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Healthy Lawns, Where Do We Stand?

...Landscape Ontario Congress 2002
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

February 2, 2003

In January of 2002 I attended an information session at the Landscape Ontario Congress. What follows is a report I wrote for our company. It might be interesting to revisit the report just prior to the 2003 meetings. We can then compare what has happened in the sense of political climate, environmental impact, effectiveness of both side's strategies and, finally, has there been any real outcomes. It would also be interesting to compare the green industry's response across Canada.

Ken Pavely, Landscape Ontario
Kimberly Bates, Urban Pest Management Council
Landscape Ontario Congress 2002

This session was co-presented with prepared talks by both hosts. The seminar was interactive with audience participation. Representation covered the entire spectrum of the issue from contractors to industry officials to politicians and Ministry of the Environment bureaucrats. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency also had observers present. It was a standing room only event. The discussion at times was volatile in nature and certainly emotionally charged throughout.

Landscape Ontario (LO) is exploring strategies to present to Ontario municipalities regarding chemicals used by the green industry. This is in response to the "Hudson" ruling. Even though this hamlet is in Quebec and the provincial laws are slightly different, the ruling has caught the attention of municipalities across the country.

(The municipality of the Town of Hudson instituted a ban of certain chemicals used by the green industry generally and by lawn care companies specifically. In essence, this ruling removed almost all of the chemical arsenal used to fight pest problems.

This in spite of the fact some of these products have been incontrovertibly proven to be environmentally benign. A co-ordinated legal challenge, similar to the American class action style suit, by the lawn care companies brought this issue eventually to the highest court in the province of Qué bec. The court decided in the favour of the municipality.)

There is widespread concern that by-laws may be enacted throughout Ontario that will significantly restrict chemicals used as well as the timing of applications. For example: Merit is widely used as a preventative treatment for grub control. It is possible that a.) Merit may become a banned product or b.) prophylactic or preventative applications may be banned no matter the product used.

LO wants to mobilise the green industry, focussing on lawn care (LC) companies to start, and present a united group of horticultural professionals espousing a common approach.

LO's primary concern is that LC's in particular, and the green industry as a whole, stance on this issue are perceived as credible. LC's, generally, are independent small businesses that do not know how to work within the political system. The public perceives them as chemical applicators with little concern about the effects of their actions on the environment.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, are well organised, are knowledgeable about the political systems they are influencing, select high profile lobbyists, and present arguments based on science as well as emotions. They can afford to disrupt meetings or use confrontational approaches, as they have no immediate economic consequences to their actions.

LO's immediate goals are to slow down the by-law process, develop an active campaign directed at municipal councillors; and, most importantly, create an Integrated Pest Management certification process within the province. The latter step is designed to create the credibility required.

In Toronto a two-pronged strategy has had some effects. LC's conducted an "in-your-face" campaign involving confrontational meetings: confrontational, in this case, means direct meetings not necessarily antagonistic in nature. Other behind-the-scene- meetings were used to point out the thousands of dollars LC's bring to the city's economy.

The second aspect was a letter writing campaign. Along with contacting municipal politicians and ministerial bureaucrats, LC's solicited help from their customers. Toronto councillors received over 5000 pieces of mail. The result was a slowing down of the process.

In London the approach was mainly a behind-the-scenes but legally antagonistic strategy. It too has succeeded in a delayed process.

However, LO feels this is only buying time and that the issue requires a more concerted effort. To that end the IPM certification process is being established. There are several components to this process.

The first is the establishment of a definition of IPM and a "code" of ethics to be conformed to by LC's. IPM would become part of "Plant Health Care". Within this documentation would be the qualitative criterion for compliance. In other words, there needs to be a credible measuring system that demonstrates adherence to the rules. Establishment of these guidelines would utilise the expertise of representatives from governments, research councils, product manufacturers, operators and environmental groups.

The second part would be the administration of the certification process and the funding to carry it out. The proposal is that each IPM certified company would be charged $300.00 plus $200.00 for each certified agent of that company. A one-person company would be charged $500.00.

The next aspect would be the participation of LC's in the process. LO suggests that all of its members must obtain IPM certification. Non-LO members will be encouraged to become certified; they will not be required to join LO as a condition. Other companies within the green industry will also be encouraged to become IPM certified.

LO would like to see a comprehensive approach involving all individuals and agencies connected to the issues. The development of pest management strategies, implementation of IPM as an integral component of those strategies, research and development directed towards better products and methods, the establishment of a provincially funded and operated system of pest monitoring; and, continuing education would form the core initiatives.

The Urban Pest Management Council (UPMC) presented dollar figures and percentages, stating that the use of pesticides in Canada (1999) was approximately $1.38 billion and that LC's used less than 1% of that figure. UPMC re-stated most of what LO had said with a consistent emphasis on credibility.

Dan will followup on this article after the 2003 conference...


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