New Low-Level Herbicide Proposed For Weed Killing

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Tonto National Forest is proposing to use what they call relatively low-level herbicide sprays to remove weeds.

The Forest Service said it plans to use chemicals such as chlorsulfuron, and a list of others they said are relatively nontoxic, to try and get rid of some of the weeds which can be harmful to native and other plant species and are growing along highways and roads in Gila County and in Tonto National Forest.

They plan to spray around the Payson area in an effort to control the noxious weed problem in spots along Highway 87 through town.

Patti Fenner, noxious weed program manager for Tonto National Forest presented the proposal to the Gila County Board of Supervisors at a public meeting July 24.

Globe resident Robert Mckusick said he is opposed to using any kind of herbicides on the weeds.

"These are all toxic chemicals which have been linked by medical studies to miscarriages, cancers, birth deformities and nerve disorders."

"I would request that you study this very carefully and consider the consequences of unleashing these dangerous chemicals on people and the environment." Mckusick said.

Board member Shirley Dawson also voiced some reservation over the forest service's plan, "government has made some horrible mistakes in the past by spraying the Pinals when herbicides were used in 1969 to try and get rid of the weed problem."

Mckusick said the use of herbicides in the Pinals and specifically Ice House Canyon in 1969 was responsible for birth defects among the goats he used to raise for sale.

"We moved here from Tucson in 1954 and had no problems with anything like birth defects with our goats before 1969."

Mckusick added, "But after they sprayed the Pinals, including Ice House Canyon where my goats were kept, over 50 percent of my goats began to be born with birth defects like cleft palates, missing or too many limbs, and one was born with no brain tissue."

Dawson said, "We need to be able to trust that the Forest Service is making decisions that are in the best interests of everyone concerned."

Vice Chairperson, Tommie Martin said, "If we managed the problem of overgrown weeds now like we know how to do, like city burning, picking and plowing, instead of chemicals, we would have a lot more control of the situation and might not even have to consider using chemicals at all."

Fenner said that relatively nontoxic chemicals like chlorsulfuron are safe to use, however, some experts say it is not as harmless as many believe.

A report from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group said the chemical can be harmful to animals, humans and the environment.

The report said that chlorsulfuron is in a class of chemicals labeled sulfonyl ureas, or SU's.

The report said that while SU's are used relatively safely as herbicides in an agricultural venue -- they are also configured as pharmaceuticals and prescribed to humans because they do indeed affect human bodies.

The report said that the affects of relatively nontoxic SU's on humans is still inconclusive until further scientific studies are performed.

Fenner said any chemicals used by the Forest Service must go through a process of evaluation to ensure their safety.

She said, "We want to use tools that cause the least impact on the environment."

Board Chairman, Jose M. Sanchez said, "I think we need to consider this whole thing more, and I feel we also need to have another public meeting before we make any final decision."

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