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26th New Jersey Township Adopts Pesticide-Free Policy

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2009) As part of the Township of Bernards, New Jersey’s new Pesticide Management System Resolution that designates pesticide-free zones and requires adoption of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for all its municipal grounds, the mayor and town council are also asking its citizens to adopt such measures on their own property. The resolution preface states, “[S]cientific studies associate exposure to pesticides with asthma, cancer, development and learning disabilities, nerve an immune system damage, liver or kidney damage, reproductive impairment, birth defects and disruption of the endocrine system, and … infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems and chemical sensitivities are especially vulnerable to pesticide effects and exposure, and … lawn pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are harmful to pests, wildlife, soil microbiology, plants, and natural ecosystems and can run off into streams, lakes and drinking water sources …”

Pesticide-free zones include playgrounds, picnic grounds and pavilion/rest areas, and the area 50 feet around each of these sites, as well as dog park/runs, pool areas and ball fields. Pesticide-free zones also include all waterways and a 300 foot buffer around any stream bank, pond, lake or natural wetland.

According to the township’s IPM plan, “[IPM] activities will consist principally of using native plant species and biological controls to encourage natural land management. Manual/mechanical controls, such as pulling weeds by hand or mowing, will be the first choice for management of invasive plant species when and where most feasible…Where plant, fungal or insect pests become otherwise unmanageable by the various low impact pest management methods, pesticides may be used as a control method of ‘last resort.’ When pesticide use is required, public notification shall be made.” Pesticide notification includes posting information at the park information board 48 hours prior to the application stating the area to be treated and the pesticide to be used. The notice is to remain posted fro at least 72 hours after the application.

Management tools for the pesticide-free zones consist of native plantings, manual weed control, vinegar or citric acid products, burn-out, corn gluten, neem, horticultural oil, potassium soaps of fatty acids, boric acid, diatomaceous earth, microbe based insecticides, non-pesticidal pest traps and biological controls. Some advocates cite as an unfortunate loophole in the plan the authority to use, if other tools are ineffective, pyrethrin insecticides or the herbicide glyphosate as a last resort, both of which are toxic chemicals that pose public health and environmental risks.

Beyond Pesticides and organic land managers note that by using organic practices lawns and landscapes can be successfully managed without any toxic synthetic pesticides. Advocates are concerned that without a strict mandate to limit unnecessary toxic practices, managers may fall back on chemical-intensive methods. However, if the Township of Bernards implements its program rigorously and effectively, it will never need to get to this “last resort” scenario, advocates say.

The IPM plan also covers indoor and outdoor areas of special use sites such as exhibit gardens, amphitheater, and historic sites. For these structures, “[B]aits/gels will be the preferred option if sanitation/exclusionary measures fail to control a pest problem.”

“I think that wherever possible, the township and the individual homeowner should use little, if any, pesticides on their lawns. It’s just healthier,” said Bernard’s Mayor Carolyn Kelly in a My Central Jersey news article. According to the article, Pat Monaco, Bernards’ public works director, says, “[L]ittle, if any, pesticides or fertilizers [have been applied] on public open space in the past few years.”

Jane Nogaki, New Jersey Environmental Federation’s pesticide program coordinator and long-time activist member of Beyond Pesticides, told the reporter that the township will place the nationwide symbol for pesticide-free, the ladybug sign, at its parks this month making it the 26th community to adopt such programs in New Jersey.

Throughout the country there has been a growth in the pesticide-free movement. The passage of pesticide-free public land policies are very promising. For more information on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns & Landscapes program page.


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