Posts Tagged ‘herbicide’

Turtle Creek vs MRC

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

by Annie Esposito
[courtesy of The Mendocino Country Independent]
14 June 2011

Neighbors of the Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) are taking the company to task for the use of herbicides in their watershed.

Thirty of the fifty or so people who live in the Turtle Creek community, near Comptche, held a meeting with MRC last month.  All of the neighbors who attended vehemently opposed MRC’s use of imazapyr to kill tanoaks.

Botanist Els Cooperrider told representatives from MRC, “Good Neighbors don’t poison the environment.”  She said that imazapyr is worse than Garlon (triclopyr) and can persist for a year or 17 months. (The Environmental Protection Agency gives it a half-life of 17 months.)

MRC President Jim Holmes disagreed with that assessment of the herbicide, but it was clear that the neighbors didn’t want ANY poisons – period.

Imazapyr is the active ingredient in several broad-spectrum herbicides (Habitat, Chopper, Arsenal, and Assault). It’s banned in the European Union. Allen Cooperrider questioned how MRC could get its sustainable practices certification while using the herbicide. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) prohibits use of “hazardous chemicals.” But MRC holds a valid certification from FSC, good through November 2015.

Holmes told the group, “MRC is committed to sustainable forestry and restoration of the forest.” The logic is that the tanoak problem is a result of poor management, and getting rid of the tanoaks is a step in the direction of a healthy forest.  

Aptly named MRC forester, Colby Forrester, gave a paper version of a powerpoint presentation, showing that every attempt to use alternatives has failed to take care of the tanoak problem.  MRC uses “hack and squirt” to kill the tanoaks – hacking away a section of bark, then injecting the tree using a horse syringe. The systemic poison then kills the whole tree.

Forrester said that just cutting the trees didn’t work; because two years later there were multiple shoots. He produced photos of land where non toxic alternatives such as vinegar were used. Again, there was more growth after two years. But with imazapyr, there is no replacement growth at all. In fact, the photo proof that Forrester produced showed no growth of any kind where the herbicide was applied.

One of the neighbors produced his own photos – pictures of potential fuel loads of debris and dead tanoaks left behind after herbicide treatments. Neighbors argued that the use of poison was creating a fire hazard – even describing a whole ridge of dead tanoaks.

Several of the neighbors said that conifers eventually out-strip the tanoaks, and the tanoaks die off. The argument was that the only reason to poison them is to speed up the process for profit’s sake. There was agreement among the neighbors that if the company is in such a hurry, they should hire workers to remove the trees or let people come in and cut them for firewood.

Holmes said that liability would be a problem. He added that if the group wanted to take out insurance, they would talk about it. The neighbors, however, pointed out that the MRC, which is owned by the Fisher family of The Gap fortune, has more resources and MRC should take out the insurance. Neighbor Terri McCartney told MRC that the fire hazard from dead wood is a higher liability for the company than just letting people cut the wood.

Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg asked if MRC’s use of herbicide really represented a change from the destructive practices of previous owner Louisiana Pacific. In a side note, he questioned MRC’s opposition to a conservation easement for Usal Forest. Holmes said that his company was concerned about the almost $20 million cost to taxpayers for the easement. (If approved by the Wildlife Conservation Board, the 50,635 acre Usal Redwood Forest Conservation Easement would be the largest contiguous area of protected coastal redwoods in the County.)

For the Turtle Creek neighbors, the THP in question is Dark Gulch Timber Harvest Plan. It has been approved; but no work will be done on it this year. This gives the two sides some time to negotiate. Attorney Barry Vogel tried to pin MRC President Holmes down on the company’s intention to use Imazapyr next year. Holmes said that the concerns of the group would be “taken under advisement.”

The meeting echos another community meeting with MRC in Westport in April. Neighbors there have organized a committee to work with MRC on the issue of herbicide use in the forest.

Toxic Load on the Albion

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Regarding that letter from MRC in last week’s paper [“Hack & Squirt Looks Bad“], I’d first like to thank Mr. Jani for the attempt. Anything is better than nothing, however, I thought his note was most peculiar in what it did not address, which is the public’s obvious distaste for being poisoned. Instead, Mr. Jani focused obsessively on the “visual impact,” which almost made it sound more like an internal memo: “Guys, we screwed up, it’s too visible, the natives are restless, we’ve got to go back to hiding this better.” The effect of Mr. Jani’s message, to those of us being poisoned, was not reassuring.

His careful subject avoidance reminded me of the tobacco industry, who for decades after everyone else had figured it out, kept pretending that there was no connection between smoking and cancer. A big difference in these two situations is that one could choose not to be a smoker; whereas, here, we are unwilling participants in MRC’s poisoning of the environment.

If you haven’t already done so, take a drive out Comptche Ukiah Road, three to six miles east of Comptche. You’ll get the “visual impact” Mr. Jani was talking about. The ugly brown is one thing, but the real story is those thousands of dead trees, perched steeply above the headwaters of the Albion River, have all been killed with a highly toxic herbicide. Their fallen leaves are now sliding down canyon walls toward the river, rainy season is coming, and we know the herbicide used to kill those trees, imazapyr, is both mobile and persistent. I mourn for the people throughout the Albion River watershed. The toxic load heading your way is criminal.

I mourn for all of us in western Mendocino County. What you can see along the Comptche Ukiah Road this year, MRC has been doing in more hidden locations all along. From our property, we see large fields of MRC Brown along tributaries of the Navarro River. MRC averages two tons of imazapyr on over five thousand acres every year. That’s a huge toxic load on us all. Doesn’t it seem like too many people are getting cancer these days? MRC is helping make that happen.

How can we make them stop? What these corporate types care about is money, so I suggest boycotting Home Depot (which distributes MRC lumber) and the five clothing businesses of the principal owners: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta. Tell these businesses what you’re doing and why. Spread the word. Together we can create something that matters to these people: financial impact.

Mendocino Poison Company

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Information on Mendocino Redwood Company’s widespread use of toxins in Mendocino County…


Website with updated information (2015) on the fire danger from poisoned trees left standing in the woods:

An online petition:

Letters we’ve sent to our local newspaper:

Photos taken near Comptche, California, August 2012:

Newspaper articles on the topic:

Current and previous actions against these poisonings:

Some pertinent data from MRC:

More information:

Big Neighbor, Bad Habit

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

trees killed with imazapyrInteresting letter (“Sudden Oak Death Company“) in last week’s paper [Anderson Valley Advertiser] about the increased (and toxic) fire danger from MRC’s ever-metastasizing dead-tree zones.

To help illuminate the scale of what’s going on here, imagine a football field, including both endzones. Now cover that field with tanoak. That’s 1.3 acres.

Over the past 13 years (1999-2011) Mendocino Redwood Company has poisoned 70,659 acres. That’s an average of 5,435 acres (or 4,110 football fields) per year. And to accomplish this horrific waste, they release an average of 3,873 pounds (nearly two tons) of the highly toxic herbicide imazapyr into our local environment every year.

Lower John Smith CreekAnd where does all this toxic devastation take place? The majority of MRC’s holdings lie between the towns of Willits, Boonville, Point Arena, and Mendocino; and within that rough diamond, MRC appears to own more than half the land.

Folks, we’ve got a big neighbor with a real bad habit. It’s a shame we’ve let them get away with this much. Help put an end to the madness by contacting the perpetrators at or 707-463-5110. They won’t stop until we insist.

Poisoning Us for Profit

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

From a ridge in Rancho Navarro, we enjoy a small view of the Coast Range. Looking northeast, we see a series of ridges, the nearest runs from Comptche toward Ukiah. The north branch of the north fork of the Navarro River, our local watershed, snakes through the area. Beyond that are distant slopes that feed the Big, Russian, and Eel Rivers. It’s a beautiful, rugged forest terrain.

Recently, in this familiar vista, we witnessed something strange. A large swath of trees all turned brown, quickly and in unison. We called who we thought the owners might be, MRC (Mendocino Redwood Company), and asked if they knew what happened. They did. They were poisoning tanoak.

They call the procedure “hack and squirt,” because they hack into the bark to squirt an herbicide (imazapyr) into the wound. The tree absorbs the toxin and dies. Imazapyr is a non-selective broad-spectrum systemic herbicide, which means it is not particular about what it kills. You can imagine the potential for collateral damage, to all living things, through the soil, water, air, food chain, etc. Europe wisely banned imazapyr back in 2003.

According to the Journal of Pesticide Reform, imazapyr is corrosive to the eyes and can cause irreversible damage to the cornea. But that’s small potatoes compared to its more lethal effects:

“Adverse effects found in laboratory animals after chronic exposure to imazapyr include the following: fluid accumulation in the lungs of female mice, kidney cysts in male mice, abnormal blood formation in the spleen of female rats, an increase in the number of brain and thyroid cancers in male rats, and an increase in the number of tumors and cancers of the adrenal gland in female rats.”

Imazapyr has been found to persist in the soil for at least a year, doesn’t politely stay put, but readily moves through soil, and there is documented proof that it has contaminated surface and ground water following both aerial and ground forestry applications (including hack-and-squirt). And imagine the healthful smoke produced when one of these dead zones burns.

The other major problem with imazapyr is its breakdown products. When the chemical is exposed to light, it transforms into quinolinic acid which is irritating to the eyes, the respiratory system, and the skin. It is also a known neurotoxin that can cause nerve lesions and symptoms similar to Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to cognitive decline and psychiatric problems.

How much of this goes on around here? Mendocino Redwood Company owns nearly a quarter million acres: one tenth of all the private land in Mendocino County. According to their website, over the past 13 years (1999-2011) they have unleashed 50,352 pounds of this highly concentrated toxin into our environment. That’s about two tons per year. To kill tanoak. Which could be used for many other things (firewood, lumber, energy). Because they say they can’t afford the alternatives (wouldn’t leaving the trees alone be cheaper?). Someone has determined that poisoning us is their most cost-effective option.

The billionaire Fisher family, of San Francisco, are primary owners of MRC. They made their fortune from The Gap clothing business, which now also includes Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta. If you any have thoughts about MRC, and the Fishers, poisoning our environment for their profit, give them a buzz: or 707-463-5110.