PORTLAND, Ore. – Declaring that it is becoming increasingly apparent that the use of neonicotinoid pesticides is harmful, the Portland City Council voted unanimously April 1 to ban the purchase and use of neonicotinoids or neonicotinoid-like products. The ordinance prohibits the use of neonicotinoids on all land owned or operated by the city including public rights-of-way and specifically includes a prohibition on seeds prepared with the compounds. Known as the “City of Roses” for its extensive rose gardens, the council has directed that Portland’s Parks & Recreation Bureau phase out all purchases of nursery stock and other plants treated with the pesticides.

Under an unusual form of municipal government, elected council members—known as commissioners—also act as executives of city departments. Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who runs the city parks bureau, sponsored the ordinance. She told Bloomberg BNA April 2 in a telephone interview: “These neurotoxins can lead to colony collapse, basically disaster in a bee. It’s not just the bees, though that is certainly the indicator species. A single seed treated with neonicotinoids can kill a song bird. And also it affects aquatic creatures.” Fritz said the issue was brought to her attention by bee keepers, community organizations and other advocates. Among those advocates were groups such as Beyond Toxics, the Audubon Society of Portland and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Alternative Pest Controls Sought

Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director with the Center for Biological Diversity, told Bloomberg BNA in an April 2 telephone interview that Portland is joining with a growing list of municipalities restricting the use of the neonicotinoids, including Seattle; Spokane, Washington; Sacramento, California; Eugene, Oregon; Shorewood, Minnesota; Skagway, Alaska; and Ogunquit, Maine.

Fritz said the city’s renowned Washington Park International Test Garden will transition to a pilot project to look for a range of alternatives to treat a pest called the rose midge. The garden will also seek disease-resistant rose varieties in advance of its centennial celebration next year, which is expected to attract a large number of tourists.