In order to be used in Wisconsin, an aquatic herbicide must be all of the following:
1) Labeled and registered with U.S. EPA’s office of Pesticide Programs;
2) Registered for sale and use by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP);
3) Permitted by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR); and
4) Applied by a DATCP-certified and licensed applicator, with few exceptions.
Step 1) U.S. EPA’s office of Pesticide Programs reviews the chemical and label.
Federal law requires herbicides to be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they can be sold or used. The registration process determines potential risk to human health and the environment. The human health assessment includes sensitive groups such as infants, and risk is evaluated for both short-term and chronic effects. Ultimately, the EPA registers the herbicide if it determines that use of the pesticide will result in "no unreasonable adverse effects" as defined in federal law. This means that the benefits of using the pesticide according to the label outweigh the risks. Once an herbicide is registered, it is re-assessed by EPA every fifteen years.
Step 2) Herbicides must be registered by DATCP prior to sale or use in Wisconsin.
Most EPA-registered herbicide products are eligible to be registered for sale and use in Wisconsin by DATCP-licensed manufacturers and labelers. DATCP will not register an herbicide for use if it is prohibited for sale, use or distribution in Wisconsin, even if it is registered by EPA.
Step 3) DNR evaluates requests for use of chemicals in public waters when a permit application is submitted.
When making a decision whether or not to issue a permit, the Department considers the appropriateness of the herbicide selected at the site, the likely non-target organism effects, the potential for adverse effects on the water body, as well as the potential hazard to humans. DNR may then issue the permit, issue the permit with conditions, or deny the permit. Permit conditions are frequently used to make sure that the herbicide is used responsibly and in accordance with best management practices for the plant being managed.
Step 4) Applied by a certified applicator.
Most herbicide applications to water bodies in Wisconsin must be done by certified applicators. To become certified, an individual must complete a training course and pass a written exam. Businesses that provide herbicide application services must also be licensed by DATCP. A certified applicator is not needed only if the treatment area is less than ¼ acre in size and the product being applied is a granular herbicide.
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Aquatic herbicides are used to reduce the abundance of invasive species to reduce spread to new water bodies, to help maintain a healthy native plant community that is beneficial for fish and other aquatic organisms, to improve navigational access to lakes and rivers and make boat navigation safer, and to control nuisance plant and algae growth that can pose a hazard to swimmers.
Frequently Asked Questions about Aquatic Herbicide Use in Wisconsin
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What does the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources do to minimize herbicide use and ensure that herbicides are used responsibly?
Why are herbicides used in Wisconsin lakes and rivers?
How is aquatic herbicideuse regulated in Wisconsin?
The Department of Natural Resources evaluates the benefits of using a particular chemical at a specific site vs. the risk to non-target organisms, including threatened or endangered species, and may stop or limit treatments to protect them. The Department frequently places conditions on a permit to require that a minimal amount of herbicide is needed and to reduce potential non-target effects, in accordance with best management practices for the species being controlled. For example, certain herbicide treatments are required by permit conditions to be in spring because they are more effective, require less herbicide and reduce harm to native plant species. Spring treatments also means that, in most cases, the herbicide will be degraded by the time peak recreation on the water starts.
The DNR encourages minimal herbicide use by requiring a strategic Aquatic Plant Management (APM) Plan for management projects over 10 acres or 10% of the water body or any projects receiving state grants. DNR also requires consideration of alternative management strategies and integrated management strategies on permit applications and in developing an APM plan, when funding invasive species prevention efforts, and by encouraging the use of best management practices when issuing a permit.
The Department also supervises treatments, requires that adjacent landowners are notified of a treatment and have an opportunity to request a public meeting, requires that the water body is posted to notify the public of treatment and usage restrictions, and requires reporting after treatment occurs.