Vermont won their fight against aerial herbicides. It’s past time for Maine to win ours.

At the end of August 1995, Lloyd Gierke, resident of Brunswick, VT received a notice that 180-acres of land owned by Boise Cascade Paper Company, bordering his land, would be sprayed with an herbicide within the next few days. Lloyd contacted his local paper, The Times Argus, that ran a front-page story on the proposed aerial spraying. After the appearance of Lloyd on the front page, Governor Dean was flooded with phone calls. The governor then requested that Boise Cascade stop the spraying pending public hearings.

In 1996, I was in my senior year at the University of Vermont and I had the great fortune of having an internship with the Vermont Natural Resources Council. That was my first opportunity to sit in heated public hearings where citizens passionately expressed their objections to a corporate decision that could affect the health of their loved ones and the natural environment they treasured.

Freedom of speech and assembly are beautiful cornerstones of democracy. The good citizens of Vermont who rose up to protect their communities and environment from the threat of aerial spraying of glyphosate as a forestry practices won their fight. Vermont has had a ban on all herbicide application in forestry since 1997.

During the Vermont fight, significant scientific research came to light that pointed to the risks of aerial spraying to ecosystems and to people’s health. Today, the amount of scientific research pointing to the risks from glyphosate has grown exponentially.

Yet, here in Maine, the spraying of glyphosate as a forestry practice has been permitted for more than thirty years.

It’s past time for Maine to stand up to corporate interests for the good of our citizens and our wildlife. It’s time for Maine to win our fight.

The World Health Organization classifies glyphosate as a ‘probable carcinogen.’ Glyphosate has been banned in at least 10 countries, including Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam, and at least 15 additional countries restrict its use. Here in the US, California recently listed glyphosate as a known carcinogen. The listing was overturned by the Trump Administration.

Yet, in court case after court case, plaintiffs are awarded billions of dollars in punitive damages against Monsanto from claims of their non-Hodgkin lymphomas caused by glyphosate exposure. There are more than 11,000 similar lawsuits still pending.

Humans aside, entire forest and aquatic ecosystems are disrupted by the spraying of glyphosate.

This past weekend, my children and I cross-country skied through remote wilderness in the Rockwood area. Everywhere we looked there were snowshoe hare tracks interlaced with the tracks of their predator the Canada Lynx. Tracks of moose, otters, beaver, small rodents, ruffed grouse gave us a glimpse into the impressive mix of wildlife that the North Woods supports.

Research has found undeniable loss of wildlife diversity in herbicide-sprayed areas due to less vegetative cover, food, and higher temperatures. The U.S. EPA has found that glyphosate likely threatens nearly every animal and plant species on the U.S. list of threatened and endangered species.

Back in Vermont in the late 1990s, I sat in the kitchen that belonged to 86-year-old Iva Fuller as she told me just what she thought of aerial spraying of glyphosate. Iva lived self-sufficiently on the side of a mountain in Bloomfield, VT her entire life where black bears came close as she gardened and she tapped the maple trees in her yard.

Iva told me then, “I can’t see the object of spraying. If they allow it, it’s too bad for the younger generation up here in the northern country. I don’t see how it wouldn’t pollute the water, animals, and people. I don’t know how you grow anything if you can’t grow maples.” She went on to say, “Those big companies that want to spray only want to make money. They don’t live here and I guess they don’t care whether the water is polluted or whether the animals live or die.”

Words of wisdom, Iva.

Vermont won their fight. It’s past time for Maine to win ours.

Let’s pass LD 125, An Act to Ban the Use of Aerial Herbicide Spraying for Forestry Practices this legislative session. Concerned citizens can make this happen. I watched it happen 24 years ago in a place very much like this state that so many of us treasure.