Show Down Over Roundup

by John Wolcott

Invading black locust trees are crowding out and over shadowing native Pine Bush plants including the blue lupine which is essential to the survival of the Karner Blue. Black locust trees, along with bulldozer happy developers, are one of the many threats to the survival of the Pine Bush.

Black locusts, like developers, are extremely difficult to eradicate from the Pine Bush. Jerry Mueller has been cutting down one stand of locust since 1992 to no avail. Because cutting of the black locust has failed, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission (Commission) wants to try Roundup. This is an herbicide which the Commission claims "is only slightly toxic to humans, mammals and birds." They also want to use Garlon 4, another herbicide which they also say "is only slightly toxic."

Save the Pine Bush and the New York Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NYCAP) object to the use of those herbicides and urge the use of girdling instead. Girdling involves stripping off the bark of the black locust tree, which kills the tree by disrupting the normal flow of nutrients. Cutting down black locust trees simply encourages the roots to send up more trees nearby; girdling saps the roots of their strength and ultimately kills them. Though more difficult, girdling of the black locust should kill them.

At the September 5 public meeting, the Commission had neatly printed very official looking one page leaflets on a table reassuring the public that these herbicides are safe. What they apparently didn't expect, was that Jim Moore, Director of NYCAP, also placed leaflets on the table. They were three pages long and went into more and very specific details about the harmfulness of the herbicides in question. The leaflets also described the preferability of girdling, how to do it, and how it works.

The Commission leaflets cite and describe only the active ingredients in Roundup, but the NYCAP leaflet names and describes the active and also the inert ingredient in Roundup which is three times more toxic than the active ingredient. It describes the active ingredient in Garlon but points out that it's inert ingredient is a trade secret. It state that "Both Roundup and Garlon have significant health and environmental risks."

Even though the kind of warning was passed onto the Commission four years ago, Roundup has been used at a butterfly colony at Crossgates Maul for the last year. Personally, I wouldn't go near Crossgates after hearing this nor would I move into any home near where it's being used.

What wasn't reported from the September 5 meeting in the press: I asked Stephanie Gebauer, spokesperson for the Commission, if she remembered Jerry Mueller passing on a warning to her about Roundup from NYCAP four years ago when she first considered using it. She answered no.

I then asked her if she remembered Jerry Mueller recommending to her four years ago that girdling be tried on the black locusts. She said she couldn't remember.
I asked that the meeting be adjourned until Jerry, who was in Alaska doing environmental research and expected back soon, could return and participate in this discussion. There was no response to this idea.

Actually, the best question was raised by Ralph Sponable, a member of the Commission itself. Stephanie Gebauer said that all of the trails where the herbicides are to be used will be closed to the public for a certain time. Mr. Sponable asked that "If these chemicals are so safe, why do the trails have to be closed?"

Ms. Gebauer's only answer raises even more questions, "It's just a regulation that we have to follow."

For more detailed technical data and leaflets on the subject, contact NYCAP at 353 Hamilton Street, Albany, NY 12210 or call 518/426-8246.

To write to the Commission to express your concerns about the use of pesticides in the Pine Bush, send your comments to: Willie Janeway, Executive Director, Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commssion, 1653 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12205 or call 518/464-6496.

Printed September, 1996


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