On Nov. 4, Qgunquit residents voted to ban the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers on private property, except in emergency situations. The ordinance takes effect this January.

The Portland Press Herald reported, “In 2009, Ogunquit voters approved an ordinance that prohibited the use of synthetic pesticides on public land. The new ordinance prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, except in emergency situations.”

The Maine Board of Pesticides Control reported that “24 municipalities in Maine have adopted some type of ordinance that regulates the use of pesticides, but Ogunquit is the only town to extend a ban to private property.”

I want to congratulate the voters of Ogunquit for taking a stand against pesticides. I would also like to point out that it is already later than we think.

Rumors have long been swirling that the bee population is reportedly declining at an alarming rate in this country. Studies show that bees with their infallible sense of direction become disoriented and never return to the hive when exposed to plants treated with neonicotinoid-type pesticides, such as the recently EPA-approved sulfoxaflor.

Neonicotinoids may interfere with bees’ natural homing abilities causing them to become disoriented and preventing them from finding their way back to the hive. Neonicotinoids have been banned in some countries.

Monarch butterflies are disappearing because the larvae cannot find enough of the milk thistle plant they need to feed on, which disappeared coincidentally with increased applications of Roundup pesticide.

Soybeans and corn have been genetically modified to be better able to tolerate greater amounts of pesticides with unknown effects on human health, such as the recently EPA-approved Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist, reportedly a new version of the 2,4-D herbicide (one of the ingredients in Agent Orange) from the 1940s, to enhance “the Roundup Ready® system” available at www.enlist.com.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Colony Collapse Disorder is a serious problem threatening the health of honey bees and the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in the United States. Despite a number of claims in the general and scientific media, a cause or causes of CCD have not been identified by researchers.”

Many environmental watchdog groups point to pesticides as the main culprit of the bee decline. According to a group of environmental protection lawyers called Earthjustice, “Bee populations are plummeting. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency recently sided with Dow AgroSciences to approve a new, highly toxic bee-killing pesticide called sulfoxaflor that is so toxic to bees, it requires a three-day waiting period between applications to plants. The comment period to the EPA is now closed. Earthjustice is asking the public to send letters asking the EPA to rescind its decision and deny the expanded usage of sulfoxaflor.”

Earthjustice’s California office has joined with beekeepers across the country in waging an emergency battle in the courts to ensure that sulfoxaflor does not become the “final straw” for bees. Earthjustice is asking for the public’s support in the fight to save bee colonies from extinction by contacting the EPA at www.earthjustice.org/action. Click on the link in the middle of the page: Save bees from a highly toxic pesticide.

From an article by Liza Gross that appeared in The New York Times on Nov. 17, “Less than 20 years ago, a billion butterflies from east of the Rocky Mountains reached the oyamel firs, and more than a million western monarchs migrated to the California coast to winter among its firs and eucalypts. Since then, the numbers have dropped by more than 90 percent, hitting a record low in Mexico last year after a three-year tailspin.

“In recent years, amateur conservationists have sought to replenish drastic declines in milkweed, the only plant female monarchs lay eggs on. But the most widely available milkweed for planting, the scientists say, is an exotic species called tropical milkweed ”“ not the native species with which the butterflies evolved. That may lead to unseasonal breeding putting monarchs at higher risk of disease and reproductive failure.

“Nearly 60 percent of native Midwestern milkweeds vanished between 1999 and 2009, the biologists Karen Oberhauser and John Pleasants reported in 2012 in the Journal of Insect Conservation and Diversity. The loss coincided with increased applications of the weed killer Roundup on expanded plantings of corn and soybeans genetically altered to tolerate the herbicide. Meanwhile, monarch reproduction in the Midwest dropped more than 80 percent, as did populations in Mexico.”

In conclusion, the EPA is responsible for monitoring the effects of pesticides on the environment. If we heed the warnings of the watchdog groups that monitor the EPA, we are losing our bees and butterflies to pesticides, and even our frogs are disappearing due to pesticide-laden water runoff. We must hold the EPA accountable as the evidence points to the widespread use of pesticides as destroying our delicate ecosystem. With billions of dollars of profits at stake, there is a conflict of interest with the chemical giants, the EPA, and the public they are supposed to serve. We must contact our elected officials and align ourselves with environmental protection groups, such as Earthjustice, whose motto is “because the earth needs a good lawyer,” to monitor the powerful chemical companies whose drive for huge profits is undermining our fragile environment.

— Val Philbrick works in the production department of the Journal Tribune as a pre-press person. She is a member of PETA and the Humane Society of the United States.