(Beyond Pesticides, May 6, 2015) The City of Boulder, Colorado yesterday became the most recent locality in the U.S. to restrict the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides on city property. The resolution moved forward primarily as a result of efforts by grassroots activists with the local organization Bee Safe Boulder, but also received strong support from city officials. “We at Bee Safe Boulder, along with city staff and elected city council members, believe that this resolution will become the go-to template for other local governments with similar aspirations in the near future,” said David Wheeler, co-founder of the local group.
Under the new resolution, Boulder has committed to:
- Not applying neonicotinoid pesticides to city property;
- Encouraging “all related parties,” including county, state, and federal governments and private individuals to suspend their use of neonicotinoids until a thorough review is completed and a public health and environmental assessment can prove their safety;
- Seeking out plants and seeds not treated with neonicotinoids, and encouraging all businesses, homeowners, and HOAs within the city to make efforts to ensure no neonic-containing products are sold or used within the city;
- Engaging in efforts to educate the broader community about reducing neonicotinoid pesticides, and encouraging other states, localities, and government agencies to adopt similar policies.
Boulder’s resolution essentially codifies current policies in the city, as Boulder’s integrated pest management coordinator and Beyond Pesticides’ board member, Rella Abernathy, Ph.D., indicated to the Daily Camera.
However, the resolution does carve out certain exceptions that would allow neonicotinoid use. This includes when it is part of a well-defined research study, or when the health of a valuable tree is threatened and a neonicotinoid application is the least environmentally damaging option. “In certain cases, we wanted to have a very stringent exemption process,” said Dr. Abernathy. “In the case we might need to use a neonic for a tree pest and it was a significant and valuable tree, we would be able to, but we would have a very transparent process and have it reviewed by the community.”
Boulder City is now the first locality in Colorado to pass a comprehensive resolution restricting neonicotinoid use on government-owned property. Because of the state’s regressive pesticide preemption law, the city is barred from passing legislation that halts the use of pesticides on private property.
In spite of regressive preemption laws, activists at Bee Safe Boulder have had success in getting private individuals to pledge to stop the use of neonicotinoids and other bee-toxic chemicals on their own property. Once one neighborhood forms at least 75 contiguous pledged properties, the group certifies the neighborhood as a “Bee Safe Community.” “We are saving the bees, and by extension our environment, one neighborhood at a time,” said Bee Safe Boulder co-founder Molly Greacen. The organization also launched a retailer campaign earlier this year, targeting local businesses, and encouraging them to source seeds and plant starts not pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides — jump-starting the education and outreach efforts the city will now undertake.
You can contribute to Bee Safe Boulder’s efforts to expand pollinator-safe habitat by going to their Indiegogo campaign, launched yesterday as the city council passed the Bee Safe resolution.
Neonicotinoids have been widely cited in the demise of both managed and wild bee and pollinator populations. Acting as potent neurotoxins, studies have found the insecticides have the ability to disrupt the reproduction, navigation, and foraging of bees exposed even to infinitesimal concentrations. These systemic chemicals, or “whole plant poisons,” which are taken up by plants and expressed in pollen nectar, and dew droplets, cause systemic changes in ecosystems. Beyond pollination, damage to natural pest control services, soil fertility, and changes within the food web ultimately compromise the biodiversity of wild and managed landscapes.
In the absence of strong action from federal regulators or the White House, whose Pollinator Health Task Force is expected to submit its report soon, localities like Boulder have stepped in to support pollinator and ecosystem health in their community. Since Beyond Pesticides published a list of localities that have taken BEE Protective action in the fall 2014 issue of Pesticides and You, numerous local governments, including Portland, OR, Thurston County, WA, and St. Louis Park, MN, among others, have joined the fray.
To become active in your community, contact Beyond Pesticides and the BEE Protective campaign, launched with our partners at the Center for Food Safety. The more communities that pass resolutions like Boulder’s, the more pressure that will be felt to take strong action on this issue at the federal level. “We believe it has to be a grassroots effort that spreads bit by bit,” said Bee Safe Boulder’s David Wheeler to the Daily Camera. “If the citizens don’t speak up for the place that they live, who will?”
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides