On May 22, Kitsap County Commissioner Robert Gelder broke the news on Facebook that Kitsap County will no longer be conducting broadcast spraying of the controversial herbicide glyphosate to manage weeds.
“As of today, Kitsap County has discontinued the use of glyphosate on county owned/maintained property and rights of way,” Gelder said in the Facebook post on the Kitsap Environmental Coalition page. The county will however continue to use glyphosate for targeted herbicide application in the eradication of noxious weeds.
Gelder said the decision by the county primarily came as a result of community members expressing their concern surrounding the safety of the herbicide’s use.
“It really is born out of the request and concern of community members but also conversations internally of how we can practically respond to those concerns,” Gelder said in an email on Thursday. “We are still learning what authority the county might have overall, but in the near term we can change our practices and look for alternatives.”
The Kitsap Environmental Coalition formed in the summer of 2018, in response to Pope Resources’ stated plans of conducting an aerial application of glyphosate on some 330 acres of forest land owned by the group. Since its formation, the group has continued to push for heavier restrictions on the use of glyphosate, citing recent lawsuits against the chemical’s manufacturer, Bayer — formerly Monsanto — alleging glyphosate’s link to cancer.
Pam Keeley, one of the founders of the coalition, regarded the move by the county as a step in the right direction and said she hoped the resolution would serve as precedent for other counties to take action.
“That’s quite a breakthrough,” Keeley said of the resolution. “Right now that’s a step in the right direction and we’re very glad to keep it out of the streams. Anything that we can do to protect those aquifers is really a high priority.”
According to the founder, members of KEC had recently noticed county crews applying the herbicide in a manner that was not in adherence to the application recommendations printed on the label.
“The county was spraying in conditions that were directly contraindicated by the [herbicide’s] containers,” she said. “We stepped up our pressure and in recent weeks we’ve been told to back off. Then this came [Wednesday] night.”
A photograph of the resolution posted by Gelder reads:
“Now therefore be it resolved that the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners direct staff to:
- Discontinue the broadcast spraying of glyphosate on county owned and maintained property and rights of way; and
- Pursue other options to effectively support departmental operations and stewardship of resources; and
- Work with our state legislative delegation and county partners to pursue lasting changes; and
- Only utilize targeted application of glyphosate in the eradication of noxious weeds; and
- Educate private citizens in our community about other weed management alternatives.”
While Keeley said the move by the county is in the right direction, she also noted that the coalition had not yet turned its attention away from Pope Resources.
“We still have our eye on Pope Resources,” she said. “That’s massive spraying that they do.”
According to Keeley, coalition members are willing to do whatever it takes to keep Pope Resources from conducting a large-scale application of glyphosate on the company’s holdings.
“We’re prepared to defend the aquifers,” She said. “We have recently trained our members in non-violent direct action, so if Pope doesn’t do the right thing and move to sustainable practices that don’t involve chemical trespass, that don’t risk permanent contamination of our aquifers, we will do whatever we have to [in order] to protect the sole source of our water.”