The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) this week rolled out a new initiative involving state natural areas, threatened and endangered species and agricultural pesticides.
Just ahead of spring fieldwork, IDNR posted an interactive state map that outlines areas with unspecified threatened and endangered species, Illinois Nature Preserve Commission sites, state natural area inventory sites and IDNR owned and managed property. Visit dnr.illinois.gov and search for “Chemical-Drift-Awareness-Areas.”
IDNR “created the map to raise awareness of sensitive natural areas and rare species,” IDNR said in a prepared statement. “It is a proactive approach intended to provide as much information as possible to anyone who is spraying pesticides and herbicides. It is our intent to work together with the Illinois Department of Agriculture to promote the proper and safe use of all pesticides and herbicides.” IDNR officials did not respond to emailed questions.
“We want our members to be aware of the IDNR’s new mapping tool,” said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. “We have raised concerns in discussions with IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal about this tool and are now up against a short time frame to inform our members before field season.”
On its webpage, IDNR stated the agency received reports of plant injuries, especially to oak trees, near the end of the 2017 growing season, and the injuries “could potentially be attributed to drift and volatilization from agricultural herbicide application on surrounding lands.”
Online, IDNR stated its staff developed the mapping tool “to assist landowners, producers, and applicators with pre-application planning of herbicides and pesticides, to help prevent and manage off-target drift.”
Warren Goetsch, deputy director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA), said the state’s Pesticide Act and the process to file pesticide misuse complaints remains the same. “Nothing has changed on (pesticide) misuse,” Goetsch said.
“The label is the law,” Guebert said. “Read it carefully and take special note of sensitive areas and endangered species in proximity to your field. We are working with the state agencies to get better resources out to our members as soon as possible”
Goetsch reminded pesticide labels require users to make themselves aware of sensitive areas. He noted that Fieldwatch/Driftwatch, an interactive state website with pesticide-sensitive sites and contact information, one information source and IDNR’s new map is another source.
IDNR’s interactive map locates areas of threatened and endangered species but does not specify if the species is a plant, insect or some other organism and its habitat. The map offers no telephone number or email address to seek additional information or answers to any questions.
“If I was an agriculture producer, I would look at the maps to see what is adjacent to my fields,” Goetsch advised. “If there’s a yellow (an area with threatened and endangered species) next to my field, I would try to be more weather selective. That doesn’t mean I can’t use certain products, it just means I would be more aware than I was before and take that into consideration.”
Webpage links direct users to an Illinois Department of Agriculture pesticide page, a University of Illinois Extension crop science weed bulletin, and a November 2017 Indiana-Illinois-Ohio Extension publication on dicamba use in Xtend soybeans.
“IDNR and others will be monitoring these sites and documenting pesticide damage in 2018,” warned Lyndsey Ramsey, IFB associate director of natural and environmental resources. Some pesticide labels discuss natural or sensitive areas, Ramsey reminded farmers. The law requires applicators to follow pesticide labels, which all discuss endangered species, she noted.
“Applicators should be aware of neighboring areas, such as those on the IDNR map, and may need to adjust their plans and record the proximity of these sites in their applicator records,” said Ramsey. “These actions would be in addition to checking for sensitive crops through DriftWatch. Regardless of product label requirements, IDNR has special authorities to investigate damage and protect state natural areas.”