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Investigators Find No Evidence Of Chemical Drift In Forest Spray Complaint

The Oregon Department of Agriculture says it found no evidence of chemical drift after responding to an exposure complaint from a former member of the state’s Board of Forestry.

The agency opened an investigation after Peter Hayes of Washington County forest company Hyla Woods complained he and workers were exposed to weed killer sprayed on a nearby tree farm operated by Stimson Lumber.

Vegetation samples on Hyla Woods property taken by state investigators showed no evidence that chemicals had drifted from Stimson’s tree farm, which is more than a half-mile away.

Scott Gray, Western Resource Manager Stimson Lumber, said the findings show the current system works.

“Everyone involved, from the state agencies to the landowners, cooperated well and acted as good neighbors should,” Gray said. “The conclusion is a confirmation that we followed all the regulations and best management practices and as a result, our application ended up precisely where we intended it to be without any drift onto adjacent lands.”

Hayes could not be reached for comment.

His complaint comes in the midst of ongoing controversy over aerial spraying on Oregon’s forests. Last year, after a string of cases alleging chemical drift, environmental advocates tried and failed to push reforms through the Oregon Legislature. This year, environmental groups and coastal residents circulated petitions for ballot measures aiming to limit aerial spraying and stop the practice altogether. Elections officials have yet to rule whether backers gathered enough signatures to qualify any of those measures for the November ballot.

A fifth-generation logger, Hayes previously served on Oregon’s Board of Forestry, where he became known as an advocate for more environmentally-friendly logging practices. That includes the elimination of herbicides, which foresters use after logging a swath of forest to kill plants that would compete with their next crop of timber.

In June, Hayes wrote to state officials raising a several issues about the use of herbicides on Oregon forests.

He questioned the Oregon Department of Agriculture lack of investigation into how herbicides react when they are mixed together during applications, which is common practice. He also took issue with the agency’s methodology for detecting exposure.

“Our communications with the investigators left us with the impression that exposure beyond what can be measured on vegetation does not matter to the ODA system,” he wrote. “ If this is the case, it concerns us and others who live and work in Oregon forests.”

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said Hayes’ questions are being addressed separately from the original complaint.

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<p>Peter Hayes manages Hyla Woods in the Oregon Coast Range. Hayes tries to manage his forest in a sustainable fashion. </p>

Peter Hayes manages Hyla Woods in the Oregon Coast Range. Hayes tries to manage his forest in a sustainable fashion.

Tony Schick