geiger invited Peter Brastow [of the “Office of Biodiversity” in the SFDoE] to answer that question.  Mr Brastow said that there are many “microclimates” in San Francisco and that in some of those microclimates, it is still possible to maintain native plants.  He claimed the city is not trying to establish native plants everywhere, but he claimed that native plants will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future  because “evolution does not happen in our time frame.”

—————————–

OUR OBSERVATIONS

We thank the observer for that report.  We are pleased that glyphosate has been reclassified as Tier I; we have been asking for this for some years.

More importantly, we ask that NAP stops using herbicides in the Natural Areas.  Trying to kill off the plants that grow naturally in order to introduce others that have difficulty surviving in our city is a waste of resources and a poor reason to add toxins to our wild lands. We are pleased that Dr Kegley focuses on alternatives to using herbicides. We suggest that in Natural Areas, the best alternative is – let them be.

Incidentally, Mr Brastow is wrong; evolution happens all around us all the time. We’re reminded of the talk by Dr Scott Carroll at the Commonwealth Club last year. Evolution is visible in the bugs that develop resistance to antibiotics, in the weeds that develop resistance to herbicides, and even in creatures that evolve to adapt themselves to newly available natural resources.

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