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The Portland City Council on Wednesday voted to ban the use of neonicioinoid pesticides, which the city currently uses at the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park and at Peninsula Park.


Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz introduced the ordinance last Wednesday, with support by advocates including the Xerces Society, Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Biological Diversity and Beyond Toxics.

Neonicotinoids are one of the most widley used pesticides in the world, but have recently been found to be a major threat to pollinator health.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture documented seven bumble bee death incidents related to the application of neonicotinoids on trees since June 2013, six of which happened in the Portland metro area.

Portland Parks & Recreation currently relies on neonicotinoids to control the pest known as the rose midge, found only in the Rose Test Garden and Peninsula Park.

The neonicotinoid used to control the pest is called "imidacloprid," and applied in a granular form to the top layer of the soil.

The ordinance calls for a phased elimination of the neonicotinoid pesticide at these locations over time, while alternative pest control methods are developed.

In the meantime, the city will continue "limited and judicial use" of the pesticide.

The ordinance calls for some immediate action:

• Parks staff will provide a plan to Fritz within four months to phase out all purchase of commercial nursery stock, trees and other plants treated with neonicotinoids.

• City bureaus and offices will purchase plants that are neonicotinoid-free.

• Parks staff will develop a phase-out plan with goal for complete phase-out by Dec. 1, 2017 unless otherwise justified.

Broader impact

In the meantime, the search for alternative methods begins.

"Neonicotinoids kill more than pollinators — they kill beneficial insects in the garden and the soil that help manage pest outbreaks," the ordinance reads.

The parks bureau will evaluate alternatives to address pests, including organic methods such as mulches and non-toxic sprays.

They'll also develop a management plan for the rose midge, not just for successful rose management "but as guidance to the general public, showing that successful pest management is possible with practices that protect bees and other pollinators."

A pilot project will test the viability of using alternatives to neonicotinoids to manage the rose midge and other pests in the park system.

The pilot will include test beds at Peninsula Park or other locations with rose gardens will include consultation from experts at Oregon State University, businesses, nonprofit groups, government agencies and others.

Parks staff will monitor the test plots and report back two years after planting. If it's successful in combatting the rose midge and other pests, staff will do a cost-benefit analysis.

If the pilot is successful, the bureau will convert all city rose garden beds to neonicotinoid-free methods, requesting increased funding for the new method in the city budget if necessary.

If the pilot is unsuccessful, neonicotinoid pesticide use may continue on a site-by-site basis as the ordinance allows.

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