Free New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.), January 12, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: In New Mexico, citizens are telling the U.S. Forest Service to examine the alternatives for controlling invasive species on 7,300 acres of national forest land.]

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) -- A plan by the U.S. Forest Service to use herbicides and other methods to kill weeds in the Santa Fe and Carson national forests has drawn fire from a coalition of environmentalists.

The agency's Invasive Plant Control Project would incorporate herbicides as well as nontoxic methods to target more than 7,300 acres of nonnative plant populations over the next decade.

Environmentalists acknowledge the importance of controlling weeds that push out native plants, increase erosion and degrade wildlife habitat, but they say herbicides pose health risks.

"We all agree that invasive species are not great for the ecosystem and may need to be treated," said Joanie Berde, volunteer coordinator for Carson Forest Watch. "But there's so many alternatives that don't involve herbicide use."

Berde's group is one of several that filed an administrative appeal with the Forest Service on Monday. The coalition wants the agency to focus on alternatives that don't rely on herbicides.

The Forest Service approved its Invasive Plant Control Project in September after an environmental review and public comment. The agency plans to treat between 300 and 800 acres each year, beginning as early as this spring. There will be no aerial spraying.

There are no immediate plans to use herbicides in municipal watersheds. Project planner Sandy Hurlocker said the plan simply gives the agency an option to use herbicides with municipal approval when other methods are deemed ineffective.

Officials say the herbicides are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, would be carefully applied and would pose little threat to humans and wildlife.

Information from: Albuquerque Journal January 12, 2006