Monday, March 19 , 2018, 10:14 am | Fair 58º


Santa Barbara Sees Green As It Focuses on Reducing Pesticide Use

Integrated Pest Management strategies guide the city and the school district in sustainable practices.

The city of Santa Barbara adopted an Integrated Pest Management strategy in 2004 to promote reduction in the use and toxicity of pesticides. Santos Escobar, the city’s parks manager, says that since then, Santa Barbara has decreased its use of pesticides by 85 percent and that the city’s parks are now 98 percent green.

Escobar says that a large part of IPM’s success is the result of combined efforts of local leaders, with positive support from Mayor Marty Blum.

David Hetyonk, IPM coordinator and facilities director with the Santa Barbara School District, agrees. An IMP Task Force, which includes county Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf, Councilor Das Williams, representatives with the Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria school districts and environmental groups, meets on a regular basis. The meetings, Hetyonk says, help all agencies determine which alternatives are the most successful.

What are the practical applications of IPM? Escobar says that whenever possible, nontoxic alternatives are used instead of chemicals, which pose a threat to human and environmental health. For instance, clove oil can be used as an herbicide; nonchemical methods such as mulching, weeding and mowing are used for weed control; traps are used instead of poison for rodent control; and heat treatment is used for termite control.

Hetyonk says the Santa Barbara School District uses such practices as manual weeding, weed-whacking, heat and flame burning, and trapping of rodents. There are a few instances when pesticides may be necessary, especially when there is an immediate threat to student health. If there’s no time for formal notification, signs are posted. For example, if the need to remove bees or wasps poses a concern, pesticides may be used, but only ones approved by the IPM Committee (Hetyonk says Roundup is not on the approved list). Part of IPM’s job is to authorize use of the least toxic choice.

With the Healthy Schools Act of 2000, the district also notifies staff, parents and guardians with the names of pesticides that may be used during the upcoming school year. According to the latest school district pesticide notice, there has been a dramatic reduction in the use of chemical pesticides partly because of the IPM Advisory Committee. The reduction also has provided a better, longer-lasting control of pests.

Santa Barbara’s IPM policy also states that when pesticides are categorized as toxic, they are used only when “there is a threat to public health, safety or the environment, or when use is warranted to prevent economic damage and only after other alternatives have been implemented and shown to be ineffective or considered and found infeasible.”

As with the school district, the city of Santa Barbara also posts signs alerting the public to the use of pesticides. The city has to post signs at least two working days before an application of pesticides and keep them posted for at least three working days after application.

Hetyonk says that IPM’s goals are for the reduction of pesticide use, information sharing and education, stressing that toxic pesticides are used only as a last resort.

Tracy Shawn is a local freelance writer who writes about sustainability issues for Noozhawk.

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