by Dr. Royce Keilers (Republished by permission of Show Daily Magazine,the comprehensive guide to the twice annual Antique Week in and around Warrenton, Texas.)
In the 1960s, Lady Bird Johnson reportedly said to John Connally, as they sat in their car under one of the giant live oak trees on the highway, that the beauty of State Highway 159 in Fayette County should never be destroyed. Her opinion was that Highway 159 is one of the most beautiful roads in Texas. One passing of TXDoT’s broadcast of poison has changed all that. Brown ugly limbs and swaths of dead grasses are now seen along many Texas highways.
Poisoning the beautiful highways throughout the state of Texas is leaving an ugly scar on our landscape. In the name of economy, TXDoT trucks are spraying thousands of gallons of herbicide, killing and disfiguring beautiful trees, vines, and shrubs. The poison affects grapes, dewberries, and other edibles that both humans and wildlife ingest. The wildflowers, of which we Texans are duly proud and which attract thousands of visitors annually, can be killed by spray drift. Clusters of dead birds and fish have been found in sprayed roadside areas.
TxDot claims that they cannot afford to spend funds on trimming. They further claim that esthetics must be sacrificeds because all TxDoT money is needed for paving. TxDoT claims that it costs thousands of dollars per mile to trim trees versus one hundred per mile to spray. It is hard to imagine that trimming is ten times costlier than spraying. One cannot help wondering whether this cost comparison includes the funds for specialized spraying equipment, on-going training, worker turnover, quality control oversight, and other hidden costs.
There is the matter of motorist safety. It has been stated that spraying is necessary in order to give a clear view of highway signs. However, the decay of sprayed obstructing branches requires years, and one can’t read the sign through dead limbs. The danger of limited visibility could be corrected immediately by a few minutes-or even seconds-of trimming. Should we wait years for the ugly dead branches to fall off-or be blown onto passing cars during a windstorm-before that sign warning of dangerous curves can be seen by the approaching motorist?
The chemical in question, aminopyralid, was banned in England after malformed vegetables grew from fields fertilized with the manure of cattle that had eaten grass from sprayed areas. Birds, rabbits, and other small animals use fence-line growth as homes and as covers to protect from predators. Organic farmers cannot grow chemical-free crops if runoff from roadways contaminates their fields, which may be rendered unusable for years. Rain from sprayed ditches runs onto our fields and pastures and into farm ponds. If this poison can deform vegetables, what could happen to our fish, frogs, and their affected food sources? This poisoning must be stopped before the damage done is irreparable.
The EPA says that this chemical is safe; however, in the past they also stated that many other poisons were safe. Despite aminopyralid’s current designation as a “green” chemical, in years to come it may be found to have caused problems unimagined at this time. Remember DDT? Chlordane? Agent Orange? An award-winning website, helpfulgardener.com, posts the following quote: “lf something is easy, it will usually have detrimental consequences .... So, my advice is to not use any poison at all as it will not only cause future ill effect on your soil and plant life but, also for you and your community.”
Herbicides used in a responsible manner can be beneficial to mankind in the proper circumstances, but irresponsible blanket spraying with thousands of gallons of this poison, as currently utilized by TXDOT, is harming Texas. It affects Texans, our wildlife, our vegetation, and ultimately those tourists that we hope to attract to beautiful rural Texas. Who want to look at dead roadsides?
Public opinion must prevail in making this issue known, by Texans and our visitors alike. Only by negative publicity and pressure on our elected officials can we stop this atrocity by TXDoT. Remember, this agency follows the directions of our state and local governments. We need the public to help spread the message and to influence your officials. Timing is critical, as poisoning continues even now!
(Dr. Royce Keilers a nationally known leader among osteopathic physicians has been advocating for the health and well being of Texans for many decades.)
Show Daily Magazine serves as a four color guide to the unbelievable number of antique related activities that take place in the vicinity of Warrenton and Round Top, Texas during the twice annual Antique Week. It is an indispensable guide to the show. Many thanks to them for allowing us to republish Dr. Keilers' article and to make it available to an audience beyond Antique Week.