Julie M. Johnson: What are the Unintended Consequences of Pesticide Use for Non-Natives?


The U.S. Forest Service provides pesticide use summaries for national forests and grasslands on a region-by-region basis, but notes that the information “should not be interpreted as inclusive of all pesticide applications conducted by the agency, its partners, or collaborators on National Forest System lands and waters.” An unpublished study of herbicide use on public wildlands in the U.S. by University of Montana ecologist Viktoria Wagner and colleagues estimates that more than 1 million hectares (2.4 million acres) of such lands were sprayed with herbicides in the U.S. between 2007 and 2011, and more than 200 metric tons (220 tons) of herbicide active ingredients were used on these lands in 2010 alone.

Various conservation organizations contacted were reluctant to discuss the issue: When asked about chemical use, The Nature Conservancy wouldn’t interview on the record. Wiley Buck, a restoration ecologist with Great River Greening, an urban conservation nonprofit, also declined. The USFWS agreed to public affairs–supervised interviews with staff, but only after vetting questions to be asked.

With the current fad to control non-native species that are well-adapted to places that they are indiscriminately dropped into, natural management agencies and organizations have forgot about the principle of 'First Do No Harm'. They are managing for their values of what is natural, and it could be counter to the public's interest or in the case of aquatic plants it may be consistent with the public's predisposition to favor ecologically destructive efforts to remove any and all plants from lakes (well-adapted native or non-native, they may not particularly care).