Rough-skinned Newt enjoying the Willamette, photo by Freshwaters Illustrated
Pesticides are a Very Real Issue for River Health
It is finally Spring, after what feels like a long winter along the Willamette. Trees are flowering, and the green is returning to the landscape both urban and rural. Other forms of life are emerging as well, from spiders and ants, to slugs and bees. Many of us begin to garden, working on our yards, and enjoying the sunshine. Along with this activity you may witness weeds in your yard, and other plants that may be
undesirable. Taken together, weeds and a variety of species in our world are problematic for a lot of people. In response, a vast industry has been long-established to kill things that people don't want to see, or encounter.
The pesticide industry has become gigantic in relation to our homes, making all manner of chemical agents to eliminate unwanted or unpleasant things, from weeds to ants. Of course the same is true of rural landscapes, and the use of pesticides in agriculture, but in urban/suburban areas chemical agents are also frequently used, and are known to harm native species, and even human health.
A great example of what we know today was published last year by the USGS. It is a study of urban/suburban creeks in Clackamas County. The study sampled creek sediment and water, and screened it for a variety of pesticides. In some cases, the creeks were rich with chemicals created to kill "pests." Most of them were related to retail products purchased by homeowners and lawn and garden care companies.
People buy products to kill insects or weeds, and when it rains the chemical is carried to the local creek where it can harm native species. One of the most pervasive chemicals applied to the land and found in our creeks is Bifenthrin. This is the chief ingredient to kill a variety of insects. Unfortunately, Bifenthrinis also known to harm native amphibians. Other pesticides were present as well, and the creeks with the highest levels had the fewest native aquatic species.
I went to a large "home related" store this week, and was bombarded with advertisements for numerous pesticides. I took a look at a featured product, and Bifenthrin was the chief ingredient. The product sought to encourage people to "Defend" their homes against these invaders. Many of us have become far too accustomed to buying such products, and spraying them seemingly everywhere, without considering the very real risks of applying and spreading such toxic products.
Having worked on the Willamette for nearly 17 years, I've seen the studies related to pesticides and home use, read the literature, and concluded this is a very real issue for aquatic life, and it can also impact human health. As the flowers continue to bloom and the plants and insects become more vibrant, think about how you manage you home or lawn. Are there other ways to deal with unwanted insects or plants? There is a plethora of information online about alternatives to pesticides. Lets move forward and set an example. Talk to your neighbors when you see them spraying and ask the what they are using. That can lead to a good conversation about effective, non-toxic alternatives.
Riverkeeper & Executive Director
Get your hands dirty and make a difference! Join one of our trashy events this month:
EUGENE/SPRINGFIELD- Tuesday, 4/11
At this month's Trashy Tuesday in the Eugene-Springfield area, we'll be focusing on picking up trash along the river between the River House and Beltline. Please feel free to join us either by land or by water (registration required, see below)!
We'll meet at the River House at 8:30AM. BYOBoat paddlers must be able to paddle in class II water. Please indicate BYOB when you register. Those working from land will walk or bicycle sections on the north or south side of the river in pairs or small groups.
When: Tuesday, 4/11 from 8:30am to about 1:30pm
Where: meet at the River House (301 N. Adams St, Eugene)
Register: for land or water based clean up- click here
PORTLAND- Tuesday, 4/18
Join us at the recently improved Portland Boathouse dock, and help us pick up trash in the central part of Portland along the Willamette. Park in the 2 hour visitor parking spaces near the building, on the street, or ride your bike.
Reserve a seat in one of our canoes, or bring your own boat. We will provide trash bags, non latex gloves, and trash pickers. Dress for the weather and paddling (layers, boots, and rain gear). We will spend about an hour or so on the water.
When: Tuesday, 4/18 from 11:30am to 1:30pm
Spring Paddle & Wildflower Walk: 4/25
In honor of
Native Plant Diversity Week
, sponsored by the Native Plant Society of Oregon, we invite you on an adventure to learn more about your unique eco-region!
Elk Rock Island is part of an ancient volcano that erupted 40 million years ago. It's located on the Willamette River just offshore from the City of Milwaukie and is currently owned and managed by Portland Parks & Recreation. If you love to explore the flora and fauna of oak and prairie habitats, Elk Rock Island is a great place for those explorations. On this trip we will access the island via canoe!
In 2010, the thirteen acre island underwent a small oak restoration project to reduce shading of established Oregon white oak trees. Since that time the city has been recruiting volunteers to assist in the monitoring of the unique island oak and prairie plant communities. That monitoring led to City of Portland staff and volunteers re-discovering more than 20 plant species that are uncommon and rare to Portland.
Vernal pools on the island are particularly interesting. City staff has been monitoring
unique plants, water quality, and critters in the vernal pools. Each time we visit the island we find several new species! Join us on this trip and help discover more!
Willamette Riverkeeper will be providing use of canoes, PFD's, and paddles free of charge. No paddling experience is necessary. If you have your own boat and plan to bring it along, please let us know when you register.
Bring warm layers, rain gear, close toed shoes, water, and a snack. If you plan to bring a camera or phone it would be best to have it stored in a water tight dry bag.
What: Paddle & Wildflower Walk
When: Tuesday, 4/25 from 4:30pm to 8:30pm
Paddle Oregon 2017- Almost FULL
With only 20 spaces left, we are on track to reach our capacity, at which point registration will close.
If you plan to join us this August, DO NOT HESITATE any longer,