The following article, published in The Maine Times the week of 25 March 2001, reports on a meeting of the New England Society of American Foresters and gives some valuable insight into the attitude of industry and the Board of Pesticides Control towards both pesticide use and this pesticide referendum.

'Use emotions' to support pesticides, foresters told

by Phyllis Austin
Senior Writer

Published by The Maine Times the week of 28 March 2001

Jonathan Carter's new referendum campaign would impose a 10-year moratorium on spraying forest pesticides in Maine, and The New England Society of American Foresters has been put on political alert. Gary Fish, a forester and staff member of the state Board of Pesticides Control said the industry will "need to be careful" on how to fight the initiative because the public perception is that pesticides are "scandalous," unnecessary and a threat to children's health.

Foresters will have to devise a credible message and do it skillfully, said Fish, who runs Kents Hill Forestry Services. He suggested that unless foresters can overcome their reluctance to be "communicators" and "make people feel comfortable with what you do," it will be hard to defeat the initiative.

Carter, head of the Forest Ecology Network and the force behind past forest reform campaigns, has until Aug. 8 to gather the required 42,000 signatures needed to put the pesticides question on the 2002 statewide ballot. The Pesticides-Free Forest ban would include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, and cover aerial and ground spraying. The use of the biological agent Bt for controlling spruce budworm infestations would still be allowed.

Anti-pesticide activism in all three northern New England states was a major topic at the annual meeting of the society in South Portland last week, and it was the focus of an overall get real/get tough theme. In his keynote address, Wes Smith, executive vice president of International Paper, said, " come out of the bunker, stop apologizing for forest management and start spreading the word about our sustainably managed enterprise."

Foresters have nothing to be ashamed about, he said, pointing to its Best Management Practices and green certification programs as proof to the public that industry "is truly doing its part to balance economic benefit with environmental protection and conservation."

The forest industry has sprayed up to 60,000 acres a year to kill unwanted hardwoods and shrubs that compete with softwoods used for papermaking. In 1999, 28,906 acres were treated, a 13 percent decrease from the previous year. Carter and FEN contend the chemicals used are dangerous to the environment and human health and have not been adequately tested to determine their full effects. Continuing to use them is "a giant environmental experiment," he asserts.

After hearing about anti-pesticide campaigns in Vermont and New Hampshire, Gary Fish went over Maine's "rich history" of controversy, starting in 1979 with the accidental spraying of 100 gardens in Dennysville and the subsequent $100 million lawsuit. Since then there have been spray plane crashes, drift problems, public sit-ins, and protesters chaining themselves to helicopters. And to some degree, there also have been reforms, such as updating the Pesticides Control Board, spraying notification requirements, a defeated 1997 statewide referendum drive against aerial spraying, the creation of a notification registry for sensitive people, a legislative resolve to minimize reliance on pesticides. The Brown family in Hope petitioned the board to draw a critical pesticides control area to protect a sensitive child, and the board granted it. But it was repealed when the family moved, he said.

Fish explained the FEN initiative would seek a decade-long ban on synthetic chemicals but also would increase the Board of Pesticides Control from seven to 16 members, with one representative elected from each county instead of gubernatorial appointment. It also would require the board to review current studies on the health and environmental effects and safety of pesticides certified for sale and use in Maine. And, when warranted by currently available scientific information, it would also require the board to limit or prohibit their sale and use in Maine.

The FEN Web site promotes the campaign. "It's pretty well-done, and a lot of people are going there," Fish said. There is nothing on the Internet from industry, state government or the Society of American Foresters to counter FEN's claims, he said.

During a question-and-answer period, University of Maine forestry professor David Field asked why the speakers didn't address "the disconnect" between spraying pesticides in forests and on residential lawns. The problem seems to be people's disconnection with how their personal behavior affects the environment and the sources of their food, fiber and lumber, he said. In Vermont, Field pointed out that the ban on aerial herbicides left almost all other spraying untouched. "It didn't make sense," he said.

Fish responded that the public's perception of who's in control plays a role. "What people have control of [lawns, for instance] doesn't cause much consternation." But many have "no idea" about farm and forest operations. You've got to show how it benefits them before they will buy into it."

Si Balch of Mead wondered why Vermont lawmakers were so susceptible to emotional presentations and asked how the industry can use the same tactic. Levesque answered. "I think we are all susceptible to [emotions]. We ought to be able to learn from that and I don't think we do."

"Cold, calculated science doesn't move" policy and lawmakers, Fish said. "People make all decisions on emotions." IP's Joel Swanton added there's "no question we have to talk with emotion based on our concerns for the earth. We have to go on what affects the planet - not at a corporate level - or we're going to lose."

Phyllis Austin can be reached at:

copyright 2001 Maine Times Publishing Company

 how you can help help

 fact sheet

Pesticides Are Designed To Kill 

 Wildlife, Pesticides and People

other resources 

  industry's view

Aerial Herbicide Spraying- Poisoning the Maine (and New Hampshire) Woods

283 Water Street, 3rd floor, P.O. Box 2118, Augusta, Maine 04338 phone: 207-628-6404 fax - 207-628-5741 email:

Contact webmaster at with problems or suggestions regarding these pages.