Cheap and Effective or Toxic and Ugly?


This week we’re going to give you something to think about besides politics, though for some, this issue, like all issues, can be political. This problem will be with us long after whatever media circus currently occupies our pixelated collective consciousness.

Seth McLamb is a young father, an outdoorsman and an engineer with a background in environmental studies. His generation will discover to what extent we have erred in soaking our environment with persistent chemicals, and his concern in this letter is the widespread use of herbicides along roadsides and rights of way. As if to add further credence to his concerns, a very recent study found that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is contributing to the demise of the honeybee.

“I am writing to address the recent spraying of herbicides on roadsides by the NCDOT and power line right-of-ways by the BRMEMC. I have degrees in Environmental Sciences and Mechanical Engineering from NC universities. In the “Answer Man” column in the August 15 edition of the Asheville Citizen Times, the NCDOT’s Division 14 Engineer was quoted defending the practice of spraying roadsides as part of an “integrated vegetation management plan.” Driving along roads in Tusquittee and Fires Creek it appears that spraying has been the only part of that plan to be implemented. Dead vegetation hangs limp along the roadsides making it very difficult to enjoy the natural beauty of our area. Highway 64 going over Chunky Gal Mountain is the same.

“Considering that one of the primary reasons that people (and their money) visit Clay County is to take in the breathtaking views and experience our piece of untouched wilderness, leaving swaths of dead and dying vegetation along every roadside in the county fails to nurture the natural beauty of the mountains that we live in and makes for poor long term economic planning. Within the overarching scheme of negative economic impacts, we can consider lower property values, fewer jobs (e.g. NCDOT and BRMEMC clearing crews), reduced vacation rental revenues, lost restaurant sales, and decreased boutique shop incomes as very real potential outcomes. Many of the people who choose to vacation in Clay County come here on recommendation from friends or family members who have already visited our beautiful county and some of those folks end up buying a home here, extending their economic contributions indefinitely. Spraying herbicides along roadways and powerline right-of-ways will make this season’s visitors less likely to return next year and also less likely to recommend our county to a friend. Not to mention the poorly studied long term environmental impacts of the chemicals being sprayed along many miles of roads and power lines in western NC and north GA. The current practice of calling chemicals “safe” until proven otherwise is misguided and dangerous.

“I urge the residents of Clay County to contact the NCDOT Highway Division 14 office and the BRMEMC to voice your concerns about the widespread spraying of herbicides in our county and the impact it will have on your livelihood and your quality of life. The beauty of our county is our number one resource and we should not settle for vegetation management practices that detract from Clay County’s appeal to visitors and residents alike.”

Seth W. McLamb


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