Safety Spotlight — Reducing Herbicide Use in WLWV

Posted by West Linn-Wilsonville on 5/8/2019 3:00:00 PM

Fence guarding along district fence lines will reduce the amount of required herbicide application.

If you’ve been out to the Athey Creek Middle School soccer fields recently, you might have noticed a new addition to the fence lines that surround the schools’ property.

The black covering that can be seen along the base of District fencing is actually a specially-designed fence guard that prevents the growth of pesky weeds that can lead to dangerous pests. The new environmental safety feature is just one example of the District’s efforts to reduce the use of herbicides across school grounds.

Integrated Pest Management Plan Background

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District takes great pride in creating safe and welcoming schools that provide the optimal learning environment for all students. Naturally, that safety and security extends all the way to the school grounds, encompassing environmental safety throughout the District. The District’s Integrated Pest Management Plan is particularly important to environmental safety in West Linn-Wilsonville.

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a process for achieving long-term, environmentally sound pest suppression through a wide variety of tactics. Those tactics include structural and procedural improvements to reduce the food, water, shelter, and access used by pests — in particular, weeds and unwanted plants.

Through extensive training, IPM staff are educated on sanitation, monitoring, and exclusion as the primary means of controlling pests. The IPM process is guided by strict legislation, ensuring school districts across Oregon have approved IPM plans to limit pests with the least possible risk to students and staff.

Herbicide Use Decreased by 80%

Part of West Linn-Wilsonville’s IPM Plan includes the use of State-approved herbicides, which are only used when absolutely necessary. Specifically, the District practices targeted spraying of herbicides, which minimizes the amount and frequency of pesticides used. The District has continually worked to reduce herbicide use over the past five years, decreasing the amount of herbicides used by more than 80 percent over that time. Herbicides are only applied to pests when absolutely necessary, and never for aesthetic reasons.

Ongoing Reduction Plans

The District is constantly looking for ways to minimize herbicide use even further. Typically, the District applies targeted spraying — using the minimum amount of herbicides as possible — once per school year at every school location. For many schools, the District is actually able to go two years without applying any herbicides to school grounds at all. This is why patrons might notice more weeds around the District than in the past, as herbicides are only applied when absolutely necessary.

The District also experimented with herbicide-free methods of pest prevention this school year, testing a Saturated Steam Machine to gauge its effectiveness in eradicating and preventing weed growth on District Grounds. After thorough experimentation, staff found that the technique was only marginally effective, requiring a significant increase in staff time that is unmanageable for current staffing levels, and would require multiple treatments throughout the school year

Fence Guards an Effective Alternative

West Linn-Wilsonville has found success using fence guards, such as those at the Athey Creek Middle School soccer fields. Weed growth and pest infestation are most common along fence lines, as weeds rapidly grow up fence posts allowing them to spread seeds.

Because the majority of the District’s herbicide application occurs along District fence lines, the implementation of fence guards helps to reduce herbicide application even more than current efforts.

West Linn-Wilsonville has nearly 15 miles of fencing throughout the District. While fence guard materials are relatively expensive, the District has budgeted for additional fence guarding in coming school years. The District plans to purchase one full mile of fence guard every year, eventually covering all District fence lines with the preventative apparatus.

District Partners Aid in Herbicide Reduction

District staff continues to monitor explore and pilot alternatives to herbicide use — towards complete non-application wherever and whenever possible. Non-Toxic Wilsonville members have been helpful partners in suggesting viable and innovative alternatives and promoting healthy neighborhoods and communities.

To learn more about the District’s Integrated Pest Management Plan, please visit the District Website.