Ground Truth: Sound Off

FSEEE Objects to Aerial Herbicide Spraying in Medicine Bow NF

FSEEE has filed an objection to the Draft Record of Decision (ROD) for Invasive and Other Select Plant Management for the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. Forest Supervisor Andrew Johnson issued the draft ROD, which would allow the Forest Service to spray toxic herbicides from aircraft to kill native plant species in the Forest.

The decisions in the draft ROD are based on information presented in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS), which wrongly identifies Duncecap larkspur as an “Invasive Plant Species Known to Occur in the Bighorn National Forest.” As FSEEE points out in our objection, Duncecap larkspur is an indigenous species native to the area.

The Federal Noxious Weed Act is the comprehensive framework for the management of invasive, harmful plant species, but it explicitly exempts plants that are “indigenous to an area.” The Forest Service cites a county designation of the larkspur as “noxious” but is legally barred from using that designation to justify killing an indigenous species. By doing so, the Forest Service is acting beyond its statutory authority, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

FSEEE also objects to aerial spraying of tebuthiuron to kill sagebrush because, as the FEIS acknowledges, “Tebuthiuron can leach into groundwater. Therefore, there is potential for water quality implications in Bighorn National Forest and on adjacent lands in the four-county area.”

Yet the FEIS fails to disclose that tebuthiuron has already contaminated Wyoming water wells. The FEIS also fails to disclose the additional contamination of wells that will result from the proposed aerial spraying as well as effects to users of the increasingly contaminated well water. These failures violate the National Environmental Policy Act.

The context of this proposal adds insult to injury — i.e., the Forest Service has been successful at preventing the loss of native plant communities associated with the spread of invasive plant species without the use of herbicides sprayed from what amount to crop dusters.

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