Monday, August 18, 2014

Melyce by Carol Van Strum


In the rainforest of coastal Oregon, berry vines and alder trees spring up almost overnight on untended clearings. Dense jungle quickly swallows abandoned homesteads and orchards, where only daffodils and an occasional apple tree remain amid the ferns and saplings, blooming tributes to years of human toil. Vast thickets of brush carpet the scarred earth of clearcuts and old logging roads. By the 1970s, the dioxin-tainted herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D had become indispensable tools for replacing such "unwanted vegetation" with plantations of Douglas fir seedlings.

The US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 1979 emergency ban of herbicide 2,4,5-T sent shock waves through the timber and chemical industries, which predicted the loss of 20,000 timber jobs and blamed marijuana growers for the ban. In heavily sprayed coastal Lincoln County, which had comprised most of the Alsea Study area, a county commissioner vehemently denounced the 2,4,5-T ban, suggesting on local radio programs that the ban was prompted by marijuana growers to protect their illegal crops. Echoing earlier Dow Chemical Company statements, the commissioner proclaimed that any health problems attributed to herbicides were actually caused by smoking marijuana.

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