After serving on the Integrated Pest Management Task Force for more than two years I wrote the following article to let the public know the outcome of the studies.

This past March the Fernie City Council voted to implement a bylaw to curtail the use of pesticides and herbecides to attain a pesticide free Fernie.  As the only council member to have been on the Task Force I voted against this motion.  This action doesn’t mean that I support blatant use of these chemicals, what it does mean is that it’s well known that this issue is regulated by both Canadian and provincial governments.  Municipalities don’t have the power to enforce ban of sale of these products so the consumer can still purchase and use what they deem to be necessary to their need.

What’s regrettable is that City Hall had opportunity for several years to implement an education program to let the public know the choices available.  This is what the Task Force recommended to do at first. I’m as much to blame for not having pushed harder for this to have happened instead the bylaw was passed without any real consultation or warning to the public.  Yes, I realize that the public was represented by the Task Force members however, the actual public, the residents and home owners and especially the businesses affected by this bylaw were not foretold that this was about to become law. So now we have two factions, those who are applauding the decision because they are in favour of this bylaw and those who are upset because a personal decision has been taken away from them regarding what they can or can’t do on their personal property.  It will be interesting to see how the future will play this one out.  Will we have neighbour pitted against one another? Will we have an influx of calls to City Hall to report infractions that will result in the hiring of another bylaw officer? Will we have people using chemicals in the stealth of night to rid their garden of infestations of insects (caterpillars perhaps?) I have been advised by a fellow councillor that now is the time to scrape each branch and trunk of nests to guarantee removal of eggs, but I just can’t envision how long a process that would be with my thirty plus foot tree with its many branches.  I will just hope this is the year that they don’t hatch; most likey I will try the soap and warm water spray.  Certainly it will be interesting to see how our residents will deal with this bylaw.


For the past several years my ornamental crab tree has had infestations of one type of invader or another.  The worst was the hundreds, no, thousands of large black caterpillars that came down the tree and crawled on the grass, up walls and just seemed to be everywhere.

This nearly caused the tree to be felled permanently until pesticides came to the rescue.
If the recommendations put forward by the Integrated Pest Management Task Force are implemented treatment for this continuing problem will have to be looked at differently.  That’s not a bad thing. It just means I will have to investigate into what will solve the problem of infestation using an allowed substance instead of regular store stuff.
What would be allowable is a product that uses pheromones to lure pests. Pheromones are naturally occuring chemical substances excreted by animals and insects that influence the behaviour or development of same species.

Sticky media to trap or quick kill traps for vertebrate species such as mice , and any product that contains a soap, a mineral or horticultural oil, silicon dioxide also called diatomaceous earth, Bacillus thuringiensis, nematodes and other biological organism, borax or boric acid, ferric phosphate, acetic acid, pyrethrum or pyrenthrins,(substance from the chrysanthemum flowers) fatty acids, animal repellents except Thiram, sulphur like lime sulphur, fertilizers that do not contain chemical or synthetic pesticide within the meaning of the Federal  Pest Control Products Act, any  substance approved through the Canadian General Standards Board for Organic Agriculture will be  a permitted pesticides.

Recommendations for eventual pesticide free areas with a 5 metre pesticide free buffer zone of surrounding area will include the downtown, dog parks, daycares, schoolyards, senior’s facilities, hospitals, medical clinics, playgrounds, parks and public recreation facilities.

Trails, parks, open spaces, undeveloped park spaces, playing fields, city hall, court house, library, cemetary are all included and will be required to post signs when pesticides are used as elimination progresses.

Use of pesticide products for private use raises questions.  The Task Force set a goal of reduction through education and requiring landowners to fill out a pesticide application permit before applying pesticides.  This would be done in a phased approach beginning in 2008 by implementing a public education program targeting pesticide users; enforcing the buffer zone and phasing in a pesticide application permit process in 3 phases.
There was much discussion regarding this recommendation.  Filling out forms at point of sale could become onerous for both purchaser and seller taking up too much time and effort whether made mandatory or voluntary.

This could result in purchases being made elsewhere outside of Fernie.
Not only that but how does the City police whether homeowners are complying with regulations?

As a citizen of Fernie my personal feeling is that education is the best policy. A knowleadgable person will make the right choice, an iron fist in the form of an enforceable bylaw is not the way to go, we don’t need force we need knowledge, although if someone next to a daycare continued to abuse by not complying with the buffer zone requirement, a penalty would be appropriate.

There is also the extra cost to taxpayers to enforce this bylaw.  Extra workers will be required to patrol and enforce and to continue hand pulling of weeds around sidewalks, signs, and street lights in order to keep the downtown weed free.

The goal of reduction of pesticide use on commercial properties and properties managed by landscape companies will require a full pesticide application permit for each property and pesticides must be applied by a certified IPM practitioner with a valid pesticide applicators certificate as issued by the BC government.

Golf courses are to create a strategy for their operation that will be available for review by the City and IPM Task Force.  They will be required to submit an annual report of pesticide use.

General recommendations include a 10 meter buffer zone around water and a 1 meter pesticide free buffer zone between property lines.  The one meter zone might prove difficult when considering the amount of space between some of the homes in the main town area of Fernie.

Mosquito control has been recommended to apply larval control only when specifically mandated by the Ministry of Health under their Integrated Pest Management Permit.
Again my personal thoughts regarding this recommendation is that the City also has a responsibility that includes having the latitude to make a decision that if larval control is needed it can be implemented, I don’t agree that our hands should  be tied by totally leaving this issue in the hands of the Ministry of Health.

The municipality doesn’t have any authority to make bylaws regarding pesticide uses concerning invasive plants or noxious weeds.

Consensus was reached by members of the task force regarding an education program.
Brochures with information on native plants less likely to require pesticides and also easy availability of biological soap sprays where pesticides are sold will make it easier for people to comply.  Information on how good bugs such as ladybugs, ground beetles, ants and bees are good for gardens would be helpful.

Ladybugs are especially good for plants with aphid problems.  Ground beetles are great near slug prone plants and ants can devour even large caterpillars. Certain flowers such as columbines, nasturtiums and marigolds protect plants though their smells.  Onions and garlic fend off cutworms.

Green places no matter how large or small are ecosystems that when in balance are least likely to attract pest problems.  But when it does occur here is a nontoxic bug spray that works.  Combine 2 tablespoons (30ml) of soap flakes with about 4 cups (1L) of warm water.  Spray the infected areas once a week until the problem is gone.  Do not overspray or it will burn plants. This recipe is from Pamela Irving, communications coordinator of the Going Organic network of Alberta.

The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Task Force was formed in July 2005 to study how an IPM strategy could be formed and to bring recommendations forward to City Council.
I volunteered to sit on this committee to represent the City because I wanted to learn more about an issue that affects personally and on a municipal level.
12 people plus Lisa Mose, coordinator and facilitator were involved in this learning experience that lasted two years.  Regular monthly meetings were held each month including summer months.  Attendance was nearly always 100%.  Representation of groups was excellent.

Learning tools included information from  outside experts, local sellers of pesticides, biologists, engineers, City staff, and the Cancer Society just to name a few.
Members of the public included Bill Silversides, Julia O’Shannassy and Dr. Todd Lowen, Marty Hafke from Tembec, Carla Fraser from Elk Valley Coal Corporation, Ray Bryant of Fernie Golf and Country Club, Cindey Taylor of Cincott Nursery, Ingrid Sombrowski of IGS Group, Jocelyn Thomas representing Wildsight, Ken MacRitchie of Blackstone Golf Resort and Don Stewart- City of Fernie.

This group put a lot of time and effort into recommendations; it will now be up to City council and staff to come up with a working model.
It took two years for recommendations to come forward, one reason being that not everyone agreed on everything that came up. The group was diversified enough that it included the extreme of total elimination of pesticide use to middle ground opinions like my own.  I agree pesticides used inappropriately can be a danger to humans, pests and the environment.  I also think infestations of pests can be a danger to humans and the environment.

It’s now up to the community to come forward and present their views to Council before decisions are made.  This is your neighborhood being affected.  Groups and Council can represent you and make recommendations but the community as a whole has a responsibility to express their opinions on the direction they want their city to take.
My Thanks go to this special group of people dedicated and committed to making this area a really good and healthy place to live.

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2 Responses to “Update on Pesticide Ban”

  1. Rose Jones

    Thanks, Mary, for such a thorough article on this very controversial topic. I have to especially agree on your statement about that pesticides used inapproprieately can be a danger to humans, pests and the environment, but that also infrstations of pests can be a danger to humans and the environment. When we lived in Hixon many years ago, we had an infestation of tent caterpillars that were literally inches thick on the roads. It made travelling by car very slippery and they ate every bit of greenery around our section of farmland. It was something I certainly do not want to go through again…no gardens that year. I will be looking forward to your articles on how Fernie deals with this problem. Thanks again.

  2. J. Melo

    ver interesting article !! In Calgary the Sierra organization wants us to go pesticide free as well and your article helps bring light to both sides of the story.. even though I have a child and a dog and have tried chemical free lawn service as I was concerned about the chemicals, I do believe it should be a personal choice and not a mandated policy…
    Thanks for the great article

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