Madeline Bragg questioned how much the work would cost taxpayers.  Ezra Black/The Free Press

Madeline Bragg questioned how much the work would cost taxpayers. Ezra Black/The Free Press

Armed with dandelions, residents make anti-herbicide plea to council

Backed by a handful of supporters and a bouquet of dandelions, Ayla Bennett made an anti-herbicide presentation to council on June 12.

The Fernie resident had previously started an online petition calling for the community to be kept herbicide free.

On June 18, it had 213 signatures.

Citing scientific sources, Bennett said the city should adopt a precautionary approach to using herbicide on its property’s.

“We don’t know how these chemicals are going to interact in the environment,” she said. “They could have unpredicted negative consequences.”

Bennett noted that children and pets could be at elevated risk because both are more likely to play on lawns and interact with the grass.

During a Committee of the Whole meeting on May 23, the city approved a one-time exemption to the Herbicide Use Control Bylaw No. 2093, to allow for the application of herbicide on city-owned property to control clover and dandelions.

In a report to council director of Leisure Services Lloyd Smith said the exemption was intended to preserve city-owned turf areas.

The work was scheduled to take place from May 31 to June 2. However, after a public outcry, the city announced it would not proceed with the work.

While Bennett and other members of her delegation—one of whom was brandishing a bouquet of dandelions—addressed council, other supporters distributed information on the common plant, which claimed it has a number of uses.

Information supplied by Bennett and her supporters suggested dandelion root is a powerful tonic for the liver. From root to bud, every part of the plant is edible and the leaves are a source of vitamin A. Furthermore, dandelion root juice can be used to repel mosquitos.

They claimed it was not worth using herbicide 2, 4-D to control them as it could be bad for human health. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared 2,4-D a possible human carcinogen.

In a statement issued June 6, the city said it would not proceed with herbicide application in the future, until “a very robust and thorough communication process” occurs.

Ryland Nelson, Wildsight Southern Rockies program manager, said the city did not follow the process for the exemption as it didn’t provide 48 hours notice to homeowners surrounding said properties.

“I think the city created this issue by going through and passing this exemption,” he said. “It’s great that we have this awareness in the community right now so we can deal with it.”

Delegate member Madeline Bragg asked for evidence that killing weeds would strengthen turf. She also asked how much the work would cost taxpayers.

Another delegate, Marguerite Sutherland, also chimed in against the use of herbicides.

“There’s a good reason why this bylaw is in place,” she said. “It’s overuse of a non necessary chemical.”

Councillors welcomed feedback from the citizens.

“I’m a father, I have (pets),” said councillor Jon Levesque, “Everybody here has raised some serious questions and concerns… I want to live in a community where this stuff doesn’t happen. I appreciate your passion and we’ve got to figure it out.”

Councillor Ange Qualizza noted that the city needs to consider the desires of all of its residents and said they have received emails from citizens complaining about the number of weeds in community fields.

“They use really strong language because they grew up in a generation where they want to see these lawns pristine,” she said.

The city encouraged residents with concerns or suggestions related to herbicide use, noxious weeds, and turf safety to express their concerns by emailing the city at cityhall@fernie.ca