Pesticide Reduction Pilot Program Frequently Asked Questions
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices reduce the spread of undesirable plants, insects, bacteria or other organisms that have a negative impact on our landscape or human health. An IPM program utilizes different tools to control pests in ways that are least impactful to the environment and most effective for getting rid of specific pests. These tools may include the application of a targeted pesticide or shifting management practices to help reduce the likelihood of pest establishment on city property.
How long has the Boise Parks and Recreation Department had an IPM program?
The City of Boise Parks and Recreation Department first started using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices in 1995. The department most recently updated its guidelines to improve these efforts in 2016. In 2020, Boise Parks and Recreation embarked on a multi-year pilot program to study alternative land management techniques to reduce the uses of pesticides on city-owned property. The pilot program is now in its final phase and the department will use the data to guide any potential changes to IPM practices.
What are the department’s current IPM practices and principles?
Our team is highly trained in identifying, evaluating, and managing pest issues. Pest problems are treated on a case-by-case basis. Management strategies are chosen based upon the type of pest, location, previous management actions and experience. The health and safety of employees and community members is always the highest priority. Reducing the use of pesticides throughout the city’s park system is part of our larger goal of sustainability and cutting-edge public land management.
Why does the city use chemicals to combat pests in parks?
Pesticides come in many different forms and can be used to promote desired or native habitats. The term “pesticides” includes many products that range from natural oils to synthetic chemicals. Some pest species are either too pervasive or too dangerous to be removed mechanically. For these species, if biological controls are not available, and organic options are not effective chemical controls are used. Although pesticide use is heavily regulated and verified by both federal and state agencies, the City of Boise seeks to make informed decisions and identify application needs on a site-by-site basis.
What other methods does the department use to prevent or remove weeds and other noxious plants?
In addition to hand/mechanical removal and chemical applications, Boise Parks and Recreation also uses biological and cultural control methods to manage pests in parks. Cultural control is the practice of modifying soil, available water, or other aspects of the growing environment to promote healthier more resilient plants. For example, Boise Parks and Recreation uses mowing height, aeration, and over-seeding to increase the health and density of turfgrass so that it can outcompete weeds and resist attacks from insects.
Is there a state or federal mandate to remove weeds and other noxious plants from park sites?
Yes, state and federal laws regulate the control of noxious plants and pests. We are part of a Cooperative Weed Management Area – a geographic area defined by weed infestation types, environmental characteristics, and land use.
What is the Boise Parks and Recreation Department doing to reduce the amount of pesticides it uses?
Boise Parks and Recreation reduces the amount of pesticides applied by adhering to IPM practices.The 2020 Pesticide Reduction Pilot Program aimed at reducing chemical applications needed in city-owned parks and reserves. We identified nine parks and six special use locations as the original pilot sites and have since expanded the program to most parks without sports fields or large events. The program has been successful in reducing herbicide applications on broadleaf plants, increasing mowing height, and protecting native pollinator species.
What can I expect when visiting a site with reduced pesticide applications?
We are proud to provide safe, healthy, and enjoyable spaces for park visitors to enjoy. The Pesticide Reduction Program furthers our sustainability goal, while maintaining more than 1,600 acres of park land at a high quality.
Grass areas could have more dandelions, clover, and other broadleaf plants. These plants are nontoxic for people and pups, and these areas are completely safe for park visitors to enjoy as normal. Treatments help control the population of such plants at our park sites, but keep in mind that the Common Dandelion is one of the few endemic turf weeds that is native to North America. These broadleaf plants are beneficial to the local ecosystem providing food and habitat to native pollinators and adding to the biodiversity of our green spaces.
Additionally, untrimmed grass may be longer. Untrimmed areas and tree wells can have other plants fill in. Increasing the mowing height for turf improves the overall health of the grass and requires less maintenance resources, like mowing frequency and water.
What is next for the Pesticide Reduction Program?
This is the final year of the pilot phase of the Pesticide Reduction Program (2022). Boise Parks and Recreation will continue to evaluate maintenance techniques and improve practices to combat invasive plants and harmful insects in parks and reserves, while engaging citizens on the benefits of pesticide reduction. Following the summer growing season, Boise Parks and Recreation’s team will use pilot program data and community feedback to potentially implement policy changes that would take effect the next year (2023).
How can I reduce the number of pesticides I use at home?
When considering invasive species or pest management in your own garden, you will want to learn more about your garden’s characteristics and prepare for a multi-season approach. A soil test will help you understand some physical conditions that may affect your garden, like nutrient levels and soil pH. In addition, you will want to observe problem areas and begin to identify the cause of any issues you face. Consulting professionals at a local garden center can help you solve specific problems.
There are many resources for simple and effective ways to reduce the impacts of pests on your garden without the use of any chemicals. It should be noted that pest problems will most likely be encountered every year during every growing season. By creating an environment where your desired plants can thrive, you can reduce the impact of pests and tackle any problem with less invasive methods. For example, in a lawn setting, one of the easiest methods to help grass compete with invasive plants is to increase the height of your lawn to three or more inches. This method will increase the health of your grass while simultaneously reducing water requirements.
There are organic pest control products on the market with active ingredients that are either exempt from the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) under the minimum risk exemption regulation or are recommended by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). These products are generally believed to be less impactful to the environment, but keep in mind that they are still pesticides and can have negative effects if used incorrectly. Whenever making changes to pest control strategies at home, we recommend speaking with your local garden center.
Who can I talk to if I want more information about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the City of Boise?
For questions or concerns about current pest management practices or future goals, please feel free to contact staff below:
Horticulture Division Manager
Boise Parks and Recreation Department
Boise Parks and Recreation Department
Foothills Restoration Specialist
Boise Parks and Recreation Department
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For other after hours park related emergencies (i.e. irrigation issues, restrooms), please call (208) 489-6640.