Controversial spray emphasized Worm-control options spark conflict

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has unveiled its proposals to control a serious spruce budworm problem in Northwestern Ontario, immediately igniting the conflict already smoldering here among Government, the forest products industry and worried citizens.

Two of the ministry’s four proposals, outlined here yesterday, call for the chemical insecticide Matacil to be sprayed on 26,000 hectares of forest in the Thunder Bay District under licence to Great Lakes Forest Products Ltd.

They also call for Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) insecticide derived from natural bacteria to be sprayed in provincial parks and Government tree farms.

The other two proposals would use only Bt and no commercial forests would be sprayed at all. Another set of proposals calls for insecticide spraying in the ministry’s Nipigon District, on forests licenced to Abitibi-Price Inc.

Ministry spokesmen said the Government is not endorsing any of the options. It is waiting to hear from members of the public, who have 30 days to comment on them.

But ministry spokesmen and printed material supplied to reporters emphasized the need to spray Matacil.

Bruce McGauley, supervisor of the ministry’s do your own pest control section, said in an interview, “I think a lot of people are showing us they have very little regard for their forests, because they are willing to go only with Bt.” Although Bt is less harmful to the environment, it is almost twice as expensive to spray and about 10 per cent less effective over time than Matacil, Mr. McGauley said.

The provincial New Democratic Party, local environmentalists and paper workers have all expressed opposition to chemical sprays. “It’s obvious they (the Government) has already decided that they’d like to spray with Matacil,” said Bruce Hyer, a spokesman for Environment North, a citizens group. He said it would kill or damage other insects.

Floyd Laughren, NDP natural resources critic, said the forestry companies should be forced to harvest balsam fir, because it is a favorite food of the budworm.

Mr. McGauley, however, said the companies are being encouraged to accelerate their harvest of balsam fir, but the pulp and paper mills are not designed to handle large quantities of balsam fir.

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