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Landowners challenge state protections for pesticide applicators

Seventeen property owners in the Gold Beach area filed a lawsuit in Curry County Circuit Court on Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of state liability protections for those applying pesticides. The property owners say they were harmed when pesticides sprayed on nearby forest land last October drifted onto their properties.

“These irresponsible practices are making us sick, killing our pets and interfering with the use of our land,” said John Burns, a volunteer firefighter who is serving as a spokesman for the property owners.

The landowners are challenging exemptions written into the Oregon Right to Farm and Forest Law that insulate forest pesticide applicators from legal claims for nuisance or trespass, and limit their liability to incidents that cause death or serious injury.

The lawsuit stems from an October 2013 incident in which 2,4-D and triclopyr were applied by air to forestland owned by Crook Timberlands LLC and Joseph Kaufman, and it drifted onto nearby properties.

The lawsuit was filed a day after the Oregon Department of Agriculture fined helicopter operator Pacific Air Research Inc. of White City and its pesticide applicator Steven Owen $10,000 each for the October incident, and suspended their commercial pesticide licenses for a year. An investigation by the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Pesticides Program “determined that the company and its applicator violated the Oregon Pesticide Control Law through gross negligence and willful misconduct,” according to the agriculture department.

The Crag Law Center, a Portland public interest law firm, is representing the property owners.

“Many of us have believed for a long time that this law is unconstitutional, and this is the first time it will be put to the test,” said Crag attorney Chris Winter.

Landowners also are working with Beyond Toxics, a Eugene environmental group.

For more information on the incident: www.beyondtoxics.org/work/pesticide-reform/forestry-pesticide-project/cedar-valley-pesticide-spray-poisoning.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib

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