At the 63rd Annual General Meeting, delegates voted to pass the resolution to oppose the spraying of glyphosates and other systemic herbicides. The position of the BCWF is that clear cuts be burned or manually prepared, as has been done in the past, rather than aerially treating them with herbicides. The former post-harvesting treatments help the new seedlings get established without the habitat damage and potential contamination with glyphosates and other herbicides.
Some forest companies use herbicides to treat clear-cuts prior to replanting. The purpose is to eliminate any plant species that will compete with the new seedlings. The main herbicide being used is glyphosate, which is known by the commercial name ‘Roundup’. Herbicides are often used where deciduous species become rapidly established following clear cutting. This treatment appeals to forestry companies because it allows them to grow the desired tree species to harvestable size in the shortest possible time. The priority to these companies is short crop rotation time. They do not manage for overall habitat quality and biodiversity.
The BC Wildlife Federation opposes the use of glyphosates for the following reasons:
- Glyphosate [Roundup] is a systemic herbicide that kills ALL plant life, including their root masses.
- The roots of willows and some other browse species can be very old; in some cases, over hundreds of years. Because the root masses are killed by the herbicide, they will never grow
- back. This reduces food and habitat for wildlife species particularly moose. Additionally, the loss of habitat and its diversity significantly reduces biodiversity.
- Destruction of supportive root systems may predispose some sites to landslides where soil stability has been compromised.
- A growing body of evidence suggests that glyphosates are carcinogenic and may even cause developmental abnormalities. In the US, glyphosate is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a “class 3 carcinogen”.
- Recent evidence indicates that glyphosate residues are present in children’s cereals.
- A recent California court ruled in favour of a grounds keeper who claimed his exposure to glyphosates was cause for his terminal cancer. The court ruled in his favour and awarded him $289m. Monsanto/Bayer is appealing.
- Glyphosates have been banned in Sweden, India and Brazil (the latter two not being renowned for their environmental concerns).
- The aerial application of glyphosates as a post-harvest, silvicultural treatment, may augment the risk of forest fires through fuel loading by leaving dead and dry material standing and by killing deciduous trees which act as natural fire breaks due to their water content which makes them less flammable than their cousins, the conifers. A natural fire barrier is being lost.
- In Canada, the use of herbicides in forestry on Crown land has been banned in Quebec and Nova Scotia is considering a similar ban.
- If an area is sprayed with glyphosates, the chemical is present in the ground water and its effects on amphibians, insects and many other life forms are largely unknown. Also, glyphosate residues in the soil, particularly in cold conditions, do not breakdown as claimed, and the effects on the soil biome remain unknown. Yet, by government sanction, broadcast application of roundup continues to be sprayed on clear cuts despite these stated concerns.
The BCWF also opposes the current professional accountability model. Under this model, the responsibility to manage habitats with various forest treatments, including herbicides, was turned over to the forest companies. The BCWF would like to see the permitting and approval of post-harvesting silvicultural treatments returned to an accountability to impartial experts in government. The sad state of our ungulate populations (especially moose) in the B.C. interior is partially linked to the alteration and disruption of their habitats that are largely managed commercially by the forest industry for wood fibre production and extraction. The provincial government should provide the resources needed to evaluate and monitor the impacts wrought by chemical applications on both wildlife and fish habitat under the current accountability model. The BCWF suggests forest management move to a natural systems model, by which all elements are valued, managed and integrated, rather than simply optimizing conifer growth in chemically treated and established plantations. Such integrated models are currently in use in Britain and Sweden.