Glyphosate to Be Banned on Fort Myers Beach
Like the plastic straw ban, the driving force behind the ban was the health of Fort Myers' waterways and marine resources. "This effort has all been about water quality," Mayor Anita Cereceda said to the News Press.
City officials ducked the assertion that Roundup causes cancer, by focusing on water pollution. "We are only interested in the fact that it's very bad for the aquatic environment," said Shannon Mapes, the town's marine resource task force vice chair, to the News Press.
Glyphosate's efficacy as an herbicide is remarkable, which spells trouble for marine plants when the herbicide seeps into the water table and washes into the nearby Estero Bay aquatic preserve.
Carried by landscape runoff, glyphosate can percolate into the water table and wash into the water near Fort Myers Beach, especially the Estero Bay aquatic preserve just south of Fort Myer's. Glyphosate can kill sea grass and the aquatic plants that serve as a nursery for the foundation of the beach food chain, Mapes said to the News Press. "Glyphosate is broad-spectrum, meaning it'll kill a tree — it'll kill anything — any plant," Mapes added.
The town will start a public education and outreach campaign to curtail private use of Roundup. There are plans to send out letters to landscaping companies and put fliers in water bills, Cereceda said. "We'll do as much of a PR push as we can," she said.
Fort Myers Beach joins a growing list of municipalities to ban glyphosate. Earlier this year, Los Angeles County directed all of its departments to stop using Roundup until more is known about its environmental and health effects. Los Angeles county's rationale for the moratorium was the World Health Organization's finding that glyphosate is probably a human carcinogen, according to NBC 4 Los Angeles.
That rationale has earned a strong rebuke from the federal government. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently defended glyphosate in forceful language for a regulatory agency. "EPA continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen," the agency said in a statement, as reported by Reuters.
However, Fort Myers emphasis on water safety dovetails with the EPA's assertion that glyphosate does present ecological risks and has even proposed measures to protect the environment from an overreliance on Roundup, as reported by Reuters.
Yet, other arms of the federal government have defended glyphosate. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue roundly criticized Vietnam for banning glyphosate imports, starting this month.
"In addition to the immediate effect of slowing the development of Vietnamese agricultural production, there's the very real risk that Vietnam's farmers will turn to unregulated, illegal chemical products in place of glyphosate," Perdue said, as reported by Reuters.
As for the Mayor of Fort Myers, there's a clear line when it comes to the safety of the water surrounding her town. "We can't be hypocritical about this," she said to the News Press. "We can't constantly be pointing our fingers at Lake Okeechobee and the farmers and everybody else when we ourselves aren't doing all we can to monitor and eliminate what we can here in the island. So this was the next thing on our hit list."
Improving water quality is a top priority for her that requires consistent effort, she said to the News Press. "Little by little, we try to make an impact, and so far, so good."
This article has been edited for correction. Fort Myers is the correct spelling, not Fort Meyers.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.