Oregon regulators reject pesticide-free zones

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon state regulators have rejected the idea of requiring pesticide-free buffers around rivers and streams to protect threatened fish from chemical runoff.

The state Environmental Quality Commission's vote Thursday was unanimous, the agricultural publication Capital Press reported.

Northwest Environmental Advocates had asked the commission to start working on rules to create no-spray buffers up to 1,000 feet wide along waterways. The group said the chemicals are dangerous to humans as well as to fish and wildlife.

"This just shows ... that when it comes to protecting salmon and health, the hard decisions never get made," said Nina Bell, executive director of the group.

Farmers said the buffer zones would devastate agriculture, foresters said they would hamper efforts to replant near streams, and the commission's staff recommended against the idea.

A water quality specialist, Debra Sturdevant, said buffers would also hurt human health by preventing efforts to fight disease-bearing organisms and invasive species in the buffer zones.

A forestry official said the buffers would make it hard to meet state replanting regulations.

"We use herbicides to control unwanted weed species so our trees can grow," said Gary Springer, a member of the state Board of Forestry and a forester with Starker Forests in Corvallis.

An advocate for farmers said it would mean taking large tracts of land out of farm production.

"When you are talking about buffers of up to 1,000 feet around any waterways that are salmon bearing or could lead to a salmon bearing waterway — which is pretty much every stream in the western half of the state of Oregon — you would be hard pressed to find a farm in the Willamette Valley that does not have a stream going through it," said Scott Dahlman, executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter.

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Information from: Capital Press, http://www.capitalpress.com/

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press