Mt Davidson: Toxic Garlon, Felled Trees

On a recent trip to Mount Davidson, a visitor saw that Garlon had been sprayed on oxalis.

The Natural Resources Department (NRD, formerly Natural Areas Program) is the most frequent user of pesticides in San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD).  It applied herbicides on Mt Davidson 8 times in 2016. Other SFRPD units have all but stopped using herbicides.

Notice of Garlon 4 Ultra on Oxalis on Mt Davidson, San Francisco CA

Garlon 4 Ultra on Oxalis on Mt Davidson, San Francisco CA

The Natural Resource Department (NRD, formerly Natural Areas Program or NAP), observed the SF Department of the Environment guideline to use blue dye with its herbicides (so people can see and avoid those areas).

Blue dye indicates Garlon 4 Ultra on Mt Davidson Jan 2017

Blue dye indicates Garlon 4 Ultra on Mt Davidson Jan 2017

Unfortunately, they flouted the SF Environment guideline that says there should be no herbicides used within 15 feet of a trail. “Blue dye is right next to and on the trails…” said the visitor.

(Edited to Add: We subsequently learned that SFRPD got a special exemption to permit them to spray on the trail, and they were supposed to have blocked the trail to visitors.)

Here’s a picture of blue dye on the trail.

Blue dye shows Garlon on the path on Mt Davidson, Jan 2017

Blue dye shows Garlon on the path on Mt Davidson, Jan 2017

Garlon by the trail on Mt Davidson, San Francisco, Jan 2017

Garlon by the trail on Mt Davidson, San Francisco, Jan 2017

GARLON IS VERY TOXIC

The SF Department of the Environment (SF Environment), which is responsible for the Integrated Pest Management guidelines, lists Garlon 4 Ultra as a Tier I chemical, Most Hazardous. Ever since we started following this issue, it’s been on the list with a bold, capitalized statement: HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE.

Garlon is also supposed to be twenty times as toxic to women as to men. (See page 28 of this California Native Plant Society Presentation which discusses best management practices in herbicide use: Law_Johnson 2014 presentation toxicity )

An article on SaveSutro.com, based on a detailed study by the Marin Municipal Water Department, describes some of the issues with Garlon:

  • Garlon “causes severe birth defects in rats at relatively low levels of exposure.” Baby rats were born with brains outside their skulls, or no eyelids. Exposed adult females rats also had more failed pregnancies.
  •   Rat and dog studies showed damage to the kidneys, the liver, and the blood.
  •   About 1-2% of Garlon falling on human skin is absorbed within a day. For rodents, its absorbed twelve times as fast. It’s unclear what happens to predators such as hawks that eat the affected rodents.
  • Dogs  may be particularly vulnerable; their kidneys may not be able to handle Garlon as well as rats or humans.  Dow Chemical objected when the Environmental Protection agency noted decreased red-dye excretion as an adverse effect, so now it’s just listed as an “effect.”
  •  It very probably alters soil biology. “Garlon 4 can inhibit growth in the mycorrhizal fungi…” ( soil funguses that help plant nutrition.)
  •  It’s particularly dangerous to aquatic creatures: fish (particularly salmon); invertebrates; and aquatic plants.
  •  Garlon can persist in dead vegetation for up to two years.

parent and child with oxalisThis highly toxic chemical is used by NRD against oxalis during its flowering season – in winter and spring. On Mount Davidson, they used it in February  and December 2016 as well.

It doesn’t make logical sense. Here’s our article on Five reasons it’s okay to love oxalis and stop poisoning it.

TREES BEING FELLED

Meanwhile, another visitor sent us a series of pictures showing trees being felled at the southwest end of the forest.

tree-noticed-to-be-removed-mt-davidson-jan-2017 tree-x-ed-out-jan-mt-davidson-2017 former-trees-mt-davidson-jan-2017.

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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

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

Signs of Annoyance – Natural Areas Program

Recently, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) spent an estimated half-million dollars on signage, most of which listed various Don’ts (though ironically, they start with “San Francisco Recreation & Parks Welcomes You”). All our parks and open spaces are peppered with them. Many park users, who earlier had no idea that the Natural Areas Program (NAP) was designed to restrict access and usage, are upset. They’ve started “fixing” the signs. Someone sent us these pictures:

Natural Areas Program fixed sign

The sign has been “edited” to warn people of toxic pesticide use and wryly note that most of the park is off-limits except to staff and supervised volunteers.

Of course, we have been talking about toxic pesticides, but here’s a recent picture. Roundup (glyphosate) has been identified as “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization.

Natural Areas Program pesticide notice

Here, it’s been used to destroy (non-native)  fennel, the pleasant-smelling feathery-leaved plant that is, incidentally, the host plant to the Anise Swallowtail, a beautiful butterfly that happens to be native.

Anise swallowtail butterfly breeds on fennel

In fact, as the altered sign below points out, nearly all the plants you see in San Francisco – including the grasslands NAP is ostensibly seeking to protect with its use of herbicides – are non-native. They still add to the beauty of the landscape, the greenery of our parks, and provide habitat for wildlife from insects to birds to mammals. The herbicides do nothing but poison these plants, leaving space for the next most aggressive plant to move in – most likely also non-native.

Fixed sign - whats wrong with Natural Areas Program

War on Nature in the SF Bay Area

Our readers are aware of the horrible plan to destroy up to 450,000 trees in the East Bay Hills, and use powerful pesticides in huge quantities to prevent regrowth. There’s an effort on to get the word out with this poster.

mini poster War on Nature -1This poster is available here and can be printed out (8.5 x 11) as a PDF file here: 450k trees in danger-e-print Please help spread the word!

[Edited to Add: Here’s the same poster without the trim marks: 450k trees in danger-e-1 – you can print out either one.]

World Health Organization: Roundup “Probably Carcinogenic”

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” to humans. Specifically, it links the herbicide to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (You can read their press release here: WHO glyphosate MonographVolume112)

Though SFRPD Natural Areas Program’s use of herbicides declined in 2014, it rose quite sharply before that. Roundup and Aquamaster, with active ingredient glyphosate, is one of the most frequently used herbicides in their arsenal. (The others are Garlon 4 Ultra, i.e. triclopyr; Polaris, Stalker or Habitat,  i.e. imazapyr, and Milestone VM – aminopyralid.)

Three of the Four on Mt Davidson

Three of the Four on Mt Davidson

We’re glad that WHO has come out with this statement, but we’re not surprised. We’ve been following the literature for some years. In 2013, Dr Morley Singer alerted us to an article in the highly-respected peer-reviewed and journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The article said that people who applied pesticides – or were around pesticides – were more likely to get cancer. [HERE’s the link to the article:  Increased cancer burden among pesticide applicators and others due to pesticide exposure.] We wrote about it here: Pesticides and Cancer, Glyphosate and Gut Bugs. NAP Herbicide use by active ingredient 2014

HERBICIDAL PROBLEMS

We hope that the WHO’s determination will make the Natural Areas Program (NAP) re-think its use of herbicides. Glyphosate, i.e. Roundup/ Aquamaster is possibly carcinogenic, and is on the list of herbicides to be evaluated as an endocrine disruptor. Besides the risk to the public and their pets, their own staff are in the front lines here.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDoE) assigns a ‘Tier” ranking to all the pesticides that are legal for use on City-owned property. Tier III is Least Hazardous, Tier II is More Hazardous, and Tier I is Most Hazardous. Roundup/ Aquamaster is Tier II. We again ask SFDoE to consider reclassifying it as Tier I. But we would be disappointed if NAP merely substituted other herbicides instead.

We have concerns about all the herbicides they use. (See this summary article: Toxic and Toxic-er )

  • Triclopyr (Garlon) is possibly more hazardous than Roundup; it’s already classified as Tier I, and for years has been listed as “High Priority to find a substitute.” NAP is a major user of Garlon, mainly to fight Bermuda Buttercups – yellow oxalis. (We’ll discuss that trade-off another time.)
  • Imazapyr (Polaris), classified as Tier II, is problematic because it doesn’t go away. It can continue to poison plants and impact the environment for a long time after it’s applied. Also, it moves around – it’s mobile in the soil. Some plants actually push it out through their roots. Its breakdown product is a neurotoxin.
  • Milestone VM – aminopyralid – is also classified as Tier II, and it’s even more persistent than Imazapyr. It’s so persistent that animals can eat it, and their poop is poisonous to plants. It’s banned in several places because of its threat to groundwater.

Besides the risk to humans and their pets, pesticide use doesn’t benefit native wildlife – whether insects including butterflies, birds, or animals. It doesn’t benefit native plants, either. All that happens is that other plants best-suited to the area take over, and those are usually other ‘invasives.’ Or worst of all – nothing grows there, leaving bare poisoned slopes. We call on the Natural Areas Program to stop using herbicides.

McLaren Park's Flowered Grassland and Forest

McLaren Park’s Flowered Grassland and Forest

Comments from our Petition to the Mayor

mt davidson forest - hiker on trailBack in October 2013, we saw a report on SFGate (the online presence of the SF Chronicle) saying that Mayor Ed Lee would be responding to petitions addressed to him on Change.org if they crossed a certain (unspecified) number of signatures. The interview wasn’t with Mayor Lee, but with Jake Brewer, his Director of External Affairs. (The link to the relevant page was included in the article. It’s HERE.)

We’ve had a petition up for a while now, asking Mayor Lee to rein in the Natural Areas Program (NAP) that is destroying trees, restricting access, and using toxic herbicides in Natural Areas. (That petition is HERE.)  It has over 1500 signatures on it. But though that’s still live, it’s at MoveOn.org, a different (though similar) organization to Change.org.

Mayor Lee Stop NAPSo we started another one on the proper page at Change.org that gained superb momentum, exceeding 1,000 signatures in the first month. (Please sign if you haven’t already done so – click on the yellow button to go to the petition.)

this scene will be gonePeople are passionate about these natural areas, and they don’t want San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department to fell trees, use toxic herbicides, or restrict access.

A  tiny selection from the hundreds of comments on the petition (with added emphasis):

  • “Our parks, like Glen Park and Sutro Forest, are beautiful. Please don’t let them become barren wastelands.”
  • “Our city parks are looking like war zones with so much destruction. Just look at Glen Park.”
  • “Mt. Davidson is beautiful and healthy the way it is. It has its own wildlife and ecosystem. It was nothing before Mayor Sutro had those tree planted. Pls don’t disrupt it. Also, it is definitely NOT a fire hazard.”
  • “We need more trees in our urban environment, not less. Herbicides are dangerous for the overall environment and often the consequences of use do not show for years to come. Greenery in urban areas is beneficial to our health and well-being.”
  • “Herbicides are dangerous to children, adults and animals. This space is enjoyed by all–keep it safe, keep it open, keep the trees and healthy undergrowth.”
  • “Stop messing with NATURE!!!”
  • “Trees are the lungs of the planet. We need them to help to slow down impending climate catastrophe. Don’t poison the earth with herbicides — they are toxic to all living things, especially young children and pregnant mothers.”
  • “There are 100s of people who have given scientific and emotional reasons to prevent the deforestation of the Sutro / Mt. Davidson Area. It is easy to destroy an area that took a hundred years to create. I can only wonder about the ulterior motive for this mindless plan. Obviously it is the desire to develop this land. So once again commerce and immediate financial gain is at the root of this mindless proposal. Please think again! Next you will want to uproot the inhabitants of SF that are not “native”. They have adapted and now fit in with our plan. Because these trees have been here longer than you or I, they no longer need a great deal of care to grow and thrive. ANYTHING new that is planted will require at least 10 to 15 years of very careful nurturing. I live on Warren Dr. where a neighbor cut down all the trees and shrubs, on his property and on the easement, in order to plant native plants. The result was that about 4 years later, after a heavy winter rain storm, one side of his car was buried in mud. Terrific!… that is native to California!”

glen-canyon-glyphosate aminopyralid june 2012