Advocates Applaud Less Toxic Pesticide Use At Oregon Refuge

May 5, 2014

Environmental advocates say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has chosen the right pesticide to manage mosquitoes on Oregon's south coast.

A restoration project at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge has created unusually large swarms of mosquitoes. Last summer, Bandon residents complained the bugs were so bad they were forced to stay indoors.

Initial plans for controlling the swarms involved using synthetic pesticides that can harm wildlife other than mosquitoes. After a public review and protests from advocate groups, the agency chose a natural pesticide that is less toxic to wildlife.

On Saturday, Coos County Public Health started applying the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or Bti, at the refuge. It's a naturally derived pesticide that kills mosquito larvae in their breeding pools. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it's not toxic to bees, moths, butterflies, fish, mammals or birds, and it will be applied by hand to one unit of the refuge, the Ni-les'tun Unit, where the most mosquitoes have been breeding.

"Bti will effectively control mosquitoes on the Ni-les'tun Unit of the Refuge while posing a low risk to wildlife, their habitats, and the human environment," said refuge project leader Roy Lowe. "Coos County Public Health will be treating the refuge as needed throughout the summer, as determined by ongoing monitoring, to prevent larvae from developing into adults.”

George Kimbrell, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety, says earlier mosquito control plans violated environmental laws because they included more toxic pesticides. The Fish and Wildlife Service had considered options that would have allowed spraying CocoBear and methoprene.

"We're pleased the Fish and Wildlife Service has done the right thing here and not gone forward with its previous plan which was to spray these toxic pesticides on the wildlife refuge," Kimbrell said. "Better late than never, but it's too bad we had to explain to them that their proposed action was unlawful and hazardous."

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