Bucketloads of Herbicides Coming to Sutro Forest

NAP 2008 to 2012 pesticide active ingredientWe’ve often praised UCSF here for keeping Mount Sutro forest pesticide free. No pesticides have been used there since 2008. We’ve said things like “This may be the last pesticide-free wild land in the city. (Thanks, UCSF!)”

On the other hand, we have been following SF Recreation and Parks Department’s Natural Areas Program (NAP) with dismay. Its pesticide use has been growing. As of end-2012, it had its highest usage yet. (The graph shows pesticide usage based on Active Ingredient, one of four measures used in calculating pesticide use.)

That’s all about to change for the worse. Much worse.

Though UCSF says it plans to be very careful in its usage of pesticide, our expectation that this project would require gallons of pesticides is reflected in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). That’s provided information we could analyze against NAP data.


It’s quite appalling. On the 48 acres it may treat with Aquamaster (glyphosate, the same active ingredient as Roundup) and Garlon 4 Ultra (triclopyr), it’s contemplating levels of use between 5 and 15 times what NAP uses in an entire year in all its 1100 acres of parks. The graph below compares the DEIR projection to NAP’s 2012 levels (the yellow band).

Sutro DEIR pesticides

  • In Year 1, the year of the Demonstration Projects, they would use pesticide only on one acre, one-third of Area #1. That’s an experiment, and according to the DEIR, it could use on that one acre about one-third of what NAP used in 2012  in all its parks. That would be the first phase of the project.
  • In Year 2, if pesticide proves the best way of stopping regrowth, they would extend this use to DemonstrationArea #4, which is to be lagged one year. Either that year, or the one following, as they carry on to Phase 2, they  would extend it to another 15 acres; and then another 15 the following year, and so on. The DEIR anticipates using pesticide on 80% of the Reserve (UCSF’s nomenclature for its part of the Sutro Forest), or 48 acres.
  • For each area, they’d use the most pesticide for the first two years, then halve it for the next two years, then halve it again and keep it at that level.
  • Since the implementation of the Plan would be staggered (no more than 15 acres annually), the use of pesticides would rise sharply in the first 4-5 years as more acreage was felled and treated. Then it would slowly decline, to plateau at levels roughly 5 times what NAP used in 2012 in all its parks combined.

This was going to be a way to make the forest healthier and safer?

Have the Sutro Stewards seen these projections? Just the Demonstration Projects would use as much pesticide as all the Natural Areas put together. The Stewards and their volunteers are the ones who will actually be working these areas.

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10 Responses to Bucketloads of Herbicides Coming to Sutro Forest

  1. Tony Holiday says:

    The Stewards *must* know about all this … and they do not seem to *care* about releasing all these poisons? Use of this stuff should be illegal.

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  3. Tony Holiday says:

    We can’t let them go spraying poisons around. What’s going on with our “elected officials” that they’re condoning this, or not giving a s*it? This is obviously a corrupt bunch of people that do not realize that this is no longer the 1950s. Most of us with at least some common sense are well aware of the harm from pesticides to all living things and our environment these days. And the bee population is in need of protection from misguided humans also. Who, pray tell, can we vote for to get this krap made illegal and get people representing our city who actually care about the environment, our beautiful parks, wildlife, bees, animals and humans and who want to protect instead of destroy?!

    • webmaster says:

      Good question. From what we’ve heard, there was a time in the 90s when it actually was illegal on city-owned land, but then there were health issues because they couldn’t control for mosquitoes or rats. So they started Integrated Pest Management, and decided to allow limited use. Our impression is after that, there’s been mission-creep.

      But anyway, UCSF doesn’t fall under these laws. On its own, it decided not to use pesticides in the forest from 2008; and in 2009, it stopped using them in Aldea student housing, too. We thank UCSF all the time for doing that, and we hope very much that they will retain that no-pesticide policy.

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