A few weeks ago, we posted about UCSF’s revised plan for the forest. It was a substantial improvement – though we continue to have reservations. (Read about the changed direction and our comments HERE.)
Today, we’d like to focus on one aspect in particular: Pesticide use. We think UCSF has scored a big win by promising not to use pesticides in the forest.
It wasn’t always so. Neighbors who’ve walked in the forest for twenty or thirty years recall when they would see pesticide notices there from time to time. And UCSF still used pesticides, very visibly, in the Aldea Student Housing area. For years, neighbors wrote in, asking them to stop, but got no response.
We started documenting pesticide notices like this one – and found that not only were they spraying Roundup all over the Aldea Housing, they were doing so many times annually. We also wrote to them, sharing the information we had found about the potential dangers of glyphosate.
UCSF declared a moratorium on glyphosate use in Aldea Student Housing – and also confirmed that no herbicides had been used in the forest since end-2008. It didn’t promise never to use herbicides; it focused on the risk from the surfactant (POEA) in Roundup and considered looking at other surfactants. Here’s a quote from their note:
“Herbicides have not been used in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve since 2008, and are not being used at Aldea pending an evaluation of a herbicide commonly known as “Roundup”. UCSF is evaluating Roundup as a result of recent studies on the active ingredient in Roundup and similar glyphosate-based herbicides.”
But in the years since 2009, to the best of our knowledge, UCSF has not used herbicides either in the forest or in the Aldea campus. Sutro Forest may be the only herbicide-free wild land in the city, since the Natural Areas Program (NAP) of the SF Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) uses a considerable amount of toxic pesticides in the so-called Natural Areas. (Thanks, UCSF, and well done!)
WHAT WAS PLANNED
This was all set to change under the UCSF Plan for the forest that was published as part of its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in January 2013.
Instead of being pesticide-free, the forest would potentially have been sprayed with 5-15 times more toxins on 61 acres than NAP used on all its 1100 acres. (In the graph above, the yellow band shows NAP pesticide level for 2012. The brown columns show the projected pesticide use in UCSF’s 2013 DEIR .)
UCSF WALKS AWAY FROM POISONS IN SUTRO FOREST
This planned pesticide use is what UCSF has walked away from, with this statement:
“…as a health sciences university, we believe the right thing to do is not to use herbicides in the Reserve.”
We hope San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department will follow your lead – especially the NAP, which uses more pesticides than all the other SFRPD departments put together. Including all city golf courses except Harding.