Monday, January 26, 2009
2009Secret weapon: Natural born weed killers...And More
Secret weapon: Natural born weed killers
By Eli Ashkenazi
A small herd of eight elands, the largest members of the antelopefamily, are helping the Israel Defense Forces to maintain security atthe Lebanese border. These large wild deer, each weighing around 500kilograms, are known for their strong, sharp teeth and varied taste invegetation.
The eland, which originates in East Africa, was introduced to Israelin the 1970s. The first group was brought here to help fill the localzoos, and some even continued north after a short rest period, ontheir way to zoos throughout Europe. When these animals' impressivechewing abilities were discovered, however, some elands were borrowedfrom the zoos to clear land of wild vegetation and expose theunderlying soil. Advertisement
The defense establishment soon took an interest in employing elands.Apart from being environmentally friendly, the animals save on thecost of manpower to clear weeds near secret military installations.Over the years the elands became a common sight at military bases, buttheir service along the fence with Lebanon is being published in thesepages for the first time.
Yigal Sela was the first to use elands to halt the spread of weeds. "Isaw how vivacious these creatures were and realized they could be usedto reduce the vegetation that accelerates the spread of forest fires,"he says.
Sela, who worked for the Jewish National Fund in the 1980s, broughtsome elands to the forests, where they proved they could eat atremendous variety of plants. Still, fears of the natural increase ofan animal not native to Israel blocked a plan to introduce them to allthe forests.
"The trial with the elands was wonderful," says Haggai Ilan, in chargeof captured wild animals for the Israel Nature and National ParksAuthority. "But 10 years passed before there was a surplus of theseanimals in captivity, and only then did we begin introducing them toIDF bases to eat the weeds."
Once their advantages became clear, elands were brought to many largearmy bases and fences were built to prevent them from roaming.
"The elands eat tremendous quantities and do a wonderful job clearingthe weeds at enormous or secret military installations, and in placeswere there are ammunition storerooms, where the fear of fires isgreater," says Yossi Ben of Arava Antelope Ranch. "In these places theelands save on manpower and obviate the need for spraying chemicalherbicides." Sela says there are now between 500 and 700 elands at IDFbases throughout Israel.
"They are never ill, have a very low mortality rate, and areunthreatened by local natural predators. They also don't needsupplementary food or water."
Now after years on the home front, eight elands were transported to astretch along the border with Lebanon, in an enclave between Israel'ssecurity fence and a fence on the "blue line" - the internationalborder.
"The elands eat the weeds in problematic places, open paths, clear theview and prevent fires," Ilan says.
January 25. 2009
Woman’s weeds in Bend spur action in SalemLegislators to consider making the pulling of noxious weeds an Adopt-a-Highway duty
By Nick Budnick / The Bulletin
Brenda Pace, 64, holds a spotted knapweed plant — considered a noxiousweed in Oregon — that a group of volunteers uprooted along CascadeLakes Highway near Widgi Creek on Friday. - Pete Erickson The BulletinPete Erickson The Bulletin
Brenda Pace, 64, holds a spotted knapweed plant — considered a noxiousweed in Oregon — that a group of volunteers uprooted along CascadeLakes Highway near Widgi Creek on Friday.
SALEM — Anyone who’s ever felt powerless to change state law can takeheart from the tale of Bend resident Brenda Pace.
Two years ago, the neighborhood activist and Deschutes County planningcommissioner noticed something as she pulled weeds down at theDeschutes River in her Widgi Creek neighborhood. The observationblossomed into an idea — one that, with the help of state Rep. GeneWhisnant, R-Sunriver, now appears well on its way to changing law inOregon.
A bill introduced Wednesday by Whisnant would expand the state’s Adopt-a-Highway program to include the pulling of noxious, habitat-killingweeds as well as picking up litter. This easy change in existing law,Pace, Whisnant and others say, will help save jobs and the environmentstatewide — at almost no cost to taxpayers.
“It gets people involved; it’s volunteerism, that’s what excited me,”said Whisnant, who can’t seem to stop smiling when he talks about thelegislation.
Where most of us see a distinctive purple flower that makes CentralOregon a prettier place, Pace and her fellow weed warriors see what isliterally a growing menace: the spotted knapweed.
The foreign invader — a species believed to have originated in EasternEurope — sucks up more water than most plants and has deeper roots —thus driving out its native competitors, contributing to erosion anddestabilizing local ecosystems. In Montana alone, the plant hasgobbled up more than 5 million acres of rangeland, and according tothe Oregon Department of Agriculture, it occupies about 1.4 percent ofthe landmass of Oregon.
A state study in 1999 looked at 21 invasive plant species, roughly aquarter of those in Oregon, and found their effects on farming,livestock and other industries cost Oregon $83 million, or 3,300 jobs.The estimate has grown since then, according to Dan Sherwin, DeschutesCounty vegetation manager. He calls Bend “the spotted knapweed capitalof Oregon.”
To combat the knapweed and its fellow invasive species, a corps ofweed-roots activists, including Cheryl Howard, has sprung up.
Howard, who sits on Deschutes County’s Weed Advisory Board, likens theknapweed invasion to a science-fiction movie. “These are the alienspecies,” she said. “These can eradicate forests.”
Pace, an economist and biology buff, had been pulling the weeds foryears along Widgi Creek and around her Orchard district neighborhood.Thanks in part to her work with a California-based nonprofit calledthe Center for Natural Lands Management, she knew the plants spread byflowering and sending thousands of seeds into the air. In fact, asingle plant can spawn several hundred thousand seeds in its lifetime.So in Bend, she and her fellow neighborhood weed-pullers hunt for lotsand creeksides where the knapweed flourishes.
One day two years ago, Pace was wondering why their efforts didn’tseem to be having a permanent effect. Then she noticed something: Thespotted knapweed was lurking, flourishing and flowering along CenturyDrive and other state highways.
“I realized, ‘For goodness sake, it’s coming off the road,” she re-called.
It was a mystery. Pace knew the Oregon Department of Transportationsprays a knapweed-specific herbicide along its roads. So she calledODOT and learned that due to budget constraints, the ODOT weed-controlsprayers mostly just spray from the pavement into the right-of-way —with a limited range of less than 8 feet.
This means that farther from the road, among the bitter brush,“there’s lots of room for the knapweed to hide,” she said.
Pace’s intuition was exactly right, Howard said: The weed is carriedby tire treads. According to a 2007 state Department of Agriculturenews release, knapweed “easily moves along highway corridors,especially in the Bend-Sisters area.”
Pace and her fellow neighborhood activists already were involved inthe Adopt-a-Highway program, in which volunteers pick up trash and arerewarded for their efforts with roadside signs. So she asked ODOT,which oversees the program in Oregon, if weed-pullers could be honoredthe same way.
The program’s use of public recognition, she said, “is a major reasonwhy it’s been so successful.”
ODOT’s vegetation manager, Will Lackey, looked into it. He found thatunder the program’s statute, volunteer weed-pullers could not berewarded with a sign unless they also picked up litter.
That’s exactly what Pace and her neighbors did. But she said the addedresponsibility required about eight visits a year, twice that of thelitter pickup. She worried that many groups are not as large as hersand could not sustain that commitment.
Hence the change suggested by Pace: Under the Whisnant bill,volunteers could be recognized with an Adopt-a-Highway sign for eitherweed-pulling or litter control; they would not have to do both.
That simple change could have a big impact, advocates say, both inspreading public awareness and cutting off the knapweed’s favoredinvasion route.
“It’s brilliant,” Howard said. “I think Brenda is just amazing. When alot of people are told no, they’re like, ‘All right.’ Otherindividuals, like Brenda, they’re like, ‘Well, why isn’t itpossible?’”
Pace earlier brought her idea to the Deschutes County Weed AdvisoryBoard, the Oregon Transportation Commission and the state organizationof weed control administrators. Talking to weed activists as well asDemocratic lawmakers in the state Legislature, they recommended shetake the proposal to Whisnant.
On the surface of things, the two might seem an odd match. Pace is adevoted environmentalist with a focus on the Endangered Species Act, afavorite target of Republicans. Whisnant, a retired Air Force colonel,is a staunch fiscal conservative.
However, Whisnant has been a true believer and regular weed-pullattendee since being invited to a “weed party” awareness event shortlyafter taking office in 2003.
He met with Pace and others over the summer to craft the legislation,and earlier this month, Pace, Howard and other weed warriors drove toSalem to lobby lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Whisnant had already lined up a key co-sponsor: Bryan Clem,a Democrat who represents Salem. Not only does Clem chair the HouseAgriculture Committee, but he and his wife, Carol, run an 80-acrefamily fruit orchard.
“He’s an agriculture man, so he knows the problem of noxious weeds,”Whisnant said of Clem.
With a majority-party co-sponsor and a persuasive pitch, the bill hashad no trouble attracting support. Whisnant said he already has 32state representatives and eight senators signed on to the cause.
Whisnant said he’s gratified because the bill provides him theopportunity to make positive change, even while Republicans are aminority in the state Capitol. But he stressed that credit for thebill all belongs to Pace.
“I think it’s a good cause and a good bill, and hopefully it’ll goright through the system quickly,” he said. “Who could be againstpeople pulling bad weeds, noxious weeds?”
And Oregon weed warriors hope the idea spreads beyond the state, muchas the Adopt-a-Highway program grew to encompass the entire country.
Piggybacking weed control onto the existing litter program, Pace said,is cheap and easy. “They’ve got the insurance program, the volunteers,the safety program, they’ve got the safety vests, the highway signs(and) the bags for picking up the stuff that’s collected.
“So their only increase in cost is the increase in volunteers — whichis a pretty good payback.”
Nick Budnick can be reached at 541-566-2839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2008www.bendbulletin.com
West Marin reaches deal on pesticide spraying
by Mark Prado
The once controversial issue of pesticide spraying to kill mosquitoesin West Marin has quietly been solved with the signing of a five-yearagreement addressing the testy topic.
The upshot: Pesticides of concern will not be used, and if they areever considered, West Marin residents will have their say.
"West Marin residents don't want a lot of pesticides being sprayed,"said Jim Wanderscheid, manager of the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and VectorControl District. "We have had several meetings and have become goodfriends. There is an understanding."
Under the agreement approved last week, the district will only usebiological larvicides, naturally occurring bacteria that kill mosquitolarvae.
If the mosquito-borne West Nile virus shows up in West Marin, thedistrict would discuss the use pesticides with the West Marin MosquitoControl Coordinating Council, a 15-member citizens group made up of avariety of citizens and interests.
"But so far we have not had any cases of West Nile in West Marin,"Wanderscheid said.
The long-term deal helps soothe what initially had been a battlebetween environmentally conscious West Marin and the Cotati-basedmosquito district over the use of toxic chemicals to combatmosquitoes.
Initial friction occurred after the November 2004 annexation of WestMarin into the district. Some who voted to join the district believedonly "environmentally friendly" means would be used to addressmosquitoes, but were surprised to learn that some of the chemicals atthe district's disposal were potentially harmful to other animals.
In January 2005 more than 100 people turned out at a Bolinas CommunityPublic Utility District to air concerns. From there the West MarinMosquito Control Committee, a five-member citizens group, was formedto work with the district on concerns.
After numerous meetings with the citizens committee, the two sidesagreed on two, one-year pesticide moratoriums that have now morphedinto the multi-year agreement.
"We wanted to extend this because it has worked well and the districtis fairly happy with it," said Natalie Gates, co-chairwoman of theWest Marin Mosquito Control Coordinating Council. "The district willonly use pesticides that are low risk."
Gates praised the district for working with the community to use non-toxic means to rid the area of mosquitoes, which have not flourishedin West Marin.
"Luckily, the high winds in West Marin make it hard for mosquitoes todo well here," she said.
TIPS TO KEEP MOSQUITOES AT BAY
- Screen roof plumbing vents and seal septic tanks
- Dispose of any standing water once a week
- Check tarps or old tires for standing water
- Monitor dairy waste ponds for mosquito problems
- Drain watering holes on a regular basis
- Clean clogged gutters
- Manage irrigation water effectively
- Fill tree holes
- Report dead birds or squirrels to 1-877-968-2473 (1-877-WNV-BIRD)
Source: West Marin Mosquito Control Coordinating Council
Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at email@example.com
Patrick Moore on DrugsTopics: environment pharmaceuticals third party techniqueSource: The Seattle Times (Washington), January 20, 2009
Patrick MoorePatrick MooreIt is "inevitable that a small amount ofingested pharmaceuticals will eventually show up at trace levels inwastewater," Greenpeace activist turned industry PR consultant PatrickMoore writes in an op/ed. "The Pharmaceutical Assessment and TransportEvaluation (PhATE) model has been developed by industry as a tool toestimate concentrates of pharmaceutical residues in surfacewaters. ... But some activist organizations still push for costly andunnecessary controls. In Washington, Oregon and Illinois, for example,interest groups who believe that any trace amount of any compound inwastewater must be stopped at all cost are proposing an elaborate take-back plan." At the end of the op/ed, Moore is identified as "anadviser to government and industry." Moore's colleague at GreenspiritStrategies, Tom Tevlin, told the Center for Media and Democracy thatthe PR firm does count pharmaceutical companies among its clients.However, Tevlin would not name them. The PhATE model that Moorepraised in his op/ed was developed by PhRMA, the major U.S. drugindustry group.
Patrick Moore - SourceWatch Proifilehttp://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Patrick_Moore
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The Seattle Times.
Waste pharmaceuticals pose no threat
By Patrick Moore
Special to The Times
AS a lifelong environmentalist with nearly four decades of activismunder my belt since I helped found Greenpeace in 1971, I've thought agreat deal about environmental health and human safety.
One issue that has received a lot of attention recently is thepresence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the environment. Someactivist groups have raised concerns this represents a threat eventhough the medicines are found at extremely low levels.
As with many other issues, in the case of pharmaceuticals in theenvironment, it comes down to this: We must weigh the significantbenefits of a healthier population against potential environmentalrisks across the landscape.
The lives of millions of people around the world have been vastlyimproved thanks to the prescribed use of pharmaceuticals. And researchis continuing daily for new cures, at a cost of tens of billions ofdollars annually in the U.S. alone.
It is also inevitable that a small amount of ingested pharmaceuticalswill eventually show up at trace levels in wastewater, given the humanbody seldom metabolizes the entire medicine, and given the improvedanalytical testing technologies that have developed over time.
An even smaller portion — 10 percent — of detectable trace elements inwastewater are the result of consumers flushing unused prescriptionsdown the toilet.
The Pharmaceutical Assessment and Transport Evaluation (PhATE) modelhas been developed by industry as a tool to estimate concentrations ofpharmaceutical residues in surface waters that result from consumerpharmaceutical use. The PhATE tool is being used to track compounds in11 representative watersheds across the U.S. to model concentrationsinto the future.
This science-based approach is working to continually improve ourunderstanding of environmental risk from pharmaceuticals. It'simportant to note that, to date, no risk to human health from exposureto trace pharmaceutical compounds found in drinking water has beendemonstrated in the scientific literature.
But some activist organizations still push for costly and unnecessarycontrols. In Washington, Oregon and Illinois, for example, interestgroups who believe that any trace amount of any compound in wastewatermust be stopped at all cost are proposing an elaborate take-back plan.
This is wrong for a number of reasons.
First, detecting minute trace pharmaceutical compounds in wastewaterdoes not mean you've identified a problem — or even the risk of aproblem. Obviously, we should not indiscriminately send toxic wasteinto the environment, yet our detection methods have become sosophisticated that low levels of nearly everything are going to befound nearly everywhere. A take-back approach to eliminate such lowlevels will be enormously costly, difficult to manage, and offer noadded benefit to human health or safety.
Second, a take-back program will likely result in increased greenhouse-gas emissions from the additional infrastructure and transportationneeds the program will require — all for a new program that, if pasttake-back subscription rates are any indicator, will be used by only asmall fraction of the public.
Earlier this year, industry joined with the American PharmacistsAssociation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in launching theSMARxT disposal program. The goal of the program is to educate thepublic about not flushing or pouring unused medicines down the drain,but instead to use the household trash disposal or local collectionprograms as alternatives.
I believe a simple education program like SMARxT is far more likely toresult in reduced amounts of pharmaceuticals going into wastewaterthan the costly approaches being proposed by some activists.
I subscribe to the old scientific maxim that the difference between amedicine and a poison is in the dose. While in recent years we havedrastically increased — from parts per thousands to parts per million,and currently parts per trillion — our ability to detect human-introduced compounds in the environment, it is still important toplace things in perspective, recognizing that the poison is in thedose.
In most cases, the best approach an individual can take to reduceconsumer-discarded pharmaceuticals from wastewater is to ensure thesubstance is never flushed, unused, down the drain.
An adviser to government and industry, Patrick Moore is a co-founderand former leader of Greenpeace, and chair and chief scientist ofGreenspirit Strategies Ltd. in Vancouver, Canada.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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