Earth Matters by Jacqueline Milner – 2-4-D Spraying by the Counties Council Destroys More than Weeds – March 28, 2010

It is with much sadness in my heart that I find the Counties Council has once again decided to go ahead with introducing poison (2-4-D) into our environment (road side ditches) for the express purpose of killing noxious weeds despite the reports they have received from knowledgeable individuals and groups of the detrimental effect that these chemicals could have on the health of animals and humans.

I know that these chemicals were sprayed within 5 feet of water in provincially significant wetlands, on and near nesting areas of the snapping turtle, (a species at risk) and on ditches that were cut by the property owners adjacent to the ditches in 2009.

The following is a message that I personally delivered to the Counties Council June 2007.  My message which incorporates the wisdom and words of Rachel Carson, author of ‘A Silent Spring’ is a call to action to each of you as it is to the people who make policy municipally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

I am here today to express my deep concern about the decision that the counties have taken to chemically spray our county side roads.

Having done a little fact finding on the herbicide, I can only imagine the difficulty involved in coming to the decision to spray our ditches in SD&G.  The information I have found on this herbicide is conflicting and ambiguous.

“The earth’s vegetation is part of a web of life in which there are intimate and essential relations between plants and the earth, between plants and other plants, and between plants and animals.  Sometimes we have no choice but to disturb these relationships, but we should do so thoughtfully, with full awareness that what we do may have consequences remote in time and place.

The town fathers of a thousand communities lend willing ears to the chemical salesman and the eager contractors who will rid the roadsides of ‘brush’——-for a price.  It is cheaper than mowing, is the cry.  So, perhaps it appears in the neat rows of figures in the official books; but were the true costs entered, the costs not only in dollars but in the many equally valid debits we shall presently consider, the wholesale broadcasting of chemicals would be seen to be more costly in dollars as well as infinitely damaging to the long-range health of the landscape and to all the varied interests that depend on it.” R.Carson

Our spraying to eliminate new growth trees and wild parsnip is also going to rid us of daisies, various clovers, black-eyed Susan’s, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrods, and fall asters which lend grace and beauty to the landscape. This grace and beauty lifts the spirit of its citizens as well as visiting tourists.

What cost to you put on this?  There is even a more important reason to preserve our roadside vegetation.  In the economy of nature, the natural vegetation has its essential place.  Hedgerows along country roads and bordering fields provide food, cover, and nesting areas for birds and homes for many small animals.

Of some 50 species of shrubs and vines that are typical roadside species in our ditches, many of these species are important to wildlife as food.  Such vegetation is also the habitat of wild bees and other pollinating insects.  Man is more dependent on these wild pollinators than he usually realizes.  Even the farmer himself seldom understands the value of wild bees and often participates in the very measures that rob him of their services.  Without insect pollination, most of the soil-holding and soil-enriching plants of uncultivated areas would die out, with far-reaching consequences to the ecology of the whole region.  Many herbs, shrubs, and trees of forests and range depend on native insects for their reproduction; without these plants many wild animals and range stock would find little food.

Now clean cultivation and the chemical destruction of hedgerows and weeds are eliminating the last sanctuaries of these pollinating insects “and breaking the threads that bind life to life”.  These insects, so essential to our agriculture and indeed to our landscape as we know it, deserve something better from us than the senseless destruction of their habitat.   What kind of dollar value do we put on lives of our essential pollinators?

This citizen encourages the counties to eliminate, where ever possible, the input of any foreign chemicals into our precious environment. I encourage the esteemed members of this council to search for solutions that respect every living thing in the circle of life.

If it is found that the best solution involves spraying, please consider selective spraying to the tall woody plants by direct treatment thereby preserving all other vegetation.  This spraying could be done by people on foot using knapsack sprayers, having complete control over their material.  This selective spraying will also preserve the plant species important and necessary to local wildlife, pollinators and potentially good competitors against future wild parsnip and woody growth.

Please consider that perhaps in some way quite unknown to us, plants that we ruthlessly eradicate may be performing a function that is necessary to the health of the soil.

Please remember that we cannot eat money, and sometimes money must be spent for the benefit of all.  In other words, the best solutions may cost more.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my words and those of Rachel Carson.

Your commentary is welcome and appreciated.  Please share it with us and with your Municipal Leaders.


  1. Thanks Jacqueline for your words of wisdom. Does this spraying continue through some force of habit? If so, this is a habit that should end. Is it the farmers who want it? Is it people who want the roadway in front of the home to be pretty-pretty. Who is that what it. 2-4-D is a banned substance in many parts of Canada. I don’t know about this year, but last year the South Glengarry Council voted against this spraying but lost at the SD&G level. Let’s at least stop spraying in South Glengarry.

  2. Joe, I think the South Glengarry Council voted in favour of the spraying; by all means check with Mayor Jim McDonell: 613-347-1800 and Deputy-Mayor John Warden: 613-932-2813…my understanding is that they are for the spraying. I don’t think the citizens are insisting on the spraying, they would just like the weeds kept under control…I believe they would be just fine with cutting. It is our policy makers who insist on spraying. Spraying had stopped for many years due to the up rise of concerned citizens. Spraying resumed once again in 2007. F.Y.I. Numbers listed above are publicly available on the South Glengarry website. Also, the wisest words in The Earth Matters column this week, were those of Rachel Carson; American Marine Biologist and nature writer who left us in 1964. According to the Online Ethics Center, “During the seventeen years she worked in the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Rachel Carson learned about the problems of pesticides. Undaunted by the chemical companies’ hostility and by the public’s high enthusiasm for pesticides, she wrote a book called Silent Spring, which caused a major shift in public consciousness about the environment.” I invite each voting member of Council concerning the spraying issue to read ‘Silent Spring’ before casting another vote concerning spraying.

  3. It seems to me that the spraying was a result of an undue influence of individuals connected to pesticide industry. It is highly deplorable for politicians to succumb to the pesticide industry propaganda and be insufficiently sophisticated to realize that they are being manipulated by vested interests, with the result that the general public that has elected them is the looser. Also, I really don’t understand how they are getting away with this deplorable violation of the Ontario pesticide ban, since the weed in question is NOT on the noxious weed list.

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