I have been reading a number of news stories lately about cities that have changed their policies and practices regarding use of synthetic pesticides on city properties.
Many scientific studies have been published about the dangers posed by synthetic pesticides, and city officials are beginning to realize that using these products puts residents, workers, wildlife, pollinators, pets and children at risk. Study after study shows that many of the products used across the country for decades are now in our drinking water and soil.
I am proud to live in Ashland where, because of the work of a group of committed and concerned citizens, in 2010, Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission implemented a policy of using manual weeding and organic herbicides in our land management practices in Ashland’s parks to ensure that residents, tourists, pets, children and wildlife are not exposed to dangerous and toxic chemicals. With a few exceptions, the city of Ashland’s properties are not treated with synthetic pesticides. (A “pesticide” is any substance that kills pests, including herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, miticides and more.)
And I am proud that Ashland is one of the 62 Bee City USAs in the country, which means that a city’s policies and practices will take into account impacts to pollinators. Synthetic pesticides, whether for weeds or insects or fungus, have been shown to cause harm to pollinators and other beneficial insects in both the short term and long term.
Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission maintains our city’s parks and public lands, and is committed to keeping the public safe, while keeping our city beautiful. While we continue to explore ways to take care of our lands more organically and sustainably, obviously that has come at a significant cost in terms of manpower and maintenance. We continue to explore how to do this in ways that protect both our parks and their visitors in a sustainable and fiscally responsible manner.
There continues to be more and more research about how neonicotinoids are impacting the health of bees. Papers have been published about bees’ ability to navigate, and a lower bee sperm count are caused by exposure to these neonicotinoid properties. More details on this research and other information on sustainability can be found at pollinatorprojectroguevalley.org. The Rogue Valley Pollinator Project also lists which nurseries are committed to providing plants from suppliers that don’t use neonicotinoids. I sincerely hope that citizens and homeowners will join the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission in looking at alternatives that don’t damage our children, pollinators and wildlife.
I encourage everyone to consider the information presented here. Although there may be instances in which synthetic pesticides are needed, most landscape maintenance, especially for homeowners, normally requires little in the way of toxic pesticides. Because we are learning that the use of organic soil amendments actually results in healthier grass, trees and other plants, and therefore fewer problems from pests and weeds, I would like to encourage consideration of using organic soil amendments. Synthetic fertilizers actually contribute to the need for synthetic pesticides. There has been interesting research recently showing that many synthetic pesticides and neonicotinoids actually don’t wash off but are found later in pollen and flowers, long after the pesticide was applied. Unfortunately, much of the fertilizers and pesticides often are found later in our waterways, impacting both fish and bird life.
Joel Alan Heller is an Ashland Parks and Recreation commissioner. Park Views appears monthly.