WHAT is aerial herbicide spraying?

Aerial herbicide spraying is the practice of applying herbicide from the air (usually by helicopter) on a crop – in this case, a timber plantation.

WHEN and WHY is aerial herbicide used?

Industrial forestry practices commonly apply aerial herbicide before replanting a clear-cut plot of land, and for three consecutive years after planting to eliminate competing vegetation from overtaking their desired crop (generally Douglas fir seedlings). To find out when an area near you will be sprayed, sign up for ODF’s “FERNS” notification system.

WHY should we promote forestry reform to exclude aerial herbicides?

Herbicides applied to timber lands contain toxic chemicals that can negatively affect ecosystem health both on the land where they are applied and on the areas surrounding — through drifting on air and fog and transferring through water sources. Spraying pesticides from helicopters on private timberland is permissible under the Oregon Forest Practices Act, but research has found that the current regulations – such as buffers around streams, homes, or schools – are not sufficient from protecting against chemical trespass, which occurs when the chemicals make their way onto persons, wildlife, water, or land that were not intended to be sprayed. Contamination of water sources outside of Triangle Lake, OR, resulted in residents of the town downstream testing positive for the presence of atrazine and 2-4D in their urine. These kinds of negative side effects have caused coastal communities to realize the need to monitor sprays in their watersheds, and advocate for their protection.

Generally, aircrafts applying herbicides need to stay 60 feet from homes, schools, significant wetlands, large or fishbearing lakes, and fishbearing streams (when applying fungicides or on-biological insecticides, the buffer is 300 feet). All other waters (such as non-fishbearing or intermittent streams) receive no buffer. Aircraft operators are also supposed to follow instructions on the chemical labels for mixing chemicals (or not) and weather condition requirements for applications. Unfortunately, these regulations are not monitored or enforced, nor do they take into account the ability of water-soluble chemicals to relocate through transpiration and drift on coastal fog, or to persist in groundwater. The Oregon Health Authority stated that aerially applied chemicals can drift at least 2-4 miles from the application site. Many commonly-used chemicals have been found to be harmful to humans, wildlife, and ecosystems.

While herbicide applied in any manner is harmful, there is greater risk of chemical trespass when chemicals are applied aerially. Banning aerial herbicide spraying – especially near drinking water streams and headwaters – would be an important step to protecting resources from chemical contamination.  Learn more on the Oregon Forest Voices website – which presents resources through video, research, and news – and by visiting the websites of the local groups that form this coalition.

–> FOLLOW THIS LINK to see a list of commonly sprayed chemicals and learn more about their toxicity.