A group of about 50 individuals gathered at the Ministry of Forest offices in Prince George today demanding that this year’s herbicide spray maps be made public.
The group wants to know where and when Canfor will be spraying glyphosate, a herbicide and the main ingredient in round-up, which is used to curb competition for young coniferous trees.
“We want to be told where the spraying is going to happen,” said James Steidle, spokesperson for Stop the Spray BC, an organization that advocates for forest biodiversity and against the use of glyphosate.
They state 3000 hectares of cutblocks will be getting aerial sprayed with glyphosate weedkiller within the next month, most of it in the Upper Fraser including the northern wetbelt and inland temperate rainforest.
Current policy is to not inform the public of which cutblocks will be getting sprayed or when. There is no legal requirement for government or industry to do so.
“It's public money we are spending spraying the forests and I think the public should know,” said Steidle. “It is a basic principle of democracy and transparent government that we know where our tax dollars are being spent and how they are being spent.”
He also said it comes down to a health and safety issue and referenced a 2016 incident where a woman from Buckhorn, Shandy Andrysiak, was indirectly sprayed by a helicopter while out riding her horse near a cutblock.
“If we had notices beforehand then these people could have avoided those areas and not been exposed to risk,” added Steidle.
He said it would provide people the opportunity to avoid areas for berry harvesting, hunting or camping, not only during the spray season, but the following years when sprayed areas have the potential to produce berries contaminated with glyphosate.
Steidle also stated the public should have access to this information so they can document areas planned for spraying.
“If this is such an acceptable practice how come they don’t tell us where it’s going to happen so we can actually watch it and film it? The reason they don’t want us to know because it is an unacceptable practice and it’s very unpopular and they shouldn’t be doing it.”
Steidle says conifer monocultures make forests more flammable as it stops fire-resistant deciduous trees from regenerating.
“This is about standing up for our forests,” said Steidle. “We’ve got climate change. We have out of control wildfires. We need to diversity the forests and the deciduous is what is going to break up the spread of the fire.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Forests Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNROD) says it continues to have discussions with those who have concerns around the use of herbicides as a forest management tool.
"The effects of glyphosate on human health have been extensively reviewed by international regulatory agencies, including Health Canada, with the conclusions generally being that exposure to glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic or genotoxic risk to humans," stated the ministry.
“Glyphosate use in B.C.’s forest sector forestry has generally been declining in recent years as foresters use a variety of approaches to manage competing vegetation including manual, mechanical, burning, biological and herbicides.”
Canfor says it is legally responsible to re-establish a healthy forest stand of conifer trees where they have been harvested.
“Canfor is reducing its use of herbicide overall and has discontinued its application in treating deciduous leading stands where we use manual brushing contractors instead. Glyphosate is approved by Health Canada and is the most widely used herbicide in Canada. We continue to investigate ways to further reduce use of herbicides going forward.” said Michelle Ward, senior communications director.
She said Canfor works with Indigenous groups and stakeholders who have questions about the use of herbicides and works to incorporate their feedback and adjust its herbicide program where possible.
In terms of accessing the spraying information, Ward said anyone with an overlapping tenure or area of interest can also request to receive our annual Notice of Intent that includes detailed treatment maps.
"At least 21 days prior to treatment we provide the Ministry of Environment with our Notice of Intent to Treat, including detailed mapping, and we report on how we have accommodated requests from stakeholders.“
Steidle said he requested access to the maps during Canfor's pest management plan process, but was not provided with any kind of commitment.
“Unfortunately, we have had to come out here and use our time and our public resources to apply pressure to this,” said Steidle.
“Companies are supposed to submit those maps 30-days before they spray, so actually the ministry has them but they are not giving them to the public.”