A helicopter sprays trees below. No national agency is keeping close tabs on the use of herbicides by the timber industry, researchers and government officials say. Courtesy of the Idaho Department of Lands.
A controversial study aimed at one of the nation's largest timber companies has raised questions about the overall effects on wildlife, and possibly human health, resulting from the industry's use of pesticides.
While the study by the San Francisco-based environmental group ForestEthics focused on Sierra Pacific Industries and the more than 1.7 million acres it owns in California, environmentalists say the group's analysis raises concerns about the land management practices of the timber industry overall.
The study analyzed a massive state database on pesticide use between 1995 and 2007 and claimed that Sierra Pacific Industries -- the nation's second-largest private landowner -- used herbicides on its tree farms in California more often than it admitted.
The timber industry bristles at suggestions that it is saturating land and waterways with potentially dangerous herbicides, insisting that state and federal laws place tight clamps on how much is used and how they are applied. However, it is not just the volume of herbicides used that has prompted concerns among environmentalists, but also the type.