Humboldt officials on Wednesday said they support a decision by California regulators to ban some types of rat poison that are known to kill wildlife and pets, and for years have been the target of lawsuits and advocacy efforts by environmental groups.
"I believe Humboldt County basically kind of led the charge in identifying how damaging these poisons are to the environment," 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass said. "Much of what has led action in the state has come from voices in the county saying what a problem the poisons are."
The board passed a resolution last May opposing the sale and purchase of rodenticides.
The state Department of Pesticide Regulation on Tuesday banned certain pesticide products known as rodenticides which contain toxins that have also hurt California wildlife, including endangered species.
Rats and mice eat the pesticides, which are placed in and around buildings and homes. But it takes several days for the rodents to die, and they continue to eat the pesticide, which is stored in their body tissue. If pets and wildlife eat the poisoned rodents, they too end up poisoned, and can die.
The products are also used at large, illicit marijuana grows in wilderness areas.
In 2008, law enforcement found thousands of pounds of pesticides at grow sites when officials removed more than 3.6 million outdoor marijuana plants from public lands in California. According to a study on the impacts of rodenticides on wildlife, a 2011 illegal grow eradication operation removed more than 150 pounds of pesticides within endangered Pacific fisher habitats in Mendocino County.
Of the 58 dead fishers collected and tested for rodenticide in the study, 46 -- or 79 percent -- were exposed. Eighteen of those fishers were collected from Northern California. Thirteen -- or 72 percent -- of those had been exposed, according to the study.
"What we're finding out is that many illegal marijuana farms use industrial-sized quantities of poison in forests to fend off rodents, and end up creating quite a havoc on the ecosystem," 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn said.
Sheriff Mike Downey said he's been advocating the move for years.
"These substances are being introduced into our environment, which not only affects the wildlife, but could in turn affect human beings," Downey said. "I'm glad there's some regulatory scheme being pursued."
Until now, any consumer has been able to buy rodenticides -- d-Con is a common brand -- from retailers such as The Home Depot and Walmart, and use them in and around their homes. As of July 1, the products will be removed from most stores, and only certified professionals -- such as pest control businesses -- will be able to purchase them.
"The idea is to take it away from the general population, who could misuse it, and keep it in the hands of trained professionals," said Charlotte Fadipe, assistant director of communications for the Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Lt. Steve Knight said his office is concerned people will still bring the pesticides in from out of state.
"If they're willing to do illegal activities, such as cultivate marijuana on public lands, there is still a high likelihood they will import them from out of state or other areas to protect the marijuana plants," Knight said. "Anything we can do to protect our environment that affects every one of us is always a good thing."
The new regulations were proposed last summer, and were followed by a public comment period. The ban marks a victory for California environmental groups that have been calling for the state to end the use of rodenticides, and have blamed regulators for failing to protect the endangered San Joaquin kit fox, golden eagle, Pacific fisher and other wildlife from the poisons.
Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.
Jillian Singh is a reporter for the Times-Standard. She can be reached at 441-0509 or Jsingh@times-standard.com.