Herbicide Use in
Tahoe National Forest Blocked
According to a Californians
for Alternatives to Toxics (CAT) media release, a federal judge in Sacramento
has barred the Forest Service from using herbicides to kill brush and
grasses on 10,900 acres in the Tahoe National Forest. Judge Lawrence Karleton
said the Forest Service cannot proceed with the plan until it assesses
how use of the herbicides would affect the spread of noxious weeds, considers
new information concerning the effects of herbicide on the health of humans
and wildlife and assesses whether herbicides are even needed.
The Forest Service
had planned to use the herbicides to kill brush around pine seedlings
planted in the 44,000 acres that burned in the Cottonwood Fire in 1994.
The area contains the largest high- elevation wetlands in the Sierra Nevada
and includes sensitive habitat for a number of rare and threatened animals.
Under the judge's
ruling, the Forest Service must evaluate the herbicides' potential to
encourage the spread of noxious weeds, particularly cheatgrass, the most
dangerous fuel for early-season fires. "Studies show that what grows
back after forest herbicides are sprayed often creates a situation far
worse than what was there before," said Patty Clary of the lead plaintiff
group Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs). Clary added that
cheatgrass, which is rapidly advancing through the Sierras, ups fire danger
in forest areas because it is a thick grass that dries up before native
grasses do. "The fire season can begin six weeks earlier than it
did historically once cheatgrass gets established by disturbances such
as the use of herbicides," said Clary.
CATs was joined in
the lawsuit by Forest Issues Group and the California Indian Basketweavers
Association. All three public interest organizations had studied and critiqued
the plan through almost four years of its development. "Though we
told them from the beginning that this plan wasn't needed, the Forest
Service spent an enormous sum developing and defending their plan while
ignoring the reasoned input of an interested public" said Don Jacobson
of the Forest Issues Group.
The Forest Service
hopes to address the judge's concerns in the next eight to ten months.
Sam Wilbanks is District
Ranger for Sierraville Ranger District, Tahoe National Forest and can
be reached at 530-994-3401. For quotes from Wilbanks and U.S. Attorney
Edmund Brennan, click here to read the full story in the Sacramento Bee.
For more information you can visit CAT's website at http://www.alternatives2toxics.org/.