Daily News Archive

Planned Herbicide Spraying Near Yosemite Draws Criticism
(Beyond Pesticides, July 29, 2004) The Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center (CSERC) and the California Indian Basketweavers Association (CIBA) are protesting a U.S. Forest Service plan to spray herbicides over nearly 1,200 acres near Yosemite National Park. The plan was adopted earlier this month.

The Forest Service says the brush in the Stanislaus National Forest has grown too high for hand-spraying and the terrain is too steep for mechanical shredders to operate. The service plans to use helicopters to spray the herbicides to kill brush encroaching on an area west of Yosemite that burned in 1987. The service then wants to burn the dead brush and replant it as a conifer forest. Officials say those new conifers are needed to return the forest to a more natural setting. The spraying is planned for late spring.

But the CSERC and CIBA say the spraying is not necessary. They are appealing the forest managers' proposal to spray, which was adopted earlier this month.

The groups say the herbicide glyphosate -- the active ingredient in the common garden and farming herbicide Roundup -- will be detrimental to valuable American Indian plants. Vivian Parker, a biologist for CIBA, said the herbicide spraying, planned for late next spring, will kill scores of plants that many American Indians consider important-- plants that Indians use for food, baskets and ceremonial activities, as well as plants that provide good habitat for wildlife.

The Forest Service says that the spraying will improve the area's recreation and wildlife functions, protect the watershed and timber resources, and reduce the risk of future wildland fires. But CSERC's executive director John Buckley objects to the spraying, saying that the Forest Service is interested in creating a tree plantation for future logging operations, not in enhancing wildlife habitat. "They insist they want a healthy forest for wildlife," he said, "but to kill off many square miles of existing forest and set it back 17 years is not healthy for wildlife."

John Schmechel, a Forest Service expert, said the herbicides won't kill the oaks, which are especially important to American Indians but will set back their growth and make the trees "ill" for a year. But even a fellow federal agency has concerns about the aerial spraying. The National Park Service earlier expressed concerns in writing about the possibility of herbicides drifting into neighboring Yosemite, said Deb Schweizer, a Yosemite park ranger.

For more information on this story, see the original Daily News.com story and Recordnet.com story.

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