Understanding FERNS Notifications

When you view a notificaiton on the FERNS website, you can click “Print Full Report” to view more details about the operation. You can view a list of chemicals that may or may not be used (the company may decide to use less than the listed options at the time of application), the size and location of the application unit, and a window of time during which this spray could occur. Chemical operators must send a notification of their planned sprays to the Oregon Department of Forestry at least 15 days prior, but are not required to notify ODF or the public as to the actual day they will apply the aerial spray. As a result, we have found that the best way to learn when a spray will occur is to call the spray operator or timberland owner, whose contact information can be found on the FERNS notification’s full report.  Be direct and respectful, identify yourself as a neighboring landowner, and request the date the spray will occur – or, if the date has not been planned, request to be notified when the spray is planned (some companies will already have a list of neighboring landowners they contact — although you may want to check back later rather than simply waiting for the call). Some landowners have also had success negotiating with timber companies to refrain from aerial spraying near their homes or drinking water sources, and in these locations the company would do a backpack spray instead.

The notification report will also list bodies of water that require buffers or written plans — and if you are aware of sensitive resources that may be affected, such as a drinking water stream or livestock, you should alert the spray operator and your ODF stewardship forester. Any time a notification requires a written plan for sensitive resources, you can post a comment onto the notification’s FERNS page (when you are logged in as a FERNS user) – and we encourage you to do so!

Our coalition has been advocating the ODF and Board of Forestry for more effective spray notifications to allow nearby landowners to better protect themselves from aerial sprays. In a recent meeting with the State Forester and ODF staff, we requested these improvements to spray notifications:

Changes that would make the system work better for users

  1. Create separate category for aerial chemical application that users can choose when creating subscription
  2. Separate county-wide roadside spraying notifications
  3. Decrease the size limit for NOAPs

Additions to FERNS that would enable users to better protect themselves/land/water

  1. IDENTIFY SPECIFIC CHEMICALS: Create a place on the NOAP where the operator can update it with the specific of chemicals that were applied (on the day of the spray)
    1. Necessary for land owners to be able to test their water (tests are expensive, so need to know which chemicals to test for)
  2. REAL-TIME NOTIFICATIONS: Create a button on the NOAP that would send a 48-hour spray window notification to subscribers (especially for aerial)
    1. Necessary to give community members time to prepare or leave the area

The various organizations in this coalition are working in various ways to help landowners become aware of upcoming sprays near them. We are also following and supporting statewide efforts to pass legislation to protect communities from the negative effects of aerial spraying.