Dear Editor and Readers of the AVA,
July 26, 2012 — Explanation Of The Application Of Herbicides In The Comptche And Rancho Navarro Areas
Recently, some neighbors and members of our community expressed their concerns to Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) about our use of herbicides; specifically, application of herbicides in the Comptche and Rancho Navarro areas. Those who contacted us had safety concerns and were disturbed by the sudden view of a lot of hardwood trees turning brown.
Here’s what happened. In our overall planning for the scope of this herbicide treatment, we underestimated the visual impact to the general public, as well as to our neighbors. We understand and appreciate the concerns raised, and the fact is we likely could have minimized concern by better communicating our plans with our neighbors and modifying our treatment to reduce the visual impacts. This is an extremely important lesson for us, and as a result, beginning last week we implemented the following procedures so as to communicate and provide information much earlier in our planning process.
1. All future Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) will include: a. A more detailed assessment of the visual impacts when these types of herbicide applications are being contemplated.
b. Where feasible, descriptions of mitigation will be provided to reduce foreseeable visual impacts.
2. Existing Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) will be reviewed by MRC staff for potential visual impacts, and where feasible, implement actions to lessen visual impacts.
As an example of mitigation for the above area of concern, we implemented intensive fuels reduction work on herbicide treated areas close to some of the property lines near Comptche-Ukiah Road between July 17th and July 20th, 2012. Further work may be undertaken in the near future during cool or wet conditions. These efforts were designed to reduce the immediate visual impacts of the herbicide application and reduce fuel concentrations.
Our extremely careful applications of herbicides have always been carried out under strict, rigorous and long-standing existing internal policies and controls. These controls, along with government approved restrictions, include:
• Applying herbicides manually on a plant-by-plant basis with fully-trained applicators who report herbicide usage to the County Agricultural Commissioner.
• Applying herbicides only to outside watercourse protection zones of Class I and Class II streams and more than 25 feet from a Class III watercourse.
• Providing treatment setbacks from County and private roads that we mutually share with other forest landowners.
• Leaving sufficient “green space” between treatment areas to reduce fire hazard.
• Intensively monitor winter water quality of downstream watercourses to detect the presence of chemicals.
Herbicide use has been an important and necessary tool in the replanting and restoration of the natural balance on more than 60,000 acres of MRC forestlands and the establishment of nearly six million redwood and Douglas fir trees that otherwise would not be on the land. This is a commitment Mendocino Redwood Company made at the company’s inception in 1998.
Today, there are areas of the forestlands that still contain a much higher proportion of hardwoods to conifers than is natural (including the area just treated). This is a result of poor harvesting practices and fires that predate our ownership of these lands. Herbicides are a crucial tool to restore the conifer balance. Once this balance is achieved and properly managed, the use of herbicides will no longer be necessary except for rare circumstances to fight potential incursions of exotic species.
Over the years, we have continued to research potential alternatives to the use of these chemical herbicides. Testing of alternative processes and compounds began in 2000. Various alternative compounds and procedures have been tested including eucalyptus oil, vinegar, shading out stumps, and others. These studies continue today with tests including stripping bark on girdled and cut tanoaks and inoculating cut tanoak stumps with spores from local mushrooms (oysters and turkey tails). Ideally, we will someday find a cost-efficient alternative to the application of herbicides to reduce tanoak density. Until that time, continued restoration activities will require some herbicide use.
As always, we would encourage and enjoy taking anyone, anywhere on our forestlands to view, discuss, question or challenge any aspect of our forest management. We genuinely appreciate feedback from everyone in the community who bring their comments and concerns to our attention. We are committed to responding promptly to any inquiries we receive.
General information regarding our activities and practices can be found by visiting our website at www.mrc.com. For specific inquiries or if you are interested in reviewing our forest management in the woods, please contact MRC directly at (707) 463-5110.
Michael Jani , Mendocino Redwood Co.