Last month, a settlement was reached between the
state of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont’s Toxics Action Center
office, and the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford Insect Control
District, where I live. While it technically ends a legal dispute over
pesticide spraying in Vermont, which originated due to concerns filed by
Vermont Law School that the insect district failed to adequately “evaluate the
impact on water quality and non-target aquatic organisms” from its spraying of
chemicals, the concerns for many landowners in Brandon remain unresolved.
BLSG drives their spray trucks along the entire length of private driveways and sprays pesticides. They have defended their authority to do this uninvited, unannounced, and without permission. Not all driveways are sprayed, and choosing which ones get sprayed appears to be left to the whim of the driver.
Last summer, a BLSG truck sprayed the driveway of Dennis Reisenweaver of Brandon. The next day he noticed that all of the honey bees in his beehive were dead. At a Select Board meeting in Brandon last month, Mr. Reisenweaver told this story to Ben Lawton, the chairman of the BLSG Board of Directors: “I lost a hive of honey bees. I had the State come out and they took samples and they told me that it was because of the spraying. So, I’m wondering why they come up private driveways. Why not just stay on the town roads?”
The following is a letter by Kip Andres of Salisbury. It was submitted to the Addison Independent as a letter to the editor on Sunday March 3.
I am writing this letter in response to Angelo Lynn’s editorial addressing the lawsuit pending against the Brandon Salisbury Leicester Goshen (BLSG) Insect Control District. Insect control efforts as carried out by the BLSG are complicated, and I can’t adequately comment on the BLSG’s history, State permitting and oversight, and action thresholds in the detail they deserve here. For anyone interested in learning more about these topics, I urge them to consult http://mwwvt.org/, which contrary to Lynn’s assertion, is a useful source of information. They should also attend the BLSG’s meetings. While the BLSG seeks to avoid public scrutiny, the group is funded by taxpayer dollars and is, at least in theory, operating at the behest of its member towns. With this in mind, it is the public’s right to attend monthly board meetings and to have knowledge of its activities. The fact that Salisbury has just appointed two extremely competent and qualified representatives to the board means that interested citizens will be more welcome at meetings than they have been in the past.
There has been a good recent discussion on Front Porch Forum about mosquito control in the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen area. The discussion reveals a common sentiment in the community that mosquitoes in the BLSG District were much worse before BLSG mosquito control began. This idea is then associated with another idea, that BLSG’s activities are responsible for the improvement. Here are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating these claims.
In BLSG’s new annual report, they indicate that there are 7,000 acres of mosquito breeding ground in the BLSG District which can be treated by helicopter. Most of this is in the floodplain of Otter Creek or Leicester River or in nearby lowland areas. The goal is to use a helicopter to spread granules of bacterial larvicide over this area.
BLSG reports that in 2018 only 3,000 acres received aerial treatment of larvicide. BLSG explains that the reason more than half of the mosquito breeding ground got no aerial treatment in 2018 is that the state did not allocate enough money. This seems like a very serious failure of the system.
Vermont’s town clerks will soon be mailing us our town reports, and Salisbury has already posted a pdf of the new 2018 Salisbury Town Report at its website. It includes an annual report from the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen Pittsford Insect Control District (BLSG) which will appear in town reports throughout the District. The BLSG report includes some good information and some that is misleading.
Nine species of bat live in Vermont, and five of them are so uncommon that Vermont has listed them as threatened or endangered species. The Vermont populations of these bats have decreased because of white-nose syndrome, a disease that started killing bats around 2006. All the listed bat species spend the winter clustered in caves or mines where white-nose syndrome can infect new bats.
Two of the state-listed bat species are also rare nationwide and are listed as federally threatened or endangered species. The northern long-eared bat was first listed as federally threatened in 2015 because its populations had declined due to white-nose syndrome. The Indiana bat was listed as a federally endangered species in 1967 long before white-nose syndrome was identified.
There has been a lively recent discussion about mosquito control on the Front Porch Forum for Salisbury, Leicester, Ripton, and Goshen. A common observation made by local residents is that mosquitoes were once a terrible problem in the BLSG district, but since the BLSG-administered roadside spraying began years ago, the mosquitoes are not nearly as bad. The implication is that roadside spraying of chemical pesticides has been responsible for a long-term easing of the mosquito problem.
Evidence from this spring does not support that argument. The last time BLSG did roadside spraying anywhere in the district was June 8 which was 11 days ago when five routes were sprayed. Nineteen days ago, another five routes were sprayed, and 21 days ago seven different routes were sprayed. So as of today, all of the routes in the district have gone for at least 11 to 21 days without being sprayed. Continue reading “Cause and effect”
The two insect control districts in Vermont have submitted requests to continue their operations for the next five years. This request is referred to as a Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply pesticides according to Vermont’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP). The two districts are the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford Insect Control District (BLSG) and the Lemon Fair Insect Control District (LFICD) which includes Bridport, Cornwall, and Weybridge. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will make a decision about both NOIs very soon.
The BLSG Insect Control District allows property owners along spray routes to request that no spraying be done along their property. To “opt out” you must mail a letter with your name and address and a copy of your property’s tax map. Letters must be sent by early April each year. If you would like a copy of your property’s tax map in Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen, or Pittsford, submit your information at this Google form. MW&W will send you an email with an image of your parcel. Instructions for submitting your request are on the Google form.
Moosalamoo Woods & Waters is a local citizens group promoting safe and healthy environments in the Moosalamoo region of Addison and Rutland counties, Vermont.
We are residents of Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen, and Pittsford which are in the BLSG Insect Control District. Sometimes mosquitoes are a serious nuisance in parts of these towns, so the state and member towns fund a quasi-municipal group to monitor and reduce mosquito larvae and to control adult mosquitoes along roads.
Our interests include answering questions about the biology of mosquitoes, the practicality of pesticide spraying, and alternate methods of mosquito control.