On August 23, 2022. The Sonoma Safe Ag Safe Schools (Sonoma SASS) coalition held an open public forum to talk about pesticide use in public spaces in Sonoma County. About 50 people gathered at the Sebastopol Grange for this important discussion. The title of the event was "The Road to Safer and More Sustainable Pest Management in California". We were joined by two state-level Newsom appointees: Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) Julie Henderson and California Environmental Protection Agencency (CalEPA) Deputy Secretary for Public Policy Clare Mendelsohn. Our panel also included Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins and Director of Sonoma County Regional Parks Bert Whitaker.
This forum provided us an opportunity to learn about some of the successes Sonoma County land managers have had in reducing pesticide use and the challenges our community are still facing. We talked about the difficulty our community has had in getting state agencies like the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to stop using chemicals as a first line of defense against weeds on roadsides. In 2021 Sonoma County's Transportation and Public Works department used 8 gallons of herbicides to manage all of the county roads, while Caltrans used over 745 gallons of herbicides on just the state highways (CA-116, 12,1,101, 37, and 128). Caltrans in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties haven't used herbicides for routine road maintenance in over 20 years and we talked about piloting this type of management in Sonoma County.
Fortunately, there is strong political will for making a change. Sonoma SASS has received broad support for the progressive pesticide-use policy changes we have been advocating for from our local and state politicians and candidates. This include policies like nontoxic land and road management and advanced notifications before pesticides are used on public lands and agriculture. For more information on how our State Assembly 12 candidates feel about the future of pesticide policy, see our candidate questionnaires for Damon Connoly and Sara Aminazadeh. Both candidates were representaed at our August 23rd forum.
Thank you to all of our supporters who showed up and participated in this important event, we couldn't have done it without you!