City of Malibu

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The City of Malibu is looking to formally replace its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan with an Earth Friendly Management Policy (EFMP)—a more eco-friendly way of managing pests, applying science and pest monitoring that avoids pesticides and other chemicals. 

This comes after the city came under fire more than two years ago for killing weeds and pests with chemicals as well as trapping and euthanizing ground squirrels. At the time, it agreed to undergo a pilot program to eliminate these practices beginning June 2016; the study has finally come to completion. 

The proposed EFMP would eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers, organic or toxic chemical pesticides, irradiation, and genetically engineered products and ingredients, including fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and rodenticides.

It would also prohibit animal trapping of any kind, except for live-trapping inside buildings, as long as the animal is released unharmed outside into the nearest suitable habitat.

Even though the EFMP is written as a “policy,” the city’s planning department feels the state, under the California Environmental Quality Act, would consider it a “project” requiring a possible environmental review. According to Planning Director Bonnie Blue, CEQA “defines projects very broadly as any activity that could have a direct or indirect physical change on the environment … Since the way the city deals with pests can have a physical effect on the environment, we prepared an initial study.” 

The city plans to apply for an exemption from environmental review by submitting a detailed “Mitigated Negative Declaration” to the state explaining why the project will not significantly affect the environment. As part of that process, a public review period is required—the public is being asked to submit comments up until the June 4 deadline.

Joel and Kian Schulman of Poison Free Malibu said in an email to The Malibu Times that they “had never heard of an EIR [Environmental Impact Report] being done for Integrated Pest Management policies.”

The city’s two-year pilot study focused on the most environmentally friendly type of pest management at City Council’s request. 

City officials are considering a number of strategies for combating “pest” plants and animals in a natural way, including hand-weeding, overseeding, solarization, mulch, companion crops, elimination of pest habitats, encouragement of natural predators with raptor poles and owl nesting boxes, sanitation, and litter and trash maintenance.

All city properties would be affected by the proposed EFMP, including Malibu Bluffs Park, Trancas Park, Malibu Equestrian Park, Las Flores Creek Park, Legacy Park, City Hall, the Pacific Coast Highway median between Webb Way and Cross Creek Road, Civic Center/Malibu Canyon Road triangle planter, John Tyler Drive median from PCH to Pepperdine entrance, Civic Center Wastewater Treatment Facility and Super Care Drugs/Malibu Medical.

The city’s original IPM policy, adopted in 2013, was supposed to “reduce or eliminate the use of pesticide when reasonable.” The definition of “reasonable” meant different things to different people. 

Reports and photos of contractors wearing hazmat suits to spray chemicals in Legacy Park caused uproar in the community in 2016. So did the City of Malibu Parks and Recreation Commission’s admission that it was trapping and euthanizing ground squirrels at Bluffs Park.

As a result, the commission recommended the council implement a pilot program to completely eliminate the use of pesticides at Legacy Park, Las Flores Creek Park and the Equestrian Park, with the goal of having all city parks become pesticide?free. 

Council adopted the pilot program and the EFMP name with the goal of eliminating the use of all chemical pesticides as well as animal trapping on city-owned parks, roads and property following the practices that had been outlined in a policy drafted by Poison Free Malibu.

Public agencies and interested members of the public can review and comment on the city’s CEQA document and offer expertise, analysis, comments on accuracy or omissions, concerns or counter-proposals. The document can be reviewed online at malibucity.org

Comments should be emailed to the Planning Department at bblue@malibucity.org by 5:30 p.m. on June 4.

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