Loggers, farmers and environmental advocates call on Maine lawmakers to ban the aerial spraying of toxic herbicides in forestry

AUGUSTA –  Today, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, introduced legislation to ban the aerial spraying of toxic herbicides in forestry at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. Maine loggers, farmers, health care professionals and environmental advocates overwhelmingly testified in favor of LD 125, “An Act To Prohibit the Aerial Spraying of Glyphosate and Other Synthetic Herbicides for the Purpose of Silviculture.” Here is what supporters are saying:

“I’ve seen the effects of the toxic spraying firsthand. It’s affecting our rivers, our brooks, our streams, our wildlife, and that habitat for our wildlife. There are no more cold stream waters and the trout are almost nonexistent in places where aerial spraying has taken place,” said Hilton Hafford, a Maine Guide and retired logger from Allagash. “There are supposed to be buffers to protect streams and the surrounding areas but it’s like having a speed limit with no one to police it. At some point we have to ask ourselves, are we going to sacrifice our wildlife and our environment for the bottomline of one industry?”

“The legislature must embrace policies that help responsibly manage Maine’s forests, protect our health, and safeguard the drinking water that Maine families depend on. Maine is long overdue in banning the reckless practice of aerial forest herbicide spraying,” said Beth Ahearn, Director of Government Affairs at Maine Conservation Voters.

“Glyphosate is a deadly toxin, now banned or restricted in 17 countries worldwide,” said Heather Spalding, deputy director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “The one-two industrial forestry punch of clearcutting and then dousing with herbicides is no help to Maine’s environment or economy – it only helps giant corporations make short term gains. There is no justification for aerially spraying glyphosate and other herbicides over Maine’s north woods. With glyphosate and other synthetic herbicides out of the picture, Maine can focus on building healthy and resilient communities, providing incentives for forest landowners to improve yields and the value of their trees, and helping to restore the health of our northern forest ecosystems.”

“Public health agencies and technical experts have raised new and credible concerns about the harmful impacts of glyphosate on both humans and the environment. LD 125 would ensure that Maine is acting to protect its residents and environment by minimizing the risks posed by glyphosate, bringing us in line with governments across the world that have taken action already,” said Melanie Sturm, Forests and Wildlife Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine.

“Aerial spraying of herbicides poses a contamination risk to Maine’s organic farms. When woodlots adjacent to agricultural land are sprayed with synthetic pesticides like glyphosate, there is a serious risk of drift damaging crops. Furthermore, if those fields are certified organic the pesticide contamination will render the land unusable for organic production for a minimum of three years. These herbicides also have the potential to contaminate surface and groundwater resources upon which dairy producers depend. Aerial spraying has the potential to cause significant economic damage to organic farmers at no fault of their own,” said Andrew Smith, Vice President of Maine Organic Milk Producers in written testimony.

“As an organization of guides and related businesses, we are concerned about the wide use of glyphosate for our personal health, the health of our customers, and the health of the environment that supports our businesses. Aerially spraying can cause spray drift that gets onto neighboring farms, other nontarget sites, and into water supplies, which can haphazardly expose people, fish, wildlife, and other organisms. Because we are out in the woods or on the water on a regular basis – possibly not far from forestry operations that apply glyphosate – we are at increased risk of exposure. In some instances, the use of chemical herbicides may make sense in forestry or agricultural settings, but excessive and extensive use of these herbicides, including products containing glyphosate, is a public safety concern and an environmental hazard. Glyphosate should be used more discriminately, not by aerial spraying, if it must be used at all,” said Jeanne Christie, President of the Maine Wilderness Guides Organization in written testimony.

“LD 125 is a good and necessary bill and that’s reflected by its strong bi-partisan support,” said Jim Gerritsen who has been farming in Aroostook County for 45 years and grows Maine Certified Seed Potatoes with his family. “As a recognized ‘probable human carcinogen’ Glyphosate is bad news for Maine’s environment and the people who live in and visit the North Maine Woods.  Fortunately, sound modern forestry doesn’t need herbicides like Glyphosate and it’s time to ban this high-risk aerial spraying.”

“We recognize that the value of our farmland and waterways are small examples of the precious balance of our environment throughout Maine and therefore, are grateful for the measure of importance LD 125 expresses,” said Doretta Colburn, Beech Hill Farm and Bison Ranch, Waterford Maine. 

“A 2020 report found that a strong majority of Maine voters (72%) are worried about their children’s and pets’ health from exposures to pesticides. LD 125 is a great step toward protecting the health of Maine families,” said Karen D’Andrea, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine Chapter.

“MPHA believes passage of this bill is also a matter of health equity. Often, residents in rural Maine face many barriers to good health, including limited access to health care, broadband, and nutritious foods; poor air quality is another driving factor of health disparity, including the development of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Since this herbicide is administered aerially, residents do not have control over their exposure, or the associated contamination of their soil and water. Given the risks of acute and longer-term impacts to human, environmental, and animal health, and the association with health equity, Maine Public Health Association supports this legislation,” said Rebecca Boulos, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association in written testimony.

“There is no good reason to spray glyphosate from aircraft over Maine’s forests. Glyphosate is an incredibly dangerous pesticide. The men and women who manage and harvest Maine’s forests deserve to be safe from this toxic pesticide,” said Colin Antaya, Legal Fellow, Conservation Law Foundation.

“Aerial spraying of pesticides is a crime against all living things. We are at a critical juncture in terms of species loss. And it’s not just the insects that will be impacted — the entire food chain cannot survive the destruction of multiple invertebrates. So many creatures depend on them for food and humans are at the top of that chain. In addition to that, the infernal pollution of the waterways is completely unacceptable. We all live downstream!” said Becky Bartovicz, Leadership Council of the Sierra Club Maine Chapter.

“LD 125 will ban the aerial spraying of glyphosate and other synthetic herbicides and encourage a shift toward more ecologically friendly forestry practices. The science is clear on the health impacts of exposure to these toxic chemicals. Forestry programs need to move away from the use of these chemicals. Passage of LD 125 would help protect the health of all Mainers,” said Sarah Woodbury, Defend Our Health in written testimony.


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