Monday, February 24, 2014

USDA Maintains Classification of Light Brown Apple Moth as Actionable Quarantine Pest

The United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on February 7 its decision to maintain the classification of the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM, Epiphyas postvittana) as a quarantine-significant pest. The APHIS stated that by maintaining this classification it is, "seeking to minimize the further spread of the moth in the United States and maintain foreign trade markets for our producers." The classification and management of the moth as a pest by the government has been of particular concern to those in California, where large residential areas in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties were sprayed aerially with pesticides in an effort to eradicate the LBAM in 2007.

CDFA map of the portions of the City of Santa Cruz sprayed with pesticides as part of the state's LBAM eradication program in November of 2007

The APHIS claims that if the moth were to be reclassified as a non-actionable pest and APHIS' regulatory program for the LBAM were ended, the related damages to commercial crops would lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural industry revenue.

The APHIS had been evaluating the possibility of reclassifying the LBAM as a nonactionable, non-quarantine pest following petitions submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture in 2008 and 2009. The federal agency has acknowledged that the majority of commenters throughout the process, "requested that we reclassify LBAM as a non-quarantine pest."

In a summary of comments from the public, the APHIS states, "the majority of commenters expressed concern regarding the impacts on the environment and human and animal health associated with the use of pesticides and chemicals to control LBAM."

"The commenters expressed concern that chemicals used for the control of LBAM had not been tested on humans and that formulations had not been disclosed," the agency added.

Commenters also expressed a wide range of other concerns.

Some feel the LBAM program is focused on eradication, and they question when exactly the moth was introduced to the state of California. One commenter stated that since the LBAM has been established in the United States for many years, "there is no reason to continue regulating it."

The effectiveness of the chemicals used to eradicate the LBAM was questioned by commenters, with some asking why the program has not taken into account non-chemical methods of controlling the LBAM population.

Some expressed concerns regarding the unfair economic effects the quarantine has had on domestic growers. They claim foreign growers benefit because American growers are required to have LBAM-free fields in order to ship their product between states, while foreign growers are required to have only LBAM-free shipments.

Additionally, several commenters expressed concerns that organic and small family farms are being forced to either use pesticides, which renders them non-organic, or shut down their farms entirely.


In March of 2007, the APHIS claimed it confirmed the LBAM was found in Alameda County and then in Santa Cruz and Monterey, and eight Bay Area counties, including the entire City of San Francisco, and also in Los Angeles area counties.

The decision to spray pesticides was made by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and residents state-wide fought to stop the process.

Over 60 square miles of residential and agricultural space was sprayed over four nights in Monterey county and two nights in Santa Cruz county in the autumn of 2007. The pesticide sprayed contained E. postvittana attractant sex pheromones as its active ingredient, among other substances that were not revealed to the public. Within days, hundreds of people complained they experienced adverse health effects as a result of the spraying.

As the public outcry across California grew, the CDFA announced it would suspended the LBAM eradication effort due to poor weather. After multiple lawsuits were filed in 2008, judges in Monterey and Santa Cruz county then halted any further spraying until an environmental impact report could be completed. Shortly after that, the governor of California announced the spray program would be suspended until tests on the pesticide's toxicity could be conducted.

In 2010, the CDFA released the Environmental Impact Report for its LBAM eradication program, and the possibility of aerially spraying was still included. The newly released document said that the eradication program was planned to last seven years.

In response to the release of the EIR, Stop the Spray East Bay made the following statement in 2010: “Like the rest of the LBAM program, this EIR is not based on science. Peer-reviewed scientific studies released during the past year confirm that LBAM is a minor pest elsewhere, unlikely to spread here as CDFA has predicted, and easily controlled if necessary by low-impact methods in agriculture. The science supports the conclusion that we do not need this expensive, statewide program of chemical and other treatments in residential neighborhoods."

In March of 2010, shortly after the release of the EIR, the CDFA stated in a notice of determination that its objective is to eradicate LBAM from the entire state of California, releasing an eradication program area map that includes the majority of the state and all of its largest cities and most densely populated urban residential areas.

Light Brown Apple Moth Eradication Area (2010)

Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana), Photo: Danny Chapman from Oxford, England.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Community Members March to SRPD, Demand Release of Andy Lopez Investigation Findings

On February 17, community members in Santa Rosa marched downtown then made their way to the police department to demand the release of the Andy Lopez investigation findings.

In an event announcement for the march, community members say they want District Attorney Jill Ravitch, and the Santa Rosa Police Department to:

1. Provide the People with a copy of an unaltered, SRPD Report
2. Indict Erick Gelhaus with the crime of murder
3. I.D. the "unnamed deputy" who was in the patrol car when Erick Gelhaus murdered Andy Lopez
4. Disqualify the Sonoma County D.A.'s office

It has been four months since Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez, and the public has yet to receive any major information from the authorities about the circumstances. Gelhaus shot Andy on October 22, stating later that day he thought the boy was carrying a rifle. The "rifle" turned out to be a toy replica.

Andy's family marching together

Keith McHenry, one of the co-founders of Food Not Bombs

Some of the youth marched with toy guns

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Parade Held for Santa Cruz Eleven as Final Four Defendants Prepare for Trial

Community members in downtown Santa Cruz took to the streets on February 11 to parade in support of the final four Santa Cruz Eleven defendants, whose trial begins on March 4. They were charged in association with the 2011 occupation of the vacant bank building located at 75 River Street, which occurred during the height of the Occupy movement.

Parading past 75 River Street

The parade traveled down Pacific Avenue and made brief stops at the Town Clock and City Hall. The group passed by 75 River Street at one point. The bank building that was occupied in 2011 still sits vacant today.

A large number of supporters held signs and wore shirts printed with the statement, "I was in the building."

Hundreds if not over a thousand people entered an exited the building over the course of the three day occupation in November and December of 2011. Eleven people were first singled out for prosecution in February of 2012, but by January of 2013 that number facing charges was reduced to four by the judge.

Two of the four facing charges were in attendance at the parade, Gabriella Ripley-Phipps and Brent Adams.

Grant Wilson, Robert Norse, (as well as this reporter and Bradley Allen of Indybay), who all had their charges dismissed by Judge Burdick in different pre-trial hearings, were also at the parade.

Robert Norse

Brent Adams

Grant Wilson

Gabriella Ripley-Phipps

75 River Street

"I Was in the Building"

Steve Pleich

Police watch parade

A few individuals entered the City Council meeting when the parade reached City Hall. Robert Norse is pictured with SCPD Deputy Chief of Police Rick Martinez in City Council Chambers.

Council Chambers

Group wave at the end of the parade


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Keystone XL Protest in Santa Cruz

On February 3 at the Santa Cruz Town Clock, community members joined individuals in over 300 hundred other cities to call on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline following the release of the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

At the demonstration, 350 Santa Cruz was joined by the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, and other groups to send the message: "Keystone XL is a climate disaster, and President Obama should not approve it." 

The Keystone XL carries synthetic crude oil (syncrude) and diluted bitumen (dilbit) from the oil sands of Canada, and the pipeline also carries light crude oil from from the Williston Basin (Bakken) region in Montana and North Dakota. Three segments of the pipeline are in operation and the fourth has been awaiting U.S. government approval.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Keystone Xl pipeline could have the following impacts on the environment:

* Along its route from Alberta to south Texas, Keystone XL could directly threaten scores of imperiled plants and animals, including the whooping crane, piping plover, woodland caribou, interior least tern, black-footed ferret, pallid sturgeon, Arkansas River shiner, American burying beetle, and western prairie fringed orchid.

* The pipeline will cross more than 340 perennial water bodies and risk contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer — the main source of drinking water for millions of Americans. The pipeline also threatens Nebraska’s Sand Hills, the largest intact natural habitat left in the Great Plains ecosystem.

* Producing oil from sand will have terrible impacts on the environment, resulting in the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of boreal forest in Alberta, as well as the pollution of hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Athabasca River, with each barrel of oil requiring three barrels of water.

* Greenhouse gas emissions from tar-sands development are two to three times higher than those from conventional oil and gas operations, which is the wrong direction for reversing global warming. Scientists state that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels must be reduced to 350 parts per million or less. Presently it’s at 387 ppm. Keystone XL would drive those levels up and worsen the staggering effects of global warming.