Coastal Commission granted approval for the City of Malibu to expand its regulations on pesticides with a focus on limiting the use of rodenticides that have wreaked environmental damage locally.
The updated land use policy strengthens Malibu’s existing restrictions by expanding the areas where they apply, explicitly banning rodenticides, and promoting non-chemical methods for dealing with invasive species.
The motion passed with minor amendments suggested by the Commission, creating one of the strictest pesticide restriction programs in the State.
This impetus for this regulation change came from rising awareness on the dangers that anticoagulant rodenticides pose to local wildlife including coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, and foxes.
In the Santa Monica Mountain area, US National Park Services recently documented six mountain lion deaths due to internal bleeding caused by rodenticides. Larger predators are at a higher risk from these poisonous compounds as they bioaccumulate up the food chain.
Other pesticides and herbicides used on wetland habitats can result in the loss of native vegetation and have adverse impacts on water quality.
Insecticides that target mosquito larvae can destroy food sources for native amphibians, reptiles, fish and birds. Additionally, Neonicotinoid-based insecticides can make plants toxic to bees and limit their ability to pollinate.
Under Malibu’s updated policy no development can use pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides, if it has the potential to degrade Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas, or coastal water quality or harm wildlife.
These chemicals can be used for habitat restoration or dealing with invasive species, but only when non-chemical methods have been deemed unfeasible. Even if permitted, these chemicals cannot be used during winter, within a week of predicted rain, or when wind is above 5mph.
The motion was met by a groundswell of support from community members and environmental groups.
“I was poisoned by pesticides and had to move from my home and my life was turned upside down, so this issue is really important and I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude to the Coastal Commission and to everyone here,” said Suzanne Hume, founder of Clean Earth For Kids.
Nonprofit organization Poison Free Malibu was one of the groups behind the policy change and has been working on the initiative since 2014.
“Thank you very much for supporting this very important amendment to protect wildlife, pets, children, our oceans and our entire ecosystem,” said Co-founder Kian Schulman. “Pesticides are in the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the food that we eat. Animals are still dying right here in our own backyards.”
Coastal Commissioner Catherine Rice called for the regulation change to be accompanied by an education campaign to ensure people are aware of and abiding by the restrictions.
“Outreach to the general public is absolutely essential as we know that the bulk of pesticides, herbicides or pesticides are used by the general public, not by public agencies,” said Rice.
Commissioner Mark Gold asked if it would be possible for the City of Malibu to provide a three year report on the impact of the policy, adding that there is very little data on the results of previous similar restrictions. Adrian Fernandez, principal planner for the City of Malibu, said the City would look into this.