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Pesticide adventures at Triangle Lake

By Dennis T. Avery
web posted April 23, 2012

My brother lives in Triangle Lake, a small community in Oregon's Coastal Range foothills, surrounded by pastures and forests. Recently, a wealthy couple from Chicago bought a local property and is kindling what they call the "Pitchfork Rebellion" against pesticides. They allege environmental damage and health hazards to local residents from tree, crop and roadside spraying.

I thought of Larry and Linda when the American Farm Bureau Federation sent me a recent column that said Obama appointees have been are demonstrating what farmers and ranchers have known for years: that too many government agencies have become havens for activists not interested in the basic functions of safety and commerce, but in "reshaping" our society.  

Back at Triangle Lake, the EPA's Pesticide Analytical Response Center has come in to assess the local pesticide risks. The EPA has already collected urine, water and garden samples from 64 local volunteers. They've tested for residues of 116 different pesticides. Linda says she volunteered, and the EPA found no pesticides traces in her urine or the family drinking water. There have been problems with the EPA's volunteer sampling because many of the volunteers do not live where this year's spraying was scheduled. The Pitchforks now accuse the local landowners of hindering the collection of post-spray samples on their properties.

At a public meeting April 10, many residents said they were concerned if the Pitchfork Rebellion prevailed they would lose the ability to control Russian knapweed, an invasive Asian alien with creeping roots that sink 20 feet deep into the soil. It literally poisons other vegetation. Experts warn that the knapweed is spreading across the Mountain West region at rates of 8–14 percent per year.  

Triangle Lake suffered many job losses in the 1990's, after the Clinton Administration radically cut Pacific Northwest logging to "protect" the spotted owl. Monitoring since the shut-down has found the spotted owls are actually hybridizing with the Eastern barred owl, which is moving across Canada and into the Pacific Northwest, but the rural Oregon lumbering jobs are still gone.

So, Triangle Lake is now more dependent on pastures and Christmas tree farming. But the Russian knapweed is threatening those enterprises too. The usual treatment has been with the herbicides atrazine and 2, 4-D--herbicides which have had decades of safe effectiveness.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has recently -- again -- demanded both atrazine and  2, 4-D be banned. The alleged threat to humans from 2 4-D is unproven "endocrine disruption." (Eating soy products and peas will also "disrupt" your endocrine system.)  Atrazine's safety has been repeatedly confirmed by the EPA itself, but it's targeted because non-toxic traces of it turn up seasonally in Corn Belt drinking water. There are newer herbicides that kill knapweed, but they're expensive -- a real problem for rural Oregon.

What is this costing the federal government, (and thereby the taxpayers) and to what purpose? The pesticides being used today even survived the EPA's vengeful attacks during the Carter years. But Carol Browner, Carter's EPA Administrator, is now a White House Czar. She wants some pesticide scalps to placate the folks who have forgotten why we needed pesticides in the first place -- such as keeping bedbugs out of hotels and schools, and ensuring we have a potato crop next fall.

What will the Pitchfork Rebellion cost Triangle Lake, and what does EPA's eagerness to jump into a meaningless fray mean for our futures? ESR

Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Readers may write to him at PO Box 202 Churchville, VA 2442; email to cgfi@hughes.net. Visit our website at www. cgfi.org





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