A matter of scale in the Austin project

  • Published in MyView

By Clark Amadon

This is an attempt to provide another perspective about the proposed project to re-establish a flood plain forest along the Mad River at the so-called Austin parcel in Waitsfield. I take this action with some dread. I have been active in conservation organizations and projects in Vermont for 40 years. I am in favor of using chemical controls at the beginning of this project to knock back encroaching invasives. It feels a bit odd for me to back chemical means given my conservation experience. However, given the targeted and specific application of the chemicals and the safeguards planned for, I believe the use of this chemical product is appropriate and reasonable. I also find the exaggeration of the risks significantly over-amplified.

I know this point of view puts me at odds with folks who I greatly respect and who are friends, neighbors and fellow environmentalists. I hope you’ll take the reflections into consideration.

I urge the Waitsfield Conservation Commission (WCC) not to cave in to the influence of biased, cherry-picked and demonizing thin science being noted related to the Austin parcel project. I'm very disappointed in the cherry picking of science regarding the use of herbicides for this project. I also resent the slippery slope argument that using chemicals on a very small plot would lead to widespread usage within The Valley to combat invasives. This is nonsense.

There is no credible or widespread accepted science that would caution about using these herbicides in a small, targeted way. I have a hard time imagining volunteering for a manual control method and, thereby, by action and implication, supporting the point of view promoted by the majority at the meeting on Monday night, July 24. It is also irksome for me to hear folks use the name of a company as a profanity. I am not a fan of the direction that some companies go to advocate the overuse, in my view, of some compounds. The vast amount used in large agricultural productions is staggering. However, to debase the debate with this distracting hyperbole about a small, targeted project is destructive and distracting from informed decision making.

Using herbicides for this small project is an example of how to use this chemical tool wisely and carefully. It's targeted and specific and would be applied by licensed experts. It's somewhat isolated and not near any organic farms. The only application caution for humans are long pants and long sleeves!

I find that the comments opposing the use of glyphosate don’t hold nearly enough weight to alter the plan for the project. The science studies referred to in social media posts and at the July 24 public forum are of very limited scope and refer to use in broad applications and in amounts that dwarf the Austin parcel project and have no bearing on the use of glyphosate in the application rates in the WCC project. Also, I’m more troubled by the acceptance that knotweed and other invasives are a good thing. Battling them may be a sort of fool's errand given how ubiquitous it’s become, but ridding it from our streams, rivers and ecosystem in Vermont would mightily improve the health of our rivers and streams.

I think the WCC should use sound science and rational decision making and stay above the “toxic chemical” point of view as promulgated regarding this project as you continue your deliberations. You are a skilled, highly educated and talented group of individuals who have researched this project thoroughly. And, thus, are significantly informed on what choice to make. Please use those attributes as your guide!

Waitsfield Conservation Commission, your plan is sound, economical, practical and safe. Please recommend this approach to the Waitsfield Select Board.

Clark Amadon lives in Moretown.

Tagged under Waitsfield knotweed