Selected stands of forest along the North Shore will be sprayed with an herbicide, beginning this week, to control competing vegetation, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says.
This is not a pilot project as herbicide applications are used for temporarily controlling reforested areas where competing vegetation, such as weeds or brush, may impact planted conifer seedlings, says ministry spokesperson Adriana Pacitto.
Herbicides are used only when necessary to renew the forest, which amounts to less than 0.2 per cent of the province’s productive forested area in any given year, she added.
“Areas treated are surveyed in the following years to monitor its success,” Pacitto told the Sault Star.
Targeted areas are east of Echo Bay and north of Thessalon, Elliot Lake and Blind River; areas close to Highway 129, north of Thessalon, are earmarked.
The herbicide glyphosate has been used extensively in Ontario for more than 40 years in agriculture, and more than 30 years in forestry, the ministry says. It is applied to regenerating forested areas that have been harvested within the last six years and planted within the last four. Sites that receive herbicide application have competing vegetation, such as weeds and brush.
The herbicide temporarily controls competition, allowing the planted conifer seedlings to establish, survive and grow, Pacitto said.
“The intent is to restore the forest to what it was prior to harvest,” she added. “The competing vegetation grows quicker than the planted conifer trees, eventually overtop the conifer trees, taking away the sunlight and the growing space conifer trees require.”
Re-establishing conifer after harvest helps meet industrial wood demand, biodiversity objectives, and ensures wildlife, including moose and caribou, have food and shelter, the ministry said.
Sites treated in 2018 will be evaluated next year to find out if weed and brush competition has been controlled and if the site is on “trajectory” to meet forest planning objectives, including wood supply and wildlife habitat, the ministry says.
Herbicides are registered in Canada by the pest management regulatory agency of Health Canada, which requires “extensive” information before a product can be sold and used, including information about health and environmental effects, MNRF says. The agency’s re-evaluation decision on glyphosate, released in April 2017, concluded glyphosate products do not present “unacceptable” risks to human health or the environment when used according to revised product label directions, Pacitto said.
“The re-evaluation document reaffirmed current forestry glyphosate use, including its safety for people re-entering treated areas … hunters, for example,” she added
For herbicide applications, there are minimum distances to residences, so vegetable gardens will not be harmed, the ministry said. Most herbicide applications are done in areas “far away” from residential areas and are carried out in “very low” wind conditions — 8 km/h — so that the herbicide stays within the planned block.
Pacitto said that if an application is to be done within one kilometre of a residence, individuals are advised in writing. Public notices are placed in newspapers 30 days and seven days prior to herbicide applications and signs are erected at all entrances to the treated block and at places where water is taken for human consumption.
Personnel are placed at key access points to keep people out of the treated blocks, the ministry said.
Spraying is usually done early in the morning and all treated areas are posted for at least 30 days after application.
“(This is) to let people know the area has been sprayed, so that they are aware if they are out picking berries or other activities in the forest,” said Pacitto, adding MNRF recommends people not pick berries in the year of application.
Forest wildlife are not harmed by herbicide applications, MNRF said.
“Glyphosate has a very long history of safe use in Ontario and around the world,” Pacitto said. “There have been many studies with different wildlife species confirming this.”
Spraying is slated to begin Wednesday. Timing of herbicide applications is within a “very short” window, generally six weeks between the middle of August and late September.
“However, if the conditions are favourable — no wind and little precipitation — the application could be completed in significantly less time,” Pacitto said.
The plan is available for inspection by appointment during regular business hours at the Northshore Forest Inc.’s office in Nairn Centre, and on the Ontario government website (www.ontario.ca/forestplans).