Citizens Express Profound Distrust of Fish and Wildlife Officials, Herbicide Spraying and Safety of Elk Meat

RCW 9A.08.010
General requirements of culpability.

A person is reckless or acts recklessly when he or she knows of and disregards a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his or her disregard of such substantial risk is a gross deviation from conduct that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation.

A person is criminally negligent or acts with criminal negligence when he or she fails to be aware of a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his or her failure to be aware of such substantial risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation.

The following is a partial transcript of the public testimony segment of the Elk Hoof Disease Public Working Group meeting on May 21st in Kelso. A full recording of the meeting will gladly be shared with anyone who is interested.

Citizen Bruce Barnes:

“These chemicals are listed for a use, but I see no listing on any of the MSDS sheets for when they’re mixed together and what the effect is.”

“There’s also a study done in the Starkey Forest in Oregon where they did the very same thing that we’re talking about doing here. And it was done by a third party and also the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife where they captured an elk herd and it was captive in a high fence and they did studies on that elk herd for quite a while. Years at a time. So I don’t see the reason why we couldn’t do that.”

“And if we’re concerned about funding, we got a timber corporation now that’s gonna charge us money to hunt our public resource which is our deer and elk. And they’re going to make about $2.5 million in about sixty minutes selling those raffle tickets. They’re making millions of dollars exporting timber out of this community here in the state of Washington. I don’t see why that corporation couldn’t fund this project on their property. Fence those animals in. Let’s do one fenced area with herbicides, one fenced area without herbicides.”

Editor’s Note: Weyerhaeuser made $385 million in profit in 2012 and had a revenue of $7.1 billion.

“I don’t think we should be hunting in these affected areas because number one you don’t know what this is. We don’t know if it’s contagious to humans still. You say that only the hooves are affected but we haven’t checked the blood stream for any of the toxins.”

“We’ve made fish a human rights issue in the state. There’s also been a test that said that the Columbia River right now is one of the most polluted places in the state of Washington. Where are all those toxins coming from? They’re coming from right up here in the timber lands. If we don’t know what we’re eating, it really is a human rights issue to look into this thing.”

“I don’t think that any hunter is going to go, hey I think this is a dumb idea not to hunt. I think they would look at this and say we need to take a proactive approach to looking at this before looking at the revenue source for Fish and Wildlife.”

“I honestly think we need a third party study. We need to look at this and we need to look at it now. I think you guys have put yourself in a really bad situation as far as criminal negligence for selling these hunting licenses to hunters and not knowing if they’re really healthy enough to eat.”

Bruce Barnes

Citizen J.R. Robertson

“Has the meat been tested for toxic chemicals?”

Dr. Kristin Mansfield, Wildlife Veterinarian, Department of Fish and Wildlife

“There’s really no such thing as a screen for toxins. You can’t submit a sample and say, do a toxic screen. You have to have an idea of what you’re after and ask the lab for that chemical or that class of chemical. It’s not like we can call up and say, we want you to run a test for whatever levels of this herbicide or whatever at the diagnostic lab at Washington State.”

Editor’s Note: “Herbicide mixtures are variable but typically include combinations of glyphosate, sulfometuron methyl, atrazine, clopyralid, imazapyr, triclopyr and hexazinone” according to a recent elk nutrition study conducted by researchers from the University of Alberta. Documentation of which herbicides are sprayed on timber lands is readily available on the Department of Natural Resources website.

Dr. Vickie Tatum, Toxicologist, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI)

Editor’s Note: According to the organization’s official website, “NCASI was established in 1943 by a consortium of pulp and paper companies” and “NCASI is funded largely by voluntary contributions made by its member companies — primarily forest products companies and industrial timberland owners in North America.”

“With respect to the herbicides being applied to the forest land, they are classified by the EPA as practically non-toxic to terrestrial organisms.”

“You’re shaking your head no. Which one do you think?”

Citizen Tim Gosch: “Atrazine to begin with. You read any of the MSDS sheets and they say that you can’t forage animals on them.”

Editor’s Note: “Keep away from food, drink and animal feeding stuffs,” says this Atrazine MSDS. “Do not cut treated vegetation for feed, or graze livestock on treated areas for 60 days following application” says this VELPAR DF MSDS.

Vickie Tatum: “The reason that there are grazing restrictions on those is to make sure that there’s no residues in the milk.”

Tim Gosch: “Then why did they ban Atrazine from the UK?”

Vickie Tatum: “Now that’s a political discussion.”

Tim Gosch: “I don’t think so. I think that’s a biological issue. They banned it because it’s a carcinogen and it’s an immunotoxin.”

Vickie Tatum: “We’ve done research on the synergistic effects of herbicides… We didn’t find any.”

Editor’s Note: In 2011, researchers from the University of Siena stated that, “Because coformulants represent the highest amount in pesticide mixtures, even a minor toxicological concern could become significant in relation to their use especially considering the fact that, besides being toxic themselves, they can also increase the toxic effects of Active Ingredients.”

Bruce Barnes

“If [herbicides are] killing all the vegetation, how is this animal going to survive? It’s gotta have something to eat. These clear cuts are as brown as this table with no grass.”

J.R. Roberston: “My main concern is the edibility of the meat. You haven’t tested it, yet you’re saying it’s safe.”

Kristin Mansfield: “There has been extensive testing done to get these approved to apply and so yeah I take a leap of faith and I trust that the extensive testing that’s been done to bring those to market mean that they’re safe to be marketed.”

Dr. Boone Mora, Parasitology Expert, Former County Health Director

“I just can’t imagine that you would go out here and kill a lot of animals that have the disease and you don’t yet know what it is. You think you know what it is, maybe. But there is some serious disagreement on that.”

“We have a mountain of laws that prevents us from doing anything. If I go out here and I go up to that elk and touch that elk or even if I don’t touch it – if it reacts – I’ve broken a law. I have harassed the game. You have got to change something so that people that are interested and have the time and effort can do something, try something. It might not work, but give it a try.”

“I think there are things that we can do that we haven’t even touched. First of all, everybody denies that it’s leptospirosis. That they’re not interested in leptospirosis. Give me the freedom, give me the legal freedom. I won’t even charge you money to do this, to try it, to see if I can put together a team that will help me.”

Editor’s Note: Dr. Mora has been offering his services to WDFW for more than a year. His correspondence with them is well documented, as is the grave danger associated with leptospirosis explored in the article Infected Elk May Pose Serious Health Risk to Humans.

Dr. Boone Mora | Photo by Jon Gosch

Axel Swanson, Clark County Senior Policy Advisor

“At the town hall there was a lot of talk about deformed horns. We’ve got a lot of reports and videos and pictures of weird looking horns along with this issue. They’re growing down, they’re growing sideways. I don’t know if we’ve looked into that any more or heard any more?”

Kristin Mansfield: “I’m not getting that with the antlers. I’m not saying it’s not happening, but it’s not making it to my email or desk. So I don’t know how to respond to that.”

Citizen John Wallace

“I’m not applying for any permits this year. First time in decades.”

“I believe this offer that Dr. Mora made today has been made before at the Working Group meeting on February 12th. Has the Department given any consideration to his offer at all? I had sent an email to you [Sandra Jonker] and Nate Pamplin two weeks ago, got no response on that regard. I want to finish my points and if you could respond, that would be great.”

“We’re being told that the meat is safe to eat. We’re also being told you don’t know what’s causing the disease. So if you don’t know what’s causing the disease, there could be something in the meat that you’re not seeing because you don’t know to look for it. How could it possibly be safe to eat if you don’t know what the disease is? I’m not a scientist, but just because you don’t have certain indicators – cellular or genetic indicators – doesn’t mean that there’s nothing there.”

“Leptospirosis itself is transferrable from elk to humans and if proper care isn’t taken with the blood and the urine then we’ve got real problems as hunters. It’s a public health issue and it’s a huge public health issue, potentially.”

Editor’s Note: WDFW’s most recent Big Game Hunting Pamphlet (effective April 1, 2014) contains no mention of leptospirosis, nor does it warn hunters to take extra precautions when harvesting elk that may be infected by a contagious and potentially fatal bacteria. WDFW’s own research shows that leptospirosis is currently present in the elk of SW Washington and has been pervasive in the population as far back as 1993.

“And you had said there’s two distinct areas of affected animals which is the Willapa Hills area and the St. Helens herd. My question is what’s the common denominator between those two areas? Why is it not happening up in Randle? Why is it not happening up in the Northeast or down in Battle Ground? It’s happening in those two areas. What is the common denominator? And on whose land are they being found?”


Dr. Sandra Jonker, Wildlife Program Manager, Department of Fish and Wildlife

“Dr. Mora has been invited to come present his work and his proposal to the Technical Advisory Group and to have a discussion with the Technical Advisory Group.”

John Wallace: “When will that happen?”

Sandra Jonker: “It will happen in the beginning of June.”

Editor’s Note: Dr. Mora will be making a formal presentation to the Technical Advisory Group on June 3rd at 2pm at WDFW’s Region 5 office at 2108 Grand Boulevard, Vancouver, WA 98661.

Citizen Krystal Davies, Farrier and Hoof Specialist

“I do believe that I understand why the elk in Washington are being affected by this hoof disease. I do have scientific-based evidence that can provide a plausible diagnosis, a source of the disease, a detailed route and manifestation of the pathogen, as well as a potential cure.”

Editor’s Note: A full exploration of Krystal Davies’ findings and scientific backing can be found in the article Local Farrier’s Research Connects Herbicides to Hoof Disease in Elk, Horses.

“It is my belief that there are several factors to this situation but that herbicides and pesticides are the root cause. I do also believe that’s why you’re not seeing one of those toxic signatures that you mentioned on the tissue that you’ve sampled because it’s not directly causing it but it takes a different route. I would definitely test for all of the herbicides and pesticides that are being used, as well as the hormone imbalances.”

Axel Swanson: “Dr. Mansfield, I’ve talked a lot with you about laminitis. And you guys early on in the Technical Advisory Group looked at laminitis. I was wondering, has there ever been any link between toxicity or chemicals and laminitis? I don’t know the answer to that. Can you talk a little bit about why we stopped looking at laminitis?”

Kristin Mansfield: “As she mentioned there’s a whole lot of things that can cause laminitis. Any time the hoof is inflamed or injured for any reason it’s very common that you’re going to get secondary laminitis. There’s so much inflammation of the blood vessels in the hoof. And especially around the lamina. And we have seen it in these elk, but it’s a secondary process. It’s not a primary disease. The primary disease is infectious.”

Axel Swanson: “Who on the Technical Advisory Group would be like a laminitis expert?”

Kristin Mansfield: “We have three board-certified large animal internal medicine veterinarians. We have two board-certified veterinary pathologists. We’ve got one board-certified veterinary microbiologist.”

Axel Swanson: “But have we had somebody whose whole life is laminitis look at this yet?”

Kristin Mansfield: “Well. No. We’d be happy to send them slides but I don’t think it’s going to tell us any more than our…”

Krystal Davies: “I could recommend somebody.”

Kristin Mansfield: “A veterinary pathologist?”

Krystal Davies: “I’m not sure if he’s currently still a veterinarian but he is a world-wide known veteran farrier.”

Kristin Mansfield: “If somebody wants to look at our slides, we’re very happy to show them and they may find laminitis. But still, it’s probably secondary.”

Krystal Davies: “There’s other things that suggest not.”

Editor’s Note: Mrs. Davies was referring to an acquaintance of hers, Dr. Chris Pollitt, a professor who created the Equine Laminitis Research Unit which has become an “international focus of laminitis and equine foot biology research.”

Tim Gosch

“While it’s known that the timber companies are often spraying these affected areas with the herbicides to defoliate to reduce the competing plants, we know that these plants are essential to these ungulates. They’re essential to those animals out there. The MSDS sheets on those chemicals that are being sprayed, many of them show that they’re a danger not only to humans but the animals alike. Some of those chemicals are immunotoxins.”

Editor’s Note: “Four studies have shown that atrazine can disrupt normal immune system function, enhancing the risk of infectious disease or cancer. In rats fed atrazine for three weeks, lymphopenia (a reduction in the number of white blood cells, cells that fight infection and disease) was “pronounced” at a dose of 100mg/kg per day, the lowest dose tested. This study compared immune system effects of 17 pesticides, and atrazine was one of five pesticides to which the immune system was most sensitive.” Click here to learn more about the toxic effects of atrazine.

“I’m just curious. Have there been any efforts to contact any of these timber companies within your working group or Fish and Wildlife to ask these timber companies for a voluntary moratorium on these chemicals while this is being studied?”

“It seems that there’s an effort by Fish and Wildlife to ignore some of the studies that have been presented to them. It was brought up earlier that there’s little to no transparency that’s being presented to many of these hunters that are purchasing tags. I can tell you from the perspective of an elk hunter, we don’t trust Fish and Wildlife in any way, shape or form. Your agents in the field, yeah we get along with them great. But as far as management? No. Not gonna happen. Not right now. There’s no transparency within your agency.”

“It just seems like a failure to recognize that some of these chemicals that are being sprayed could be a possible cause to what’s going on. By your own admission the toxins haven’t been tested for. That just seems real negligent. It would be nice to see some changes within Fish and Wildlife.”

“I can tell you, this will be the last year that I purchase any hunting license in Washington state until there’s some significant changes. To me anymore it’s not worth it. We talked about the cost of hunting to the community. Last year I spent $2,600 and I saw 9 animals. I assure you that won’t happen again. I’m not going to waste my money anywhere in the state of Washington to see 9 animals. I’ll go hunt Idaho. I’ll go hunt Montana. It won’t happen here. I won’t continue to waste my money.”

Citizen Ed Barnes

“81 years old. Been hunting since I was 8 years old.”

“I asked the question when we had the hoof rot meeting down here, you had 300 people there, 99% said they thought the spraying was the cause of the hoof rot. They wanted a 5 year moratorium. Nothing in your presentation today has indicated, like the gentleman said, that you’ve went to any of these timber companies…to get them to voluntarily quit this spray.”

“They never started using that spray here in the state of Washington until the late 80s and in the 90s and that’s when it started contaminating.”

“If the timber companies won’t voluntarily stop this for 5 years to see what it does then I think the state legislators – you got em sitting here – they need to stand up and be counted. You folks, as the protectors of our game, the protectors to make sure the game is safe to eat need to be the voice of the hunters and the fishermen in the state of Washington.”

“The legislators over here don’t have guts enough, and you guys don’t have guts enough, to talk up to the timber companies and let em know just exactly what’s taking place.”

Editor’s Note: The legislators in attendance were state representatives Brian Blake, Ed Orcutt and Dean Takko.

“It’s pathetic that we can’t get a group of people that will stand up and be counted in this state to protect the animals as well as the people’s lives. As a veteran it makes me sick to think that you’re allowing food that you don’t even know whether it’s safe to eat or whether it’s not safe to eat. It’s crazy what’s going on.”

“If the timber companies don’t want to do it voluntarily then the legislators need to get off their ass and enact laws to make it happen.”

Ed Barnes

Kara Whittaker, Senior Scientist, Washington Forest Law Center

Editor’s Note: According to their website, the Washington Forest Law Center “began in 1997 as a non-profit law firm dedicated to using our legal and scientific skills to protect Washington’s 10 million acres of irreplaceable forests owned by the state or private landowners. Logging of these forests over the past decades has caused serious harm to fish, wildlife, and scenic resources.”

“First, I’d like to voice my support for the hard work and dedication of resources by this Working Group towards the identification and management of this terrible disease. Second, I want to emphasize the importance of WDFW’s intended next steps to look at questions regarding the role of herbicides.”

“I had the opportunity to review a preliminary report by Krystal Davies that provided a compelling line of reasoning linking herbicide ingestion with hoof disease. Ms. Davies has developed a set of practical management and treatment solutions that should be tested immediately. For example, ceasing herbicide spraying in areas of high elk density should aid in elk population recovery by simultaneously reducing their toxic load and improving their nutrition as their preferred forage becomes more abundant.”

“Pursuing a rigorous study of the link between herbicides and hoof disease would ensure compliance with the intent of the Forest Practices regulations, namely ‘to regulate the handling, storage and application of chemicals in such a way that the public health, lands, fish, wildlife, aquatic habitat, wetland and riparian management zone vegetation will not be significantly damaged… Significant damage for purposes of this section includes any damage that would inhibit or preclude the existing vegetation from protecting public resources’ WAC 222-38-010(1). In this interest, please provide ample time during the next Working Group meeting for Ms. Davies to give a detailed presentation of her findings and recommendations.”

“Finally, I urge WDFW to conduct toxicology tests of elk that are designed specifically to detect the active ingredients and metabolites of the herbicides being sprayed within the elks’ range. Thank you for your consideration.”

Citizen Shawn Nyman

“This is important. These are our natural resources. This is a health issue. It is of the greatest importance. And find the money for it. Find the money that you need to fund it all, to get them out there, the independent people to do the research. Just find it.”

“I challenge the timber companies to put up some money and see if it is or is not the spraying. If it’s not, then great. You get to say, yay, you were wrong. It wasn’t us. If it is then they should take the responsibility. It’s just put up or shut up.”

Ed Barnes

“How many people around the table here, if I put some of that spray in these bottles that you’ve been drinking today, how many of you folks would drink that bottle of water? If I asked you to do a study for a year, and every day drink a bottle of water that had some of that spray in there, how many of you think you would last on God’s green earth? Think about that.”


My ongoing investigation of elk hoof disease and toxic forest practices is funded entirely by my readers. If you appreciate my work and believe that journalism should be fearlessly independent of corporate influence, then consider clicking on the donate button below so that I can continue giving these issues the time and attention they deserve. Thank you for your support.

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