Help End Roadside Spraying in Your Community!

If you are concerned about roadside spraying in your community, there are a lot of things that you can do. Here are some suggestions for ways to get started. You can also read about how community groups in Island County or Thurston County worked to get their counties to begin practicing non-toxic roadside management.

Who Maintains the Roadsides?

The first step is to educate yourself about who does roadside management in your area, what and when they are spraying, and what no-spray options are available. 

To find out about the spraying in your area, you need to first discover who maintains the roads. Inside city limits this would usually be the City Public Works Department. If you live in a non-incorporated area, your roads are likely to be maintained by the County Public Works Department. If you live along or near a state highway, your roads are maintained by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). And, finally, some neighborhoods or planned communities maintain their own roads. 

If you live along a state highway maintained by WSDOT, you can contact your local roadshop to find out what herbicides they use, how often they spray, and what other techniques or experiments they might have in place. 

What pesticides are being used?

Once you find out who maintains the road, you can contact them to ask what their spray schedule is, what products they are using, if they do selective or broadcast spraying along the roads, and if they are using any no-spray methods to maintain sections of roadsides. When asking about what herbicides they use, make sure to get the commercial name of the product, the active ingredient (the chemical name), and the EPA registration number, and ask them to spell each word as many pesticides have similar names and you will need to know the exact spelling to research the product. Once you have product information, you can educate yourself about the impacts of the products through a number of websites:

  • www.pesticideinfo.org – Searchable database of thousands of pesticides, including human health and environmental impacts. Maintained by the Pesticide Action Network.
  • www.pesticide.org – Website includes lengthy and well-researched fact sheets concerning the health and environmental impacts of many commonly-used pesticides. Maintained by Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.

No-Spray Management

Now that you know what your concerns are, it’s important to learn more about the alternatives that are available and where they are being successfully used. For information on no-spray options, you can see our page on No-Spray Roadsides, which includes stories about several areas in Washington state that maintain their roadsides without the use of herbicides and has links to some reports and websites with pertinent information as well. 

Who decides to spray?

This is an important question to ask if you want to really change what happens along your roads. 

The people who decide on a day-to-day basis what happens on the ground are the folks that work in the Public Works Department. Every municipality is different, but all generally have a departmental director and then one or several levels of management between the director and the folks on the road crew who actually go out and spray or mow. Beginning conversations with staff members in the Public Works Department is vital to knowing what methods of roadside management are being used and why.

However, for cities and counties, it is ultimately the elected council members that have the decision about what practices are used along roads, as they have the power to write policy for all of their city or county departments. So, meeting with and getting to know your council members is key to ultimately changing any policy regarding roadside management. Most importantly, having a city or county council-adopted policy to use non-toxic roadside vegetation management methods means that good practices will be in place as time goes on and staff and council members change.