Media Release 01/07/02:
Judge Halts CDF Program for Failure to Evaluate the Effects of Herbicides

A California court has ruled for the first time that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection ("CDF") must evaluate the effects of the likely use of herbicides on programs CDF oversees. In a case brought by Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and the Environmental Protection Information Center, San Francisco Superior Court judge David Garcia struck down CDF's statewide Vegetation Management Plan (“VMP”) because that plan failed to evaluate how the anticipated use of herbicides would impact the environment.

The VMP was intended to address the need to reduce fire enhancing vegetation on timber company and other non federal forest lands throughout the State by removing vegetation that may be a fuel for fire.  Typically this is done through development of "fuel breaks" and "fuel reduction zones" where trees and brush are cleared. CDF's plan makes available state money to cover up to 90% of the cost of these efforts on 50,000 acres per year.  CDF provides the funding, but failed in its VMP to assess the consequences of these efforts, particularly the known frequent use of herbicides to clear vegetation that grows back in fuel reduction zones.

 "CDF’s plan gives carte blanche authority to timber companies to do whatever they want, and makes no effort to understand the adverse consequences,” said Patty Clary of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics. “The damage caused by herbicide use is likely to be very significant and must be evaluated to fully assess the effectiveness of the program.”

CDF had argued that the agency itself did not plan to use herbicides and that it was therefore exempt from having to evaluate the effects of herbicides that private land owners would use after having signed up for CDF's Vegetation Management Plan. CDF also argued that it need not evaluate the use of herbicides in forestry because state pesticide law restricted to the pesticide registration process environmental review of the effects of pesticides. Judge Garcia disagreed, holding that "CDF had an obligation to evaluate and disclose the potential for significant environmental effects from the use of herbicides as an integral part in its statewide vegetation management program and as a reasonably foreseeable future activity of applicants for funds under VMP."

Judge Garcia ruled that CDF also failed to adequately evaluate other significant adverse effects of the VMP. "Californians want protection from wildfires but don’t want the environmental degradation the current plan would entail,” said Cynthia Elkins of the Environmental Protection Infornation Center. “CDF needs to prepare a plan that will protect sensitive species and prevent erosion or the spread of noxious weeds rather than encourage these problems.”

Garcia enjoined CDF's Vegetation Management Plan and gave the agency thirty days to set aside its approval of the Vegetation Management Plan.

Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) has its office in Arcata and has worked on issues involving the use of pesticides — including use for forestry, wine grapes, roadsides, schools, imported raw wood and of methyl bromide — in northern California for 20 years.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is located in the Humboldt County town of Garberville and has been working on forestry reform and endangered species protection for over twenty years.



Bookmark and Share