Siskiyou Land Conservancy
Protecting California’s Wild North Coast and Rivers Since 2004

What’s going on? Toxic pesticides found in the estuary of California’s most pristine river

The four circles represent where the state Water Board found toxicity in streams feeding the Smith River estuary. The glowing circle is at the mouth of Rowdy Creek, where state scientists discovered “acute reproductive toxicity.”

Since 2001, Siskiyou Land Conservancy and our predecessor, the Smith River Project, have led efforts to reduce and eliminate the annual application of 300,000 pounds of highly toxic fumigants, herbicides and fungicides on 1,000 acres of bottom land that surrounds the Smith River estuary, in Del Norte County. These pesticides are used to grow 100 percent of North America’s production of Easter lily bulbs. Two of these pesticides — the carcinogenic and fish-killing fumigants metam sodium and 1,3-Dichlropropene — are used on lily fields in pounds-per-acre amounts that are higher than anywhere else in California, which is really saying something. What's perhaps most dumbfounding about such a high level of toxic pesticide use is exactly where they are applied: At the richest and most vulnerable reach of one of the world's cleanest rivers. Superlatives describing the Smith River watershed, which is located in the far northwestern corner of California, are inexhaustible and in no way overstated. The Smith is unique among coastal rivers in the United States, and there are few watersheds like it remaining in the world’s temperate zones. Read More

A Message From the Executive Director About Easter Lily Pesticides

It’s probably safe to say that no one likes using pesticides. Even Easter lily farmers have told me that “we don’t like using them,” adding that they have “no choice.” The lily bulb crops would be ruined, they say, without the 300,000 pounds of dangerous chemicals they apply each year to farmlands that surround the Smith River estuary and border residential neighborhoods and an elementary school.

Certainly farming is economically fraught. The weather, the pests, the whims of fickle consumers. Individually and combined, the challenges facing farmers are many. Read More

A sign in Smith River warns against entering an Easter lily field recently sprayed with the toxic fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene.

Smith River Health Assessment Shows Dangers of Pesticides

The Smith River Community Health Assessment (available here) is the result of a survey mailed earlier this year by Siskiyou Land Conservancy to all residents of the isolated California town of Smith River, which lies near the estuary of the Wild and Scenic Smith River just a few miles south of the Oregon border.

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Easter Lily Pesticides in the News

Just before Easter, the national on-line news magazine TakePart has run a major story about pesticides used on the Smith River Plain to grow Easter lilies. TakePart describes itself as "the digital division of Participant Media," the company that brought us such films as Academy Award winning Spotlight, as well as An Inconvenient Truth and CITIZENFOUR.