DEPOE BAY — Jason Gonzales lives in the woods of the Oregon Coast Range, is friends with loggers and lumber mill owners, and wants to know when chemicals are being sprayed near his family or on forests where they camp and recreate.
“People who have lived in areas where aerial spraying occurred never knew it was happening,” Gonzales, of Oregon Wild, told a small group recently at the Depoe Bay Community Center. “The monitoring system, FERNS, allows neighbors to see the impact aerial spraying has on watersheds. As soon as people start seeing the areas where timber companies were spraying, they get concerned.”
The tool at hand – in place since 2015 through the Oregon Department of Forestry – is called the Forest Activity Electronic Reporting and Notification System. The online notification system allows citizens to create an area of interest map of up to 23,000 acres to assess forest activity in it. Gonzalez has been showing various communities along the coast how to use the system, which is a notification product that gives landowners email notifications when a timber company is applying for road, timber harvest and herbicide spraying permits.
The notifications for active operations/application for a permit has to be filed at least 15 days before an operation can proceed.
Lincoln County voted on banning aerial spraying May 2017; the citizens fought hard to get the measure on the ballot. One of those citizens, who now lives in Waldport, is Debra Fant.
“How short-sighted is it to value money and power without concern or understanding the inherent value of health, nourishing food, clean water and air, and fertility of soil from a diversity of organisms that balances the natural systems?” Fant asked.
Fant said the chemical stew used to kill weeds includes hormone disrupters. While the goal for a retired nurse like Fant — who has been in Lincoln County 40 years — is to have no chemicals sprayed either by helicopter or by hand, the FERNS notification system gives people the opportunity to reduce exposure to the chemicals and gives them more breathing room to make adjustments when spraying will occur nearby.