Potential aerial herbicide spraying causes concern

Some Interlakes residents are calling on Tolko Industries Ltd. to restrict its use of herbicides due to concerns raised over the chemicals used for controlling vegetation in reforested areas.


A public meeting, sponsored by the Fishing Highway Tourist Association (FHTA), will be held at the Interlakes hall tonight (May 11) at 7 p.m. to discuss the use of these chemicals and other forestry-related concerns with the company’s representatives.


Tolko’s Five Year Pest Management Plan (PMP) is currently under revision, and continues to include the potential for ground and aerial spraying of the chemicals glyphospate and triclopyr to kill non-marketable competing vegetation in replanted logged areas.


In light of some proposed legislation targeting the ban of “cosmetic pesticides” and Premier Christy Clark saying she will restrict the use of lawn and garden weed killers, FHTA president Deborah Young says this is a good time to get involved in the issue, before Tolko implements its next five-year plan.


The PMP allows for the ground and aerial spraying of glyphospate, the active ingredient in the commercial brand Round Up, and triclopyr, both which, Young claims, can kill fish and is a potential hazard to the health of residents, birds, lakes and animals.


The plan covers virtually all of the Cariboo, and targets varieties of willow, aspen, alder, birch, cottonwood, rhododendron and numerous berries.


There are also issues about berry bushes being affected by the herbicide, Young says, adding area ranchers are concerned about beef contamination, particularly from aerial applications.


She notes some Interlakes residents are worried that with such large clear cuts being logged after the pine beetle devastation, they don’t want what’s left of their pristine area to be potentially doused in chemicals.


“It’s the aerial spraying we’re totally dead against. You can’t control the wind, but it comes up pretty sporadically and the chemicals will kill fish in the lakes.”


Tolko’s regional forester – silviculture Grant Glessing says the company has a legal obligation to achieve the appropriate stocking densities and species compositions on free-growing regenerated cut blocks.


“The use of herbicides is not taken lightly and the PMP outlines the measures that will be taken to protect the public, workers and the environment, including water sources, food, wildlife and vulnerable plant species.”


In the past, Tolko has not chemically treated any blocks near 100 Mile House with herbicides, nor will it be treating any there in 2011, he adds. However, he notes it is not yet known which individual cut blocks will require herbicide treatment during the next five years.


“The PMP allows for many vegetation treatment applications to be used, including ground based or aerial applications. Tolko believes an aerial application within the 100 Mile House Forest District would be highly unlikely.”


The PMP has been advertised in newspapers throughout the Cariboo, and notification of the plan has been sent to all registered range permit holders, Glessing notes.


He adds stakeholders will receive further notification if a treatment is identified in the future.


However, the plan indicates notification to those who may be “significantly impacted” only needs to be done once every five years, which is during the development of the PMP.


Young says she sees animals feeding on the treated vegetation as another potential problem.


Birds, deer, moose, elk, bears, hares, beavers, bees, and even people consume the listed vegetation and berries targeted for control, she adds.


Information on both chemicals was researched with the FHTA’s limited resources, Young notes, including the Journal of Pesticide Reform/Winter 2000 and the Applied Mammal Research Institute’s Non-Target Impacts of the Herbicide Glyphospate.


She adds anyone can search online under the chemical names and find a lot of information.


“I’m sure there are studies that show it’s very minimal, or whatever, but the point is, there are two sides, so why take the risk?”


While the group is hoping Tolko will show restraint in its application and eliminate aerial spraying altogether, Young says the next course of action is the taking their plea to the area logging licensees, provincial ministries and the Office of the Premier.