Advocates push back on USDA plan to spray pesticide in northern NM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Conservationists, environmental advocates, and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich are all sounding the alarm on a plan to kill thousands of grasshoppers in northern New Mexico.
“We’re fighting for the animals, the fish, the vegetation, and then ourselves to be protected here,” said Terry Sloane, director of Southwest Native Cultures.
Wildlife experts say the abundance of grasshoppers is actually not a big concern for the ecosystem, rather the people who live near it.
“This is going to affect not just the grasshoppers, but many, many other insect life on the range land,” said Kaitlin Haase, a southwest pollinator conservation specialist for Xerces Society. “It’s really mostly a concern for ranchers, and their productivity, and their herds for how much forage is available on the range land.”
It’s a battle over food supplies, and the United States Department of Agriculture wants to make sure the cattle win.
The agency is reportedly planning to spray pesticides over 25,000 acres of the Rio Chama Watershed. Documents show they want to use a pretty potent chemical.
“The proposed pesticide they’re using is liquid carbaryl. This is an insecticide that affects the nervous system of insects, and it is highly toxic to all insects, including native bees, honeybees, aquatic insects,” Haase said.
She says it’s also toxic to fish, birds, mammals, and the Environmental Protection Agency has also named it a likely carcinogen in humans.
“We have a lot of other insecticides that are less risky,” Haase said.
The chemical is one thing, but some opponents believe the agency is also moving too fast.
“They’re not taking the time necessary to discuss this proposed spray in advance to make sure that everybody is aware of it, that it’s going to be safe,” said Sloane.
The USDA was originally planning to spray the pesticides Monday, but it appears push back from the public forced them to delay spraying until next Friday, July 7.
Activists hopes that’s enough time to propose an alternative.
“This is just a really poor decision to make management wise when we could be either supplying those ranchers with more hay, more feed for cattle supplement. What is on the range land? Use a different pesticide if that is even necessary,” said Haase.