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Sometimes things just get out of hand. The U.S. Forest Service has some housekeeping, or rather forest-keeping, to do, and recently made an effort "to gauge public interest and input" about their tidying-up plans. There have been meetings in Deer, Hector and Cass to take questions and discuss the "Roadside Vegetation Management and Non-Native Invasive Plant Species Control Project," among other things.

The Big Piney, Pleasant Hill and Boston Mountain Ranger Districts of the Ozark-St.Francis National Forests are where the work will occur. Also, in the Big Piney district at Robert's Gap and Jake's Creek, "prescribed fire, hardwood and pine commercial and non-commercial thinning, regeneration treatments, wildlife stand improvement, roads management, etc." are on the maintenance agenda.

It's no secret to anyone that some highways, county roads and many utility rights of way are sprayed with herbicides to keep vegetation under control. What we tend to keep secret from ourselves, however, is recognition that poison saturation, which occurs on public lands and on private yards, gardens, and farms, could be doing us more harm than good.

While I am in full sympathy with anyone fighting invasive plants, since they can be the bane of balanced ecosystems, our foolishness in importing and propagating plants that then escape the confines of their locations has landed us in this costly, constant chemical warfare. The Forest Service says Japanese stiltgrass is encroaching on hundreds of miles of road aprons where the paving material is thin and grass roots are breaking it apart. The Tree-of-Heaven, a Chinese import with prolific seed production, is also giving them grief. Invasives are also attracted to open sunny areas, which are more numerous now that we are losing our magnificent red oaks.

We humans tend to favor the least expensive, least labor-intensive, least muss-and-fuss ways of doing things. The agency is not alone in choosing a chemical route into battle, but as owners of the public lands, we all need to stop and think whether this temporary cure is worse than this invasive curse. Chemically we are in a race toward an environmental Armageddon. We live on a planet so soaked with man-made chemicals that they can be found in the tissues of creatures from pole to pole. We do not want to know what most of them are doing to us because it's easier to not look back -- or forward, for that matter.

Glyphosate (most commonly found in Roundup) was first marketed to farmers in 1974. By 1986 the Journal of the American Medical Association had an article titled, "Agricultural Herbicide Use and Risk of Lymphoma and Soft-Tissue Sarcoma." Over the past 32 years, numerous studies have continued to indicate it is "probably carcinogenic to humans," especially for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. But cancer is not its only danger, although that nightmare disease is what people gauge all their other fears against.

"Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement," a 2016 article in Environmental Health, examines this most heavily used herbicide in the world. Ironically, glyphosate has now given rise to super weeds, Mother Nature's way of upping the chemical ante. The pathways of chemical components into humans and other animals via food, water, air, soil, as well as through skin, are infinite as are the possible consequences to fetal development and to the lifelong health of all organisms.

"Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5 percent of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multifactorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk to thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer. Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is the most important causal factor in this epidemic," states an article titled, "Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II," published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Of course, there are probably as many articles defending glyphosate and calling it harmless as there are ones that condemn it, so we are left to judge as critically as we can what is the worst that could happen if no poisons are used or if they are?

It may not be too late to get your 2 cents in on this issue. Send comments ASAP to: Mike Mulford, NEPA Coordinator, Forest Service, P.O. Box 427, Jasper, AR 72641 or mmulford@fs.fed.us.

Commentary on 03/20/2018

Print Headline: Should we avoid chemical soup?

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