Herbicide plan in the works again | TheUnion.com

Herbicide plan in the works again

At first the Tahoe National Forest didn’t succeed with its plan to use herbicides to clear brush from the Cottonwood Fire, a 1994 wildfire which burned 46,800 acres in Sierra County.

Now, the TNF is going to try, try again.

The TNF wants to apply two kinds of herbicide on 13,500 burned-over acres south of Loyalton.

This is the second at-bat for the project, which got shot down last year by federal Judge Lawrence Karlton when a coalition of environmentalists successfully sued to stop herbicide application on 10,900 acres.

TNF spokeswoman Ann Westling said that although Judge Karlton had some problems with aspects of the project’s first environmental assessment report, he agreed there is a need to do the work.

Conifers grew up naturally after the fire. But Westling said the brush that now surrounds the small trees could fuel a wildfire which would destroy them.

“The whole purpose of this is to get these trees taller than the brush so they can (survive) a wildfire,” she said. “The biggest concern is fires.”

The TNF has used hand crews to clear brush in some areas, but can’t afford to use crews to clear the entire area.

Environmentalists say the forest will restore itself naturally, and they’re upset that the herbicide project has been resurrected.

“It’s no better a project than when they submitted it the first time,” said environmentalist Don Jacobson, a member of the Cottonwood Coalition. “In fact, it’s worse. They’re adding … acres.”

The TNF proposes to mainly hand-apply herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate, which is found in the household weedkiller Round Up. The TNF also wants to use triclopyr, which is contained in the household herbicide, Brush-B-Gon.

Jacobson said that after the TNF mixes the active herbicide ingredients with a so-called “inert” substance, such as diesel fuel, workers will wind up applying between 330,000 to 400,000 gallons of toxic substances to the forest.

“There’s no scientific evidence that shows, in the long run, that you (create) a healthier forest by spraying herbicides on it,” Jacobson said. But “they feel if they’re able to use it here, they’ll be able to use it in other forests in the Sierra.”

Jacobson said environmentalists have once more asked the TNF to drop the project, and will sue again if it goes forward.

The TNF plans to release a environmental impact statement in January detailing its new plans.

Definition of an herbicide: Herbicide is defined as any chemical substance used to destroy plants, especially weeds, or to check their growth.

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