Last Wednesday, several concerned residents made a presentation to Lanark County council, requesting a halt to the councillors’ decision to spray herbicide on county roadsides this spring to control the spread of wild parsnip. Last year the Mississippi Mills Environment Advisory Committee submitted a report to their council, recommending that their municipality opt out of the spraying program, which was accepted.
ClearView, the herbicide proposed for use on Lanark County roadsides, will kill all broadleaf plants, an important source of food for pollinators, and doesn’t specifically target wild parsnip, a member of the carrot family. The initial application of ClearView needs to be followed in subsequent years by different herbicides, some of which may cause damage to trees. ClearView is toxic to aquatic plants, and should not be applied to sloped surfaces, such as our ditches. Ditches move our water to lower lands, increasing the risk that this herbicide may end up in our streams and wetlands. Lanark County boasts 47 significant wetlands.
There seems to be no data indicating how many people have been affected by wild parsnip while walking on roadsides, or even what percentage of the population will get a bad case of burns from the sap. Although the “danger” of wild parsnip has been widely reported by the media, and has instilled fear in the public, the majority of people haven’t been threatened by it.
At the meeting, the residents asked county council to mow the roadsides as the first method of control, making sure that mowing takes place before the plant goes to seed to minimize its spread.
A long-term approach to controlling wild parsnip needs to be set in place, one that includes requesting the weed inspector to act on wild parsnip complaints, mowing at the right times and frequency, notifying landowners of their responsibilities, and educating and protecting the general public and roadside employees. In addition, a planting strategy for plants that may be able to compete with wild parsnip should be implemented, as well as protection of our ditches, and sustenance for our pollinators, including the monarch butterfly. Farmers and agricultural businesses concerned about weeds encroaching on their lands can always contact the weed inspector for assistance in managing these situations.
Part of the presentation made by these concerned residents included a request to improve advance notification of herbicide spraying by the county. The group also requested that all those who live on the county roads to be sprayed receive a notice in the mail. Right now all that is required is a public notice in the local paper or on the Lanark County website.
Those who live in Lanark County can call 613-267-1353 to get a DO NOT SPRAY sign. For residents of Leeds and Grenville counties, call 613-342-3840 ext. 2413 or contact your local township office.