EPIC Says No to Spraying Toxic Herbicides on the Scott River

By
Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The Yreka US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has recently completed their Draft Environmental Analysis for control of the invasive Leafy spurge plant with herbicides.  The proposal tiers towards spraying Round-up (glyphosate) with R-11 (another highly toxic chemical) directly on the river bars and flood plains of the Scott River.  Manual spraying would take place July-October daily for up to five years.  There are multiple sites where the plant is growing along a sixty-mile stretch of the river that would be subject to this treatment, but the draft analysis does not even include a map that identifies the location of these sites that would be sprayed.

Leafy spurge is a highly invasive, extremely prolific, non-native plant that has deep roots, and can also spread by seed.  The Siskiyou County Department of Agriculture has been spraying this plant, and others, for many years and has not succeeding in controlling or eradicating one non-native plant.  The proposed project does not address upstream seed sources or monitoring, and relies almost entirely on the application of toxic chemicals.

The danger to humans from these chemicals was completely disregarded in the draft analysis. The FWS simply claims that there is no expected exposure to the general public.  The Scott River, a large tributary to the Klamath River, supports a variety of anadromous fish, including the federally listed Coho salmon, as well as Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and the Pacific lamprey.  Herbicides would also affect amphibians, birds, bees, and mammals.  The FWS dismisses any effect to fish and wildlife as insignificant.

There are other treatment options for this invasive non-native plant, including manual methods such as tarping, hand pulling and digging, as well as biological controls (insects).   EPIC believes that control of Leafy spurge will require a well-planned program with consistent and careful follow through. Short and long term noxious weed management planning is needed by the private, county, state, and/or federal government if effective control of Leafy spurge and other Class “A” species of noxious weeds in the Klamath River, Scott River, Quartz Valley tributaries, and adjacent areas is to be achieved.

The use of toxic herbicides – especially near water – presents an unacceptable health risk to those people who live near or recreate on wild and scenic rivers, and who use National Forest lands. Given the level of controversy surrounding these chemicals, and the potential of significant effects to Threatened and Endangered fish species, as well as to human health and safety, further environmental review is clearly in order for this project proposal. Consultation with NMFS and Native Tribes must be initiated and documented.  At the core of this issue, EPIC asks that the FWS adopt a non-toxic approach to control/eradication of non-native plants.