Friday, May 18, 2007
ConsCom looks at pesticide use
A dilemma inherent in the multipurpose nature of Carlisle's town-owned conservation lands emerged anew at the Conservation Commission's (ConsCom) May 10 meeting. After a hiatus of several years, the potentially emotional issue of pesticide use by farmers holding agricultural licenses on one or more of the properties has been raised again, this time by the Land Stewardship Committee (LSC). One proposal being considered is to post more information about pesticide use on conservation lands.
LSC Chairman Warren Lyman explained that the question of whether the public is adequately notified as to when and where pesticides are in use was an outgrowth of the committee's ongoing drive to develop management plans for each conservation parcel. Their concerns led to formation of an ad hoc study group to determine what chemicals are involved and evaluate the adequacy of existing public notification procedures. Their conclusion, backed by 23 pages of facts and figures, found present practices to be insufficient.
Lyman and study group members Judy Asarkof and Lynn Knight requested policy guidelines from their parent commission before proceeding with recommendations. The LSC chairman was quick to add that the situation was not considered an emergency, and that recommendations could await input from the many stake holders.
Because the Cranberry Bog is the agricultural operation that depends most heavily on pesticide use, the document focused on the specific chemicals used and the hazards these substances might pose. At the same time, it recognized that Carlisle Cranberries Inc. employs Integrated Pest Management techniques as developed and monitored by the Department of Agriculture, and that all the farmer-licensees report annually on their use of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.
The researchers' stress on possible risks to humans, dogs and horses when hiking on trails bordering agricultural operations that use pesticides, brought Commissioner and Allandale Farm Manager John Lee to comment, "Although I know it could never happen, the most logical solution to the problem would be to close conservation parcels that are primarily agricultural to all public use during production times." As both Lee and Commissioner Tricia Smith pointed out, farmers do not welcome dog feces in their cranberry bushes or horse manure in their hayfields.
ConsCom Chairman Roy Watson reminded all parties that the commission and the town to which they are responsible are faced with a balancing act. If the townspeople want to preserve open spaces and green vistas, those features must be properly cared for. If they are not kept clear, or at least mowed, they will not be open fields for long. Watson added that the commissioners are grateful to the farmers who license, care for, and mow them, without cost to the town.
Commissioner Kelly Stringham brought the discussion back to the narrower topic of pesticide use and what the commission owed the trail-using public by way of reporting and notification. Saying that it appeared to her that the present written policies regarding pesticide reporting by the licensees are adequate, she saw it primarily as a matter of implementation and enforcement.
Lyman commented that, although consistent policies should be a state issue, state officials had shown no interest in giving the committee any guidance. Seeking other sources of ideas, the researchers had consulted agents in other towns that have municipal bogs, and Asarkof noted that jointly owned Harvard/Bolton agricultural lands have very prominent signs telling what pesticide use may occur and leaving it up to the users to make their own decisions.
With time getting short and study group members pressing for additional public input, Lee suggested such discourse as a perfect topic for one of the monthly Conservation Coffees, where the various stakeholders could talk it over. Asarkof predicted full attendance by friends and neighbors, and Lyman volunteered to frame a proposal for new trail signage that would cover the matter of pesticide use. Since the agenda for the last coffee of the season is already full, the pesticide discussion was scheduled for the first fall get-together in October.
© 2007 The