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Know the West

Industrial poisoning


Rebecca Clarren’s excellent report on the exposure of Oregonians to herbicides sprayed by timber companies brings to mind a similar struggle by the state’s citizens in the late 1970s (“Fallout,” HCN, 11/10/14). Back then, a small group of women from Alsea, Oregon, who had suffered miscarriages after exposure to herbicides sprayed by the U.S. Forest Service and timber companies, ignited a movement that eventually led to a ban on 2,4,5-T, a component of Agent Orange. Those Alsea Women inspired a movement throughout the Northwest and Northern California.  Their subsequent victory in a California court challenge, brought by the Salmon River Concerned Citizens and others, led to a ban on the aerial application of herbicides on national forest land nationwide. Eventually, the Forest Service reinstated aerial herbicide spraying after completing an environmental impact statement and weathering additional appeals and court challenges. In practice, however, aerial application of herbicides is becoming an increasingly rare occurrence on national forests. The fact that citizens are forced to fight these battles over and over is a testament to the power of the timber industry and the companies that produce industrial poisons. It also graphically illustrates whom the politicians really serve.

Felice Pace
Klamath, California