The chemicals used in forest management can be classified as insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. These pesticides are occasionally applied to reduce mortality of desired trees, improve overall production, and favor a particular tree species. Many forest stands never receive treatment with pesticides, and those that do are typically treated no more than two or three times during an entire rotation. The use of pesticides has been documented to increase yields of forest products.
However, over time, concerns about the potential toxic effects of pesticides to humans and the environment have mounted. Also, in some cases, spraying with insecticides has generated chemical resistant varieties of pests which have made forest product production more difficult. To avoid the problems associated with pesticide use, biological methods to control pests are being researched.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the use of pesticides in the United States under the authority of two laws:
- the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
- the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)
No pesticide may be legally sold or used in the U.S. unless it bears an EPA registration number. If a pesticide is registered, EPA imposes enforceable label requirements, which can include:
- maximum rates of application
- classification of the pesticide as a "restricted use" pesticide
- restrictions on use
It is a violation of Federal law for any person to use a pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its label.
FIFRA gives EPA the authority and responsibility for registering pesticides for specified uses, provided that such uses do not pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. The EPA also has the authority to cancel or suspend the registration of a pesticide if information indicates that use of the pesticide would pose unreasonable risks.
Pesticides with a restricted use classification can be applied only by a certified applicator or under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. There are currently about 100 federally registered restricted use pesticides (73 registered in Florida) and some 1.25 million applicators with valid certification (includes private and commercial applicators).
FIFRA gives the states the authority to administer their own certification programs, but all states must meet the minimum federal requirements established by EPA.
Pesticides and the Endangered Species Act
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, Federal agencies must ensure that any action they carry out or authorize will not jeopardize the survival of any species listed as threatened or endangered, or adversely modify the species' critical habitat. The EPA's registration of pesticides under FIFRA is considered to be "authorization" under the ESA. Therefore, EPA is required to ensure that the registration of pesticides and their use are not likely to jeopardize threatened or endangered species.
Products required to indicate use limitations on their label or which reference "County Bulletins" in order to protect listed species and which do not carry required information, will be identified through routine state inspections of manufacturing facilities and pesticide distributors and dealers or through information received regarding suspected misbranding. Pesticide misuse will be identified similarly through routine inspections and information provided regarding alleged misuse.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has the right to take enforcement action if a person harms a listed species through pesticide use.
Worker Protection Standards
In 1988, the EPA proposed new Worker Protection Standards to strengthen the earlier worker protection provisions, reduce risks of exposure to pesticides, and extend coverage to include persons who engage in hand labor tasks or handle pesticides on farms or in forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. New regulations were issued in 1992, which are intended to reduce the risk of pesticide poisoning and injuries among pesticide handlers through exposure reduction measures.
The new Worker Protection Standards expand the requirements for issuing warnings about pesticide applications, use of personal safety equipment, and restrictions on entering treated areas. New requirements have been added for decontamination, emergency assistance, maintaining contact with handlers of highly toxic pesticides, and safety training. Pesticide registrants are required to add appropriate labeling statements referencing these regulations and specifying application restrictions and other requirements. These standards became fully effective and enforced in January of 1995.
Section 1491 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade (FACT) Act of 1990, also known as the 1990 Farm Bill, requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service to work with each State to implement pesticide recordkeeping requirements. This law requires that all certified pesticide applicators must keep records of their use of restricted use pesticides. This requirement became effective in May of 1993.
The 1990 Coastal Zone Reauthorization Act (CZRA) included a "Management Measure" addressing forest chemical management. It is expected that Florida's revised silvicultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) are sufficient to satisfy EPA's Management Measure requirements and that no additional constraints will be necessary to conform to the CZRA. See our Best Management Practices page for more information.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) includes provisions for monitoring the distribution and use of pesticides, and for imposing criminal penalties for violations. It is unlawful under FIFRA to use a registered pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its label, to alter the label, or to distribute any adulterated or misbranded product in commerce. FIFRA authorizes "cooperative enforcement agreements" between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states.
In 1978, the states (including Florida) were given primary enforcement responsibility for pesticide use violations. In Florida, regulations of pesticide distribution, sale and use is accomplished through the Florida Pesticide Law (Chapter 487 of the Florida Statutes). This law and associated rules of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) specifically address pesticide registration, labeling requirements, applicator certification and penalties for violations.
Every year, the EPA issues national Cooperative Pesticide Agreement Guidance, which outlines the national enforcement priorities and activities that every state addresses. EPA also issues compliance monitoring strategies to help ensure consistency in enforcement activities across the nation.
Pesticides and the Endangered Species Act
In 1994, a cooperative program was initiated between the FDACS, the EPA, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to protect Federally listed threatened and endangered species from harm by pesticides with minimum disruption to forestry, agriculture, and other interests. Compliance by pesticide users with Florida's Endangered Species Protection Program will become mandatory when EPA fully implements their program through pesticide limitation statements on certain pesticide product labels which will reference "County Bulletins".
The "cornerstone" of the initial phase of the Florida pilot program is the development of three County Bulletins describing the safe use of pesticides in Florida Torreya habitat. Bulletins are currently available for Jackson, Gadsen, and Liberty Counties. Landowner agreements and memoranda of agreement between agencies will also be utilized through this program to protect listed species.
The Florida Forest Service Division of Forestry (FFS) develops and encourages the use of voluntary forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) through training sessions and technical assistance. The latest revision of the FFS BMP manual (2019) contains a section which specifically addresses pesticide and fertilizer use during silviculture operations. DOF conducts biannual aerial and on-the-ground compliance surveys to assess the success of the overall BMP program.
The Water Management Districts reference BMPs as performance standards for compliance with their rules. See the FFS Best Management Practices page for more information.
Local Ordinances and Contacts
Local interest in pesticide regulation appears to be increasing, but limitations imposed by State law curtail the type and extent of locally imposed restrictions. In spite of these restrictions, some local governments have considered ordinances imposing severe restrictions on pesticide use. For example, Flagler County attempted to restrict herbicide application in 1993.
The concept of county-wide aquifer protection ordinances seems to be gaining favor. These ordinances will also have the potential to affect pesticide use as well. For example, Wakulla County has adopted an aquifer protection ordinance which includes pesticide storage provisions and reporting requirements.
Landowners and land managers need to be aware of any local ordinances affecting pesticide use.
Click on the links below for contacts you can reach for more information:
- Environmental Protection Agency
Federal pesticide information.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)
County bulletins and registration compliance.
- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences - Pesticide Information Office
Recommendations on pesticide use.
- Division of Forestry
- Florida Forestry Association
- Environmental Protection Agency