Bees Get Their Day at the State Legislature

The Legislative hearing on Bee Health and Pesticide Use on November 21 was an important milestone.  Lawmakers heard from a number of panelists that pesticides are harming bees.

The day started with Beyond Toxics delivering nearly 12,000 signatures to Katy Coba, the Director of the Department of Agriculture calling for a ban on a class of pesticides labeled neonicotinoids.  These pesticides are very toxic to bees and are one of the factors in colony collapse disorder.  Beyond Toxics also hosted the Beauty of the Bee Photography Exhibit in the main Galleria, as well as offering tasty treats from crops pollinated by bees (pumpkin pie, figs, apples, and more).

At 2:00 pm dozens of people showed up for the Bee Health and Pesticide Use hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.  The highpoints I took away from the hearing give me hope that Oregon will soon take meaningful action to protect bees and other pollinators from the threat of extinction by pesticide poisoning:

  1. All testimony acknowledged that the bee die-offs in Wilsonville and Hillsboro were due to exposure to neonicotinoids. Dr. Jepson from Oregon State University reminded the members of the House Committee that neonics pose risks to birds and aquatic species in addition to bees.
  2.  Katy Coba from the ODA confirmed that, yes, ODA has the authority to place restrictions on pesticide products that are more protective than the federal government.
  3.  Everyone agreed that both the general public and licensed pesticide users need more education about the risks of neonicotinoids. The State will soon require special training about neonicotinoids before someone can get a pesticide license.
  4.  There was agreement that pesticide users can and must do more to communicate with bee keepers about their plans to spray chemicals and be proactive neighbors and partners to protect bees.

The ODA tried to convince the Committee members that the 60,000+ bumble bees that fell to their deaths this past summer had more to do with linden trees than pesticide exposures.  Calling it an “unprecedented step,” Katy Coba announced that ODA would restrict two neonicotinoid products from being sprayed on linden trees.  Was anyone impressed with this drop in the bucket for bees? Highly doubtful.

Some members of the House Agriculture Committee as well as other panelists asked about using regulatory curbs with significant restrictions to reduce the risks from neonics.  It is good to know that some lawmakers are focused on real solutions and not merely joining in lock-step with the chemical lobbyists.

There is talk of doing something substantive to protect bees in the 2014 legislative session.  After all, the work of bees accounts for more than 600 million dollars of profit for farmers in Oregon.

That would be critical because, as expert panelist Alan Turanski from Glory Bee Foods summed it up, “Bees are as important to Oregon’s agricultural sector as water and the sun.”

 

 

Oregon lacking in the science of forestry

Pesticides were sprayed on this steep clear cut that drains to wetlands.

Pesticides were sprayed on this steep clear cut that drains to wetlands.

 

Profitable timber production can readily coexist with protections for water quality and community health.  That is the lesson of commercial logging operations in Washington, California and even Idaho.

Then there is the way we do it in Oregon. We are governed by the Oregon Forest Practices Act (FPA), now 42 years old.  When first conceived, these rules were touted as a model for environmental stewardship.  Today they are woefully outdated. Comparing Oregon’s forest policy to those in other western states reveals that our forestry stewardship standards are far weaker in every respect.

A September 28  guest editorial, “Federal forestlands would benefit from Oregon rules,” recommended that the management of 1.5 million acres of federal forest land in Oregon should be logged by private timber corporations and managed under Oregon’s obsolescent Forest Practices Act.  That is tantamount to privatizing public lands and avoiding compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Northwest Forest Plan.

The authors’ thinking is outdated.  Perhaps they still imagine that Oregon’s rural counties are solely timber-dependent.  They haven’t considered current economic data from the State Employment Department that shows a diversified economic future.  Employment in the logging and forestry industry in Oregon is being outpaced by jobs in manufacturing, leisure and tourism, recreation and health services.  A survey of local elected leaders conducted by The Resource Innovation Group, affiliated with Willamette University, found that a number of rural county commissioners fear that privatizing the federal forests could “undermine future economic progress” by sending the counties backwards to a narrowly focused reliance on heavy logging, reminiscent of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

The states of Washington, California and Idaho require environmental protections on state and private lands that protect clean water and people. At the same time, timber companies in these states continue to profit from timber operations. Why can’t we do that in Oregon?  For example, Weyerhaeuser, one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands, is headquartered in Washington where the company must obey the Washington Forest Practices Act. In doing so, timber corporations like Weyerhaeuser limit the same harmful and destructive logging practices they regularly employ in Oregon, and still maintain a healthy bottom line.

The editorial authors – Salwasser, Lorensen and Brown – claim that federal forests management goals for both harvest and habitat reserves are “impoverishing” rural communities.  Their perspective, lacking modern day economic and science models, fails to take into account how Oregon’s logging practices externalizes the costs of destructive activities onto rural communities. Oregon’s FPA rules tend to promote extensive clear cuts and chemical spraying to manage forests. The result: rural Oregonians are reporting more soil movement, muddy streams, pesticide exposures and increased costs to ensure that their drinking water is safe and sanitary.  Under the lax rules in Oregon, our rural communities face rapidly increasing threats to themselves, the health of their children and the safety of their drinking water.

A 2012 Oregon Health Authority investigation detected two pesticides regularly applied by aerial helicopter on commercial forest land in the bodies of Triangle Lake residents. The agency suggests that pesticides, such as atrazine and 2,4-D, are drifting many miles from where they are applied. Unlike other states, the Oregon FPA does not provide a protective pesticide buffer zone for rural homes.

This summer, thousands of people in Florence found out that, under the FPA, a cocktail of herbicides will be sprayed adjacent to their public water source and directly on the streams that feed their drinking water aquifer.  Ironically, the landowners, who live in California, would be required to obey California’s laws to protect public water if their timber holdings were in their own state.

The risks to Oregon’s environment were highlighted in a recent geospatial mapping study of an 180,000 acre section of the Siuslaw Watershed. This analysis, conducted by Beyond Toxics, found unsustainable logging trends.  Three years of data provided by the Oregon Department of Forestry  (2009 –2011) revealed that the total acres of clear-cuts increased by 56%. Every clear-cut was sprayed by air with pesticides multiple times over the three years, and resulted in a 99% increase in chemicals sprayed upon the land.  Aerial helicopter herbicide spray came as close as within 60 feet from drinking water aquifers, lakes and salmon habitat streams.

The US Forest Service examined the science of pesticide use decades ago, and as a result, ended the practice of aerial herbicide sprays. The Oregon data, showing increasing clear-cutting and subsequent aerial pesticide sprays, should raise serious questions about water quality.

Oregonians rightly expect their government to heed the science and take timely action to protect drinking water and public health.  It is time for Oregon’s Legislature to modernize the Forest Practices Act.

By Lisa Arkin – Executive Director

Published in the Oregonian on 9/24/2013

The future of Oregon’s clean-flowing drinking water

AP photo of Rep. DeFazio by Don Ryan

AP photo of Rep. DeFazio by Don Ryan

Over the past few months The Register-Guard has held a back-and-forth debate about Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio’s plan to increase logging in Oregon’s federal forests.

What’s at stake? Nothing less than the future of Oregon’s clean-flowing drinking water.

There is also growing awareness about the issue of rural community health and exposure to forestry chemicals in air and domestic water.

Polling by the Pew Research Center consistently shows that clean water is what matters most to Oregonians. That’s one reason there is increasing alarm about a bill introduced by Rep. DeFazio to increase intensive logging on national forest lands.

Federal environmental laws would set reasonable standards for logging, but DeFazio’s bill puts Oregon’s antiquated state forestry law ahead of federal law. In his Sept. 1st column, even the congressman admitted that’s a bad thing (“O&C forest plan offers protection, opportunity”).

Oregon’s slack forestry laws permit the use of herbicides sprayed by helicopter. That’s different from federal logging practices, which don’t routinely use herbicides or allow helicopter spray. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating whether Oregon’s forestry laws comply with the Clean Water Act.

DeFazio excused the failure of his plan to include federal environmental laws, saying water quality protections “would have to come from Salem.” He meant that state officials would have to fix the Oregon Forest Practices Act. And he is right!  But we could certainly use the Congressman’s support to modernize Oregon’s obsolete laws.

By comparison, Washington, Idaho and California have forestry laws that require buffer zones to better protect rural communities and water quality.

Beyond Toxics is working with other Oregon groups dedicated to protecting drinking water to bring the Oregon Forest Practices Act into alignment with current science, especially the science on pesticide drift.

Oregon is going backwards, away from good science. Any state plan that exports its politicized, obsolescent policies onto national forests is unacceptable.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director

 

Oregon and pesticides: our chance to make a stand for safety

Lisa Arkin, Exec. Director

Lisa Arkin, Exec. Director

Oregon has become somewhat of a focal point for pesticide issues.  That is hardly cause for celebration for a state that wears its green credentials on its sleeve. The only hope is that Oregon will respond to the crisis with better regulations, safer policies and a commitment to protecting Oregon from pesticide poisoning.

Oregon is the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.”

Think of the poor folks in Illinois! In October of last year, a judge in the United States District Court approved the $105 million nationwide atrazine settlement, finding the pesticide’s manufacturer, Syngenta, in violation of the law.  Over one thousand water systems in Southern Illinois will receive settlement funds based the levels of atrazine in their drinking water.

Atrazine is the same herbicide that was found in the urine of rural Lane County residents and also detected in streams designated as core salmon habitat. Learn more about Atrazine here.

The EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel told the Agency that the evidence on Atrazine is “suggestive” of a link with certain cancers like ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and thyroid cancer. Atrazine is also a known hormone disruptor – poisons like Atrazine can reduce fertility in men.

I want to help Oregon step up as a leader in the national debate on the overuse of and over exposure to pesticides. That is why Beyond Toxics is doubling down on important actions this summer.

On Friday we submitted our comments to the Oregon Health Authority on the Highway 36 forestry pesticide exposures.  Among many other points, Beyond Toxics’ research shows that aerial helicopter spraying of 2,4D and atrazine increased over 200% from spring 2009 to spring 2011. Is it any wonder why people who live in the area are complaining of illness and exposures to spray drift?

We also started the petition to ask the Oregon Department of Agriculture to ban the neonicotinoids that are killing our native and cultivated bees.  Join the 10,000 Oregonians who have signed this petition. Hurry! We are taking the petition to our state government this month!

And I have been visiting Oregon’s congressional delegation this summer – Senators Wyden and Merkely and Congressman DeFazio and others.  One of our top three goals is to make sure that the upcoming proposals to increase logging in our federal forests do not allow any aerial pesticide spray.

This Saturday is National Bee Day, and we are holding press conferences in local grocery stores in various locations around Oregon to talk about how much produce we would NOT be able to buy if Oregon’s bees continue their precipitous die off.

We are taking action and not retreating – join with us to get engaged, stay connected. You can feel good knowing that we are in this together for real change.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director

 

New pesticide reduction law a significant win

Protecting human health has always been a race between action and disaster. Consider how long society waited to remove lead from gasoline and paint, and the disaster that inaction inflicted upon generations of children and their brain development. As our technologies race ahead of our prudence, we’ve learned that local actions can have universal ramifications, for better or worse.

The mostly untested tons of synthetic chemicals unleashed on the world affect every living creature. They’re in our food, soil, oceans and air. Toxic industrial chemicals lodge in our bodies without our knowledge or consent.

These chemicals are powerful agents that can change our body chemistry. Fetuses are exposed to a chemical soup even before birth, and recent research shows that minuscule levels of pesticide exposure can affect children’s developing brains and behavior. In the environment, pesticides decimate bees, disorient salmon, and turn male frogs into females.

This is why the Oregon Legislature’s passage of House Bill 3364 is cause for optimism and celebration. The new law means the state has taken a leading step to heed the science on the risks of pesticides. Starting immediately, all state agencies will work to reduce pesticides that were routinely used on state roads, parks and forests, and in office buildings.

On June 4, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed the Safe Public Places bill into law. Also known as the State Integrated Pest Management Bill, it passed handily in both legislative chambers with solid bipartisan support.

Beyond Toxics led the advocacy effort for the pest management and pesticide reduction bill. We worked hard to cultivate bipartisan support for its passage. We’re profoundly grateful for the collaborative efforts of the governor’s staff, lawmakers, non-profits, educational institutions and agencies.

Legislators looked objectively at the science, often a rare practice in a partisan environment. Oregonians can rest assured that the underpinnings of HB 3364 are scientifically unassailable. Parents especially will find comfort in knowing that parks, forests, roadways and rivers will be protected.

The law requires that all pest management — from controlling weeds to eliminating rodents — be done in a manner that “minimizes risks to human health, non-target organisms, native fish and wildlife habitat, watersheds and the environment.”

HB 3364 champions integrated pest management solutions that use the checks and balances of natural systems and mitigate the need for pesticides. Under the law, state policies will be guided by the State IPM Coordinator at Oregon State University. Agency staff will work with and be trained by scientists at the OSU Plant Protection Center.

That is a significant boost for safer pest management, because OSU ranks at the top of U.S. universities in advancing a rigorous scientific program to help agriculture and forest operations reduce the need for pesticides. Since testing is the essence of the scientific method, the bill specifically requires measurable performance results toward the goal of “protecting the health and welfare of children, the elderly and other members of the public.”

Integrated pest management policies are just beginning to be implemented across the country in response to our expanding understanding of pesticide’s disastrous impacts to people and ecosystems.

Oregonians can be justifiably proud that we are in the forefront of so many environmental and public health issues, and that Oregon’s law is a particularly comprehensive and laudable model.

Change is a collaborative process. Addressing the dangers of toxic chemicals requires the commitment of educators, scientists, advocates, legislators, and an aware public. Beyond Toxics especially appreciates the work of local legislators, including Sen. Chris Edwards, the bill’s chief co-sponsor; Sens. Floyd Prozanski and Arnie Roblan; and Lane County’s representatives, who all voted “yes” to make Oregon a safer and healthier place. Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, was the legislative powerhouse who steered the bill’s successful passage.

In the constant battle between precaution and disaster, this law is a significant victory in our effort to blend precaution with scientific principles to prevent problems that threaten public health.

Lisa Arkin of Eugene is Executive Director of Beyond Toxics.

Home page photo of Lisa courtesy Kate Harnedy

What’s Up with Brownfields and Environmental Justice?

The City of Eugene, the City of Springfield, and Lane County are looking for public input in the process of finding, cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields. Brownfields are abandoned properties that are not being re-purposed because of the likely presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants.  Brownfield result in neighborhood “blight;” they make people feel unsafe and they drag down property values.

Beyond Toxics is assisting to make sure that the community plays a vital role in the decision-making.  We invite everyone to the first public input meeting on Tuesday, June 25, 6:00pm at Fairfield School. Please come down to tell us where you think a brownfield might be, and what you would like to see happen to the property to benefit the community.

Why is Beyond Toxics participating in the upcoming Brownfields Assessment project in West Eugene? Our research shows that residents living near brownfields sites are more likely to be low-income, minority or Latino and have less access to public decision-making.  These residents are impacted by brownfield pollution, which can result in higher rates of environmentally-based diseases such as asthma and cancer. Kids in West Eugene have much higher asthma rates than other places in Oregon, so it is very important to clean things up whenever possible.

In a recent example of a clean-up, Beyond Toxics pointed out that hundreds of tons of polluted creosote logs had been dumped in a well-known pond that is part of the West Eugene wetlands.  Bringing the hazardous waste site to the attention of environmental agencies resulted in a massive clean-up!

LA_blog_6-24-13

Pictured above: some of the hazardous waste that was removed from the pond, to the benefit of neighborhoods and wildlife alike.

Communities near brownfields should have a say-so in plans for re-development.  And, the chances are, nearby residents have a vision for creating more community livability, open-space, jobs and housing.

To help guide the public input process into brownfields, Kelly Groth, one of our University of Oregon graduate interns wrote a well conceived report on how to include the community in a brownfields re-development  project. Kelly reviewed the published literature and studied the environmental health situation in West Eugene. Together with our West Eugene Environmental Health Project partner, Centro Latino Americano, we support her recommendation that this brownfield redevelopment project must be approached within an environmental justice framework.

Environmental justice is ensuring equal health and environmental protection for everyone – with special consideration for communities that are disproportionately burdened by environmental pollution and who are economically and socially distressed.

As Kelly’s report suggests, “Involving all stakeholders within the process will help to effectively create understanding and strong communication between local governments, agencies, and community groups in brownfield redevelopment.”

The brownfields assessment must look at community level indicators and community needs. The residents of West Eugene whose lives are affected by air pollution must have a seat at the table to have a chance to talk about their community vision.

Please contact us or contact the City of Eugene about your ideas and concerns about brownfields.  Do you think there might be a brownfield located in your neighborhood? Would you like to have that site tested for hazardous waste? Let’s work together to identify a property’s potential market value as well opportunities to improve our community.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director

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Victory is Sweet!

Deanna Simon with her familyWE DID IT!  The Safe Public Places Bill has passed in both chambers of the Oregon Legislature and will be signed into law this week!  What a sweet victory!

Laudatory coverage of the successful passage of HB 3364 was immediate from key state media. From the Oregonian newspaper: “The Senate’s 24-6 vote … is a significant victory for Beyond Toxics in Eugene, which drove the bill. It passed the House earlier and Kitzhaber’s office said he would sign it, adding to [Beyond Toxics’] successful 2009 bill that required IPM for schools.”

No exaggeration!  Beyond Toxics researched the issue, wrote the language and fought hard to pass both bills that reduce pesticides in Oregon.  Both bills protect our children, public health, our salmon rivers and delicate ecosystems.  Both bills are likely the strongest bills in the nation creating government accountability, data-driven Integrated Pest Management programs, and verifiable goals to reduce pesticides in the environment.

What spurred us to take on the legislature, especially considering that we are a small non-profit based outside the influential Portland metro area and have never yet hired a lobbyist?

First, this is a human rights issue.  I get phone calls every month from people in nearly every county who have experienced harm from pesticide drift. Across the state, folks are begging for help and solutions. Beyond Toxics leads the Oregon Pesticide Action Workgroup and we take each call seriously.  Everyone deserves the right to be safe from chemical trespass. Every single one of us deserves to have our food and drinking water free of carcinogens and hormone disruptors.

Secondly, this is a science issue. We recognize mountains of evidence on the insidious harm to health and environmental integrity from pesticides. We are tirelessly working to protect salmon, bees, and the other creatures who cannot speak for themselves – they need non-polluted habitats too.

The chief bill sponsors were Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer of Portland, Senator Chris Edwards of Eugene and Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson of Gresham.  Keny-Guyer lent her considerable political weight to support the bill because of her concern over children’s health.

“I think there is a lot more awareness, and more data that have been done, to link the consequences of pesticides and harmful chemicals to cancers,” Keny-Guyer said.

The victorious day didn’t stop with the victory in the Senate. I traveled on to the Triangle Lake area where I met with staff from the Oregon Department of Transportation about Beyond Toxics’ No Spray Highway36 project.  They were “impressed” with our “successful” project to manage invasive weeds without the use of herbicides. Following that I attended the evening town hall meeting for the Triangle Lake Investigation.  Federal agencies are looking into the finding of forestry herbicides 2,4-D and atrazine in the bodies of rural residents. I went to support our members and to speak up for an end to aerial pesticide sprays.

We fought to pass the Safe Public Places Act for all of us and especially for people like Dan and Denare in La Pine, where folks were poisoned by a roadside spray, and Vicki who gets sickened by pesticides and chemicals in the state building where she works.

As a result, Oregon is a leader in toxics use reduction, children’s health and the precautionary principle.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

Toxic exposure against our will

 

Roundup, the herbicide that contains glyphosate, has gotten a lot of international press in the past week.  And none of it is good news for us living beings who are exposed to Roundup in our food and in the environment. The use of a chemical known to bring about serious harm, especially by the government and industry, is a form of chemical trespass; it is toxic exposure against our will.

A peer-reviewed study conducted by researchers at MIT concluded that Roundup has a “negative impact on the body [that] is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”

Specifically, Roundup has been linked to endocrine disruption and cell death, Parkinson’s, infertility and a variety of cancers.

Beyond Toxics conducted a 2013 study of what herbicides were purchased and applied on public and private lands all over this state. During a press conference at the State Capitol in March, we revealed our findings showing that Oregon government takes $2.5 million of State Lottery funds every biennium and gives the money away in “weed grants” for the purchase and application of toxics pesticides.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was the most commonly used product. Picloram, a known ground water pollutant and carcinogen, was the second most frequently applied herbicide.

These publically funded projects have focused exclusively on applying harsh chemicals.  This is no way for our state government to support public health! And it’s arrogant to spend public dollars on chemicals that are known to be toxic to our reproductive system.

Beyond Toxics has asked the Department of Agriculture to require the development of an integrated pest management plan (IPM) before doling out public funds for weed sprays. HB 3364, legislation that passed in the Oregon House and is on its way to the Senate, will require IPM as the science-based standard for pest management.

In discussions with folks around the state of Oregon about their home gardens, I’ve often heard people say that they “just spray a little Roundup, because it is barely harmful.”   Be careful – all ‘cides’ – including herbicides and insecticides – are designed to kill living things by disrupting normal cell function. Roundup causes DNA damage.

Just because any of us can buy Roundup off the shelves in any nearby garden and hardware store doesn’t mean that the government knows it is safe.  A case in point, the EPA finally just confirmed, after decades of denial in the face of overwhelming evidence, that formaldehyde and styrene are carcinogens. Formaldehyde and styrene are common in household products (think Styrofoam cups).

There is a critical connection between our health and what’s in our environment and consumer products.  In Oregon, let’s work together to prevent chemical trespass. As an easy first step, please sign our Safe Public Places endorsement petition.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

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Doctors Say Beyond Toxics’ Proposal is a “step in the right direction”

 

I want to share an important new statement signed by 15 of our local pediatricians supporting HB 3364, Beyond Toxics’ bill to protect kids, elders, and our fragile ecosystem from pesticides!

In a letter to the legislature dated 3/18, the PeaceHealth doctors wrote:

We are pediatricians who …vigorously support the passage of this bill and think it is past time that the state take a proactive stance in protecting the public and in particular our children from the known toxic effect of exposure to pesticides…

Good on our local pediatricians! Let’s applaud their strong and vocal stance to protect children!

The Lane County Medical Society has also taken a clear “support” position on HB 3364 as well. Doctors know that pesticides are, by their nature, designed to cause death to living things. The risk of harming children is very well documented. Here are some examples:

Let’s get behind our doctors and support their knowledge and advocacy on behalf of children’s health!

Please take just a minute to commend doctors for speaking up to help pass HB 3364 by sending a letter to the editor of your local paper. The public needs to hear more about this important issue so that support for sensible, science-based legislation to protect children from pesticides on public lands can pass this year! You, as a member/follower of Beyond Toxics, can make such an important impact by sharing your beliefs and values. I truly thank you for stepping up and speaking out!

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

 

City tries to find pesticide substitute Beekeepers and environmentalists say the use of one treatment may kill bees

Photo by Bev Veals, 2012

Beyond Toxics initiated the Save Oregon’s Bees Campaign in 2012 in partnership with local bee keepers.We are excited about the initial results of this collaborative effort! Beyond Toxics and our bee keeping partners, provided information to the City of Eugene about how the use of pesticides are harming our pollinators and presenting risks to children and families in parks. Below you can read more about the City’s plan to stop using neonicotinoids and pursue efforts to support pesticide-free parks!

See the Consumer Pesticide Products with Neonics Sold in The U.S. (to save honey bees, do not use in your garden!) | “Neonicotinoid” defined

City tries to find pesticide substitute Beekeepers and environmentalists say the use of one treatment may kill bees
BY EDWARD RUSSO, Eugene Register-Guard (March 18, 2013)

Eugene city government will try to cut the use of a pesticide suspected of killing honeybees.

At the request of bee­keepers and environmentalists, the city will seek to find an alternative to the neonicoti­noid pesticide it has used to kill bugs on downtown flowers. City officials also have asked the contracted manager of municipally owned Laurelwood Golf Course to find a substitute for the pesticide.

Beekeepers and the Eugene-­based environmental group Beyond Toxics say European studies show that the pesticide kills honeybees, and they have taken their concerns to city officials, including the City Council.

Eugene beekeeper Philip Smith said bees that alight on flowers treated with neo­nicotinoids don’t die right away.

“It doesn’t kill on contact,” he said. “But it accumulates and after not too many trips, that’s it for the bee.”

The city uses a neo­nicotinoid, Imidacloprid 2F, to kill aphids and thrips on downtown flowers.

City Facilities Director Jeff Perry, who oversees the division that maintains the downtown flowers, said his department is looking for alternatives to the pesticide.

“What we have found is that the baskets require extra attention to maintain and generally require more insecticides, such as Imidacloprid,” he said. “It is challenging, but we are looking for effective alternative solutions.”

The management firm at Laurelwood Golf Course early last year used the pesticide to control grass-killing grubs, said Kevin Finney, the city’s parks operations manager. But the firm said it had no plans to use the pesticide this year, he said.

Smith and Beyond Toxics Executive Director Lisa Arkin said the city’s interest in finding alternatives to the pesticides is a right step.

But both also said the city should ban use of the pesticide on its properties.

A study released in January by the European Food Safety Commission identified health risk for bees from three neonicotinoid insecticides, Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam.

Several garden supply stores in the United Kingdom have voluntarily stopped selling the pesticides, Smith said.

Organic alternatives to the pesticides exist, he said, including insecticidal soaps made with Neem oil.

Beekeepers and Beyond Toxics are asking local stores to stop carrying neonicotinoid pesticides. “We are working to educate local garden supply stores about the harm of neonicotinoids,” Arkin said.

“We would like them to at least label these products as harmful to bees so people can at least make an informed choice.”

The city’s response to the concerns were mentioned by Finney on Wednesday at a council meeting that reviewed the city’s “integrated pest management” policy.

The policy guides the city’s parks and open spaces and facilities divisions in controlling weeds and pests on city property.

Under the 30-year-old policy, the city is supposed to try to control troublesome plants and pests without herbicides or insecticides. If those methods don’t work, low-toxicity pesticides are to be used.

“The goal of the integrated pest management policy is not to eliminate the use of pesticides,” Finney said.

“It’s to use the least toxic approach. It requires you to go through a process where you will try the most cost effective, least toxic methods first.”

The city already has established no-pesticide zones around certain park features, including playgrounds, picnic areas, dog parks, swimming and wading pools, spray-play areas, and storm­water catch basins and inlets, Finney said.

Also, eight Eugene parks are pesticide free, designated that way because residents volunteer to pull weeds from time to time.

Residents also must be willing to accept that the parks may contain more weeds than if herbicides were applied, Finney said.

The city is willing to work with residents to create more pesticide-free parks, he said. “The best way for them to get their park into the program is for them to form a group of committed folks who then would go to their neighborhood association and get its support for the effort,” he said.

Arkin, of Beyond Toxics, said all city parks should be pesticide free.

“It’s an equity issue,” she said. “It’s not fair for a parent in the Bethel area to have to drive all the way to Washington Park in south Eugene to make sure their child plays in a safe park. Parents should be able to take their child to any park and know their child is safe.”

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MORE about the Healthy Bees campaign