By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

The state’s new Forest Activity Electronic Reporting and Notification System (FERNS) notifies subscribers about forestry activity and chemical spraying in a preordained area. Local subscribers would know when and where herbicides would be sprayed and could also sign up to be notified about prescribed burns and other commercial forest activity.

Janet Moore of Coast Range Forest Watch (CRFW) held an informational meeting about the new online notification system March 14 at the Chetco Community Library

In FERNS, users set their area of interest when they subscribe, and then FERNS notifies them when forestry activities occur in that area. (https://ferns.odf.oregon.gov/e-notification)

The meeting, hosted by the League of Women Voters (LWV), covered forestry activities, especially aerial spraying, that could impact county residents.

The League of Women Voters worked with Beyond Toxics, a Eugene-area awareness group, forestry representatives and legislators to develop this notification process.

Moore said the forestry industry uses herbicides on the plants surrounding new trees so they grow more rapidly.

Those herbicides are sprayed from backpack sprayers worn by workers on the ground and by aerial spraying, usually from specially equipped helicopters, according to CRFW.

Oregon Department of Forestry representative Stacy Savona said different herbicides are used before and after the new trees are planted.

CRFW materials indicate aerial spraying often results in drift, when herbicides are carried by the wind or thermal currents as far as 10 miles.

Moore noted three common herbicides are sprayed locally and said they are often mixed: glyphosate, 2, 4-D and atrazine. Mixing can have synergistic effects, making the chemicals stronger and more dangerous, she said.

CRFW reports outline health dangers related to these chemicals such as multiple nutrient deficiencies leading to illness, liver and kidney disease, endocrine disruption and birth defects.

Moore and Savona said the National Forest Service has not sprayed herbicides since 1984 because of health problems and miscarriages attributed to spraying and pointed out much of the forest land near Brookings is national forest.

They agreed most local spraying occurs in the north of the county where there is more commercial activity.

A report in the New York Times said atrazine, one of the chemicals used here, has been banned in the European Union (EU) for over a decade.

The report also explained the EU uses the so-called precautionary principle and requires companies to establish that new chemicals are safe before they are put on the market. The American approach asks regulators to show evidence of danger before taking action against new chemicals.

FERNS alerts subscribers if spraying is going to occur in their area.

Moore was unable to demonstrate the FERNS system because the wifi was not working at the Chetco Community Library. However, later research showed the system to be intuitive and easy to set-up.

If anyone would like guidance on FERNS, Savona said ODF would be willing to help.

She can be contacted at 541-469-5040 or at Stacy.Savona@oregon.gov

The next local meeting on FERNS will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, at Gold Beach City Hall at 29592 Ellensburg Ave.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com .

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