New Brunswick

Province announces reduction of herbicide spraying in New Brunswick

Two government departments announced the controversial spraying of glyphosate would be reduced in their respective areas, but critics are still calling for an outright ban.

A reduction of 30 per cent along NB Power transmission lines and a promise of future regulations

J.D. Irving Ltd. uses glyphosate-based herbicides extensively in New Brunswick. (CBC)

The province announced Friday it will be reducing the use of herbicidal spray this year.

Two government departments announced the controversial spraying of glyphosate would be reduced in their respective areas. Critics are saying it's a step in the right direction, but they are still calling for an outright ban on spraying.

Licences to spray glyphosate are approved by the provincial government each year for widespread use by the forestry industry as well as NB Power to stem plant growth or encourage selective growth for certain tree species. 

Glyphosate has been classified as a "probable carcinogenic" by the World Health Organization and the state of California as well as being banned in several areas across the globe, including Crown land in Quebec. 

"We are announcing a reduction of 30 per cent in the spraying of NB Power's power lines this year," said Mike Holland, the minister of energy and resource development, during question period in the provincial legislature.  

Environment Minister Jeff Carr says the province will be reducing its reliance on glyphosate in protected wetland and watershed areas, with a promise of more regulations in the future. (CBC)

Jeff Carr, the minister of environment and local government, also announced the reduction of the herbicide elsewhere, but he did not state by how much. 

"Through consultation with my honourable member here and with industry and by talking with NB Power and with woodlot owners, we are also going to reduce spraying in protected watershed areas on Crown lands this year," said Carr.

"We will start to create more regulations for a future time." 

Energy Minister Mike Holland says the decision to reduce glyphosate use came from a combination of environmental concerns and a reduced need for the herbicide this year. (CBC)

When asked if the decision was in response to environmental concerns or if there was just less need for the herbicide, Holland said, "It's both." 

"Every year it will be reviewed annually," he said.

Holland said his interest into the use of the herbicide comes from a love of the outdoors. He described himself as an avid outdoorsman and hunter. 

"My focus was very much particular on how it affects animals," said Holland. "When you look at something that is very effective at killing vegetation, that vegetation is food for the animals that live in the woods. 

"When I review herbicide spraying or herbicide application of any kind, I'm looking at merging it into a system that allows … industry to continue at a profitable rate," he continued, "while at the same time allowing me to put more food back in the fridge for wildlife by being pretty deliberate about finding areas where we can increase that naturally regrowing habitat."

A first step

A reduction in spraying may be a step in the right direction for those who oppose it — but only the first step. 

"We asked the minister not to sign the permits so there would be no spraying of glyphosate," said David Coon, leader of the Green Party. "Of course, less is better, but what we want to see is no spraying." 

"The minister announced today that they were going to end the spraying, prohibit spraying, in legally protected drinking water watersheds, like the Turtle Creek reservoir," Coon continued.

"They never should have been spraying there in the first place." 

Caroline Lubbe-D'Arcy said the announcement is "better than what we were probably expecting." Lubbe-D'Arcy chairs the Stop Spraying New Brunswick group that campaigns and protests against the continued use of the herbicide in the province. 

"It's a small step in the direction that we're hoping to go towards," she said. "We're still of course asking for a ban on the spraying by NB Power and on public land."

Caroline Lubbe-D'Arcy, the lead organizer of the group Stop Spraying New Brunswick says Friday's announcement is a step in the right direction, but it's still not the outright ban her group has been advocating for. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Lubbe-D'Arcy said she and another member of the group had recently met with Holland to discuss glyphosate use, but she was in the dark about the specifics of Friday's announcement.

She said in regards to plans for future reductions, as referenced by Carr, she doubts government has a plan. 

Glyphosate is considered "absolutely necessary" by NB Power as they use it to kill plants underneath transmission lines throughout the province. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"I don't know if they know yet," said Lubbe-D'Arcy.

She said the Department of Energy and Resource Development told her group it was planning to reduce spraying on what she believes is all Crown land normally sprayed each year from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

"But we're not sure if that's good news," said Lubbe-D'Arcy. "Because in five years that would mean you've still sprayed it. You've just spread it out over a bunch of years."

Both Lubbe-D'Arcy and Coon referred to Friday's announcement as prohibiting spraying in protected wetlands and watersheds, while Carr detailed it as a "reduction."

CBC News has reached out to the Department of Environment and Local government for clarification but has not yet received a response.

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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