The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville [UCLG] has announced its plans for roadside spraying for 2016, and this has caused some concern among residents, particularly in the rural parts of the Counties. The UCLG approach to roadside spraying is quite clear.
“Vegetation control along the County roadsides is an important part of road maintenance. It ensures clear sight lines for signs, intersections and roadside wildlife, promotes drainage and drying and prevents the establishment of trees and brush in the right of way. Controlling noxious and invasive weeds is another objective of the County vegetation management program.”
That sounds quite logical and reasonable, but the concern is caused by the manner in which the spraying is to take place, the herbicide that will be used, and the potential for unintended consequences due to rain run-off from ditches, and the destruction of wildflowers and other vegetation essential for pollination.
Aleta Karsted and Dr. Fred Schueler are well-known and respected across the country for their knowledge of, and care for, our natural environment, and are a valued local resource in our community. Aleta points out the possible effects of the spraying plans announced by the UCLG. “We are already in a pollinator crisis. Most of the kilometres of country roads are agricultural or forest rather than residential, and this means that the wildflowers along the roadsides which support insect pollinators will have no place to grow where fields are maintained in crops, and where land is shaded in forest. Also, many ditches that appear grassy during dry spells become headwaters when there’s heavy rain, feeding into drains and creeks.”
Roadside herbicide spraying will be completed in May and June along rural County roads within the municipalities of Merrickville-Wolford and North Grenville as well as selected township roads. The UCLG maintains that the “herbicide will selectively kill weeds but not the grasses and is approved for use on roadsides under the public works exemption of the cosmetic pesticide ban. Spraying of the herbicide will be completed by a qualified contractor licensed by the Ministry of the Environment under requirements of the Pesticides Act.”
Only unmaintained ditches will be sprayed with herbicide, maintained yards and ditches will not be sprayed, and the UCLG are inviting property owners who do not wish to have the roads fronting their lands sprayed to post notices. “Property owners who do not want the unmaintained ditch in front of their property sprayed can post “No Spray” signs at the start and finish of their property. These signs must be at least 30 cm x 60 cm (1 ft x 2 ft) and be easily read from the shoulder of the road. You can make your own sign or the Counties have a limited number of these signs available for pick up at the Counties office in Brockville. To obtain one of these signs or for more information, please contact the Counties at 613-342-3840 ext. 2413.”
Aleta Karsted wonders if the only way to prevent possible negative effects of this roadside spraying might be to act collectively and get the ditches mowed before the herbicide arrives! “Will we as citizens have to press into service every riding mower we can get hold of, to defensively mow the roadsides ourselves, so even if it reduces flowering of the plants, the roadsides will not be poisoned? This is a prime example of bureaucratic nearsightedness – to think that the only things that grows in ditches is grasses or weeds! What about the woody plants that grow up wherever they aren’t mowed – like Buckthorn and other bushes – and Poplar trees grow pretty fast too!”
The roadside spraying is the responsibility of the UCLG Weed Inspector, who is appointed to carry out and perform the duties required under the provision of the Weed Control Act (Agricultural Complaints). The Weed Inspector is also appointed under Section 11 of the Municipal Act to carry out and perform inspection and enforcement duties with respect to complaints regarding nuisance weeds affecting human health, safety and well-being.
According to the UCLG, the herbicide being used is Clearview, the active ingredients of which are Metasulfuron-Methyl and Aminopyralid present as potassium salt. “Clearview is a post emergent herbicide for control of annual and perennial broadleaf weeds and invasive plants on right of ways, industrial and other non-crop areas of Canada. For further information call 800-770-2170 / 613-342-3840 ext. 2413.”
I love roadsides with natural vegetation. We certainly must be sure that said vegetation does not block signage or sightlines, but beyond that where is the problem? (I am sometimes concerned that those pushing for any sort of control might have as their ideal a “dead” lawn — only, say, Kentucky Blue Grass growing.)