Assiginack stands by Garlon herbicide ban

by Alicia McCutcheon

MANITOULIN—A public notice that appeared in last week’s edition of the Manitoulin West Recorder and that appears in today’s (Wednesday’s) Manitoulin Expositor has caused quite a stir in some Island municipalities.

The ‘Public Notice of Pesticide Use’ states that commencing June 22 (weather permitting), the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has hired Elliot Lake’s Forest and Land Control to control 46 kilometers of brush along Highway 542 in Tehkummah and Central Manitoulin and Highway 6 in Assiginack using the controversial herbicide Garlon XRT.

“We got hold of Michele (Gravel, proprietor of Forest and Land Control) and told her there is no way we would allow Garlon in our township,” said Reeve Clyde ‘Bud’ Rohn. “Why are we not allowed to use chemicals on our own lawns, but the ministry can use them? Our stand is no, but if they don’t listen I guess I’ll have to chain myself to a friggin’ tree!”

“Haven’t we already been through this?” he asked, noting the 2006 Garlon controversy when Hydro made plans to use the herbicide in Howland Township, Assiginack, Aundeck Omni Kaning and Sheguiandah for brush control. A petition circulated within the municipality and was presented to then-Reeve Leslie Fields, which eventually led to an outright ban through a bylaw.

Tehkummah Reeve Gary Brown only became aware of the MTO plan to spray Garlon during a conversation with The Expositor Monday night.

“I thought we had an agreement with the government and Hydro that the municipality is to be informed directly before the spraying of any herbicides,” he said. “I guess that isn’t the case.”

Reeve Brown said he would be “on the phone” Tuesday morning to remedy the situation.

Central Manitoulin Mayor Gerry Strong said his office was aware of the spraying, but had been told by the MTO that since the use of Garlon would be happening on the highway and not municipal roads, it was not Central Manitoulin’s jurisdiction.

“I have been told they will not be spraying in Big Lake, Sandfield or near any water courses,” Mayor Strong said.
In a letter sent to The Expositor Monday from Gordan Rennie, regional issues and media advisor for the MTO’s Northeastern region, the paper learned Reeve Rohn will not have to chain himself down after all.

“The Township of Assiginack has advised the MTO that it has a bylaw prohibiting use of herbicides and requested that the ministry not proceed with planned spraying in their municipality,” Mr. Rennie wrote. “In light of this local policy, the ministry has decided not to spray on Highway 6 through the municipality. We will be considering alternative methods to keep the right-of-way clear in this area.”

“Herbicides in Canada are regulated at both the federal and provincial level,” Mr. Rennie continued. “Health Canada submits each herbicide to a rigorous and scientific assessment process which provides reasonable certainty that no harm will occur when pesticides are used according to label directions.”

According to Garlon’s maker, Dow AgroSciences, “Forestry Garlon XRT specialty herbicide controls woody species, such as dogwood, gallberry, sweetgum and cherry, as well as annual and perennial broadleaf weeds in forests, forest roadsides, and in the establishment and maintenance of wildlife openings.” The active ingredient is triclopyr, and is absorbed by both plant leaves and roots and, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), has a “half-life in soil of approximately 30 days under conditions that are favourable for microbial decomposition.”