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Fight over flight: Activists resist aerial pesticide spraying

December 9, 2019

Register-Guard,

Christian Hill,

December 6, 2019-

Timber companies notified state regulators this year that aircraft will spray pesticides on least three dozen tracts of forestland in Lane County. Aerial spraying of these chemicals has been controversial in Oregon, with environmental groups seeking reforms to the practice for years. Timber companies spray pesticides using aircraft to kill competing vegetation after a clear-cut that can curtail the growth of Douglas fir and other valuable trees grown for logging. Oregonians have raised concerns about how the broad application of pesticides and applying them from the air can pollute waterways and sicken people.

Oregon lawmakers moved in 2015 to protect homes and schools from the chemicals, but more recent legislative efforts to restrict aerial spraying and improve public notification have floundered. In recent weeks at the county and state level, efforts to ask voters to curtail or outright ban the practice, which opponents say is only loosely regulated, have been stymied. For example, a judge threw out in September an aerial spray ban that Lincoln County voters passed in 2017. But supporters of the statewide efforts received good news Thursday when Secretary of State Bev Clarno approved three proposed initiatives, two of which seek more restrictions on aerial spraying, to take another step toward signature gathering. Clarno rejected three earlier proposed initiatives after concluding they were unconstitutionally over broad.

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