Friday, June 16, 2017

Welcome to the Maine event: Pesticides

While Montgomery County, Maryland, continues to stay in the national pesticide-ban spotlight, the battle persists for the use of pesticides in the state of Maine. One of only seven without statewide preemption of pesticides, the state has seen environmental advocates continue to march town to town with their message. Amid all the meetings, emotion and noise, one well-placed voice was heard. That message started the next chapter in the Maine pesticide saga: legislation for state preemption of pesticides.

Information began flooding email inboxes on a Friday, stating that there would be public testimony to the Maine legislative state and local committee on the governor’s bill LD 1505. This preemption bill would give the state the sole authority to authorize pesticide application.  The messages noted that the meeting would be on Monday. How did this come about? Would the very quick turnaround be a good or bad thing? Two questions that could only be answered in Augusta on that Monday.

The one voice that led to the governor’s bill was indeed well-placed. We all learned that Jane D’Andrea, wife of GCSAA Class A member David D’Andrea at Sable Oaks GC, was the person who wrote a letter to the governor asking for assistance. A follow-up from the governor’s office and further connections with David led to LD 1505.

South Portland City Counil's first reading of its pesticide ban ordinance, which was later amended to include the AI Certification carve out for Sable Oaks GC.

The quick turnaround assisted tilting the number of attendees in favor of the preemption legislation. Many Maine GCSA members were in attendance, including Jesse O’Brien, MGCSA pesticide affairs committee chair, and David and Jane D’Andrea. D’Andrea’s testimony was very important, as Sable Oaks GC in South Portland, Maine, is the only non-municipal golf facility currently covered by a town pesticide ban ordinance. A portion of his testimony tells the story:

“The property sits on about 100 acres of land in what is ultimately one of the most, if not the most developed area in the state. It is a lush and green habitat that is home for a surprising amount of wildlife. The birds and animals that live there are thriving and safe from all things including hunters, cars, and pesticides. The water that meanders through our property is clean and heavily monitored by the Long Creek Restoration group. The only opportunity that the City Council gave us to maintain our regular care of the course, which does include safe and proper use of some pesticides, is to become a Certified Audubon Sanctuary. This is a very involved and expensive task and much more complicated than it may sound. It is, however, likely that we will be able to achieve this designation by the end of the year 2018, thus enabling us to maintain the course properly.”

The committee held two additional work sessions, where no further comments could be given.  Despite the best efforts of the attendees and public testimony (like D’Andrea’s) in favor of the legislation, Maine’s strong desire to preserve self-rule over state sanctions carried. The committee voted unanimously that the bill “ought not to pass.”

Maine GCSA vendor member Jesse O'Brien of DownEast Turf testifies in favor of state preemption of pesticide application.

With approximately 30 individual town ordinances covering pesticides to some degree, the failure of preemption and the persistence of ban advocates will no doubt continue to muddy the regulatory water. Just as likely, members of the Maine GCSA will fight for a seat at the table, engage where possible and stand by the environmental stewardship of the golf industry.

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