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Daily News Blog

09
Mar

Town Wins Award for First Community-wide Pesticide-Free Policy in Maine, Organic Land Care Training on Sat. March 14

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2015) The quaint and charming town of Ogunquit, Maine has proudly accepted the 16th Down East Environmental Award, presented by Down East magazine, for passing a ballot initiative  last November that prohibits  the use of toxic lawn pesticides on all public and private land within the town —only the second community in the United States to do so, following Takoma Park in Maryland. To help the community implement the new law and provide hands-on technical information to people in town and the region, the local hardware store, Eldredge Lumber and Hardware, is sponsoring a training open to the public, landscapers, and officials on Saturday, March 14.

In 1979, Down East magazine introduced the prestigious Down East Environmental Award in order to encourage the conservation of Maine’s natural resources and to honor citizens and groups who are at the forefront of creating positive environmental change, or have helped to secure conservation efforts in the past. Previous recipients of this award include Governor Percival Baxter, who in 2004 was recognized for his deep dedication to conserving the wilds in the state of Maine, specifically around Mt. Kadahdin, and Governor John E. Baldacci, who in 2009 was presented with the award for his work on the Sears Island Planning Initiative.

Environmental-Award-DownEastSimilarly to Governors Baxter and Baldacci, the community members of Ogunquit demonstrated their dedication to conserving Maine’s natural resources by banning all insect killers, weed killers and fertilizers last November. Before the ban was passed, the Ogunquit Conservation Commission launched a three-year education and awareness campaign to further their goal to “protect and maintain Ogunquit’s natural resources, to conserve natural habitat, to procure and develop open spaces, parks and trails, to establish public access conservation easements through land trusts or town owned properties.” This campaign helped to grow overwhelming support for the ordinance and it re-passed on November 4, 2014 with a vote of 444 to 297 in favor of the ban. Ogunquit has since become a leader within Maine and the wider United States, demonstrating to others how to best protect public health and create a sustainable environment within a community.

The presentation of this award to Ogunquit is especially important because it demonstrates to citizens that there are ways to create positive environmental change with their own actions, such as doing something as simple as discontinuing the use of pesticides on their own property. Halting the use of pesticides on private property is as important as a ban on public lands — private residential usage leads to pollution of local waterways and dangerously impacts public health too. Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are possible and/or known carcinogens,   18 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 19 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 11 have been linked to birth defects, 14 are neurotoxic, 24 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 25 are sensitizers and/or irritants. Children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Getting rid of pesticide use on your lawn may seem daunting, but there are many alternatives for safer lawn care. Pest and weed pressure can be reduced and ultimately eliminated through a “feel the soil” approach that centers on natural, organic fertilization, and proper cultural practices such as correct mowing height, aeration, and overseeding. Creating a toxic-free lawn is possible when you understand why weeds occur in the first place, and take steps to eliminate conditions that allow their growth.

Along with human health risks, pesticides can and do negatively impact animal habitats and the environment. Aquatic animals are extremely sensitive to pesticide runoff. Increased levels of lawn care pesticides in stream systems have been found to decimate populations of some aquatic crustaceans, while causing others to mutate and become resistant to the pesticides. Ogunquit’s decision to ban pesticides not only led to greater protection of its residents, but also to the unique ecosystem surrounding it, including precious salt marshes and beaches where migratory birds, fish and mammals make their home.

Pro-pesticide lobbyists have a history of undermining these types of decisions, pushing against localities’ right to enact legislation that would protect community health and the environment. Specifically in Ogunquit, a pro-pesticide group called RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) passed out flyers to Ogunquit resident’s homes in order to spread false information and cast doubt over the impending decision. In the 1990’s, groups like RISE worked feverishly to enact regressive state pesticide preemption laws that prevent localities from enacting any ordinance that regulates pesticides more strictly than state law. Maine is one of seven states that does not preempt local authorities’ ability to restrict the use of pesticides on all land within their jurisdiction.

Take action. Whether your state has preemption or not, you can still work to get toxics out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support —friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government. Beyond Pesticides has resources and factsheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Attend a workshop with Chip Osborne and Jay Feldman on transitioning to organic land management. On Saturday, March 14,  Chip Osborne  of Osborne Organics and Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides  are conducting two workshops on implementing the new Ogunquit law, focusing on organic turf management practices that can effectively replace chemical-intensive methods with better results at a competitive cost. The training sessions are being hosted by Eldredge Lumber and Hardware in York, Maine. For more information on the training programs, location, and to register, please contact Eldredge Hardware.

Source: Seacoastonline

Photo Credit: Downeast Lakes Land Trust

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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