SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is hosting a two-day training demonstrating eco-friendly pest management training for parks staff starting April 7th. The training includes a demonstration of predatory birds that can be helpful in controlling pests through the natural set-up of ecosystem in an urban environment. The demonstration is done through the partnership with Raptors Are The Solution (RATS).
“SF Rec and Park is proud of our hardworking park staff who are dedicated, creative, and passionate about our environment and park operation,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park General Manager. “We are excited about our partnership with Raptors Are The Solution finding innovative solution to pest management in our parks.”
Raptors Are The Solution (RATS), is a project of Earth Island Institute that educates people about the ecological role of raptors and the enormous danger to raptors and all wildlife, as well as pets and children, from the wide use and availability of rat poisons. RATS partners with other NGOs, agencies, scientists, municipalities, and others to work toward eliminating toxic rodenticides from the food web.
“If we let birds of prey do their job, San Francisco will have far less rodent pests. Combined with non-toxic control methods, we can keep the rat population down.” Said Lisa Owens Viani, Director for RAPTORS ARE THE SOLUTION
Recently, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation awarded the San Francisco Recreation and Park the annual Innovator Award for its integrated pest management. The award has highlighted the Department’s many creative solutions to pest management including its partnership with Raptors Are The Solutions (RATS), which helps cultivating the awareness of the importance of predatory birds and by protecting their presence in an urban environment, their natural role in the ecosystem can be significantly helpful to pest management in parks.
“The Innovator Award is the state’s highest honor for integrated pest management programs, and the Recreation & Parks Department deserves it many times over,” said Chris Geiger, Integrated Pest Management manager for the San Francisco Department of the Environment.
SF Rec and Park manages more than 220 parks and recreation facilities, over 4,000 acres of land, and with limited resources and staffing, the Department has been driven by an innovative approach including utilizing ecosystem-based management and biological controls toward pest management. By using proper prevention and eradication techniques, and pioneering the use of vermi-compost and teas derived from it in targeting pests in the City’s park system. The Department’s IPM specialists produce vermin-compost exclusively from recycled materials, such as nutrient-rich Duck Weed (lemna minior), sourced within the park system. Through data collection, lab tests and monitoring, the specialists have developed a quality control program and best practices for industrial scale vermi-composting with the goal of the completion adoption of organic solution for pest control throughout the entire park system. Another example of biological controls to manage pests is the collaboration between the Department and the California Department Fish and Wildlife, in this case, the partnership has eradicated the invasive African Clawed Frogs by adjusting the PH level in the water in Golden Gate Park’s Lily Pond.
In addition, the Department’s IPM specialists have been working closely with SF Department of Environment to facilitate a pesticide free golf course management in Sharp Park in order to protect the endangered California Red-legged frogs. The pesticide free management has been done by using innovative cultural control methods and organic materials such as compost tea, a turf pro-biotic, and iron treatments to control disease and weeds on the greens.
Moreover, to effectively control pest, especially a roach problem at the world renewed and historic Conservatory of Flowers located in Golden Gate Park, the Department has utilized a combination of innovative and traditional pest management techniques. First identified primary habitat and implemented sanitation and horticultural best practices to eliminate breeding habitat and stress population, then the Department’s IPM specialists manually removed roaches and ootheca with a HEPA filter vacuum, inspected plant material with water dipping technique that naturally separated oothea and plant materials. Finally, SF Rec and Park’s IPM specialists released roach predators, including lizards to monitor and spot treated the area. Similar method has employed at Golden Gate Park Nurseries using a combination of fungal inoculants, parasitoids, and general predators to manage pests like whiteflies. And in another incident, farm goats were transported and released in Glen Canyon Park to reduce weeds growth. Such method has eliminated the need for chemical pesticide application.
Through education and outreach in partnerships with other agencies, such as Project Coyote, Raptors Are The Solution (RATS), SF Animal Care and Control (SFACC), and more, SF Rec and Park is able to champion for the usage of natural methods to control the parks’ rodent populations. With these partnerships help the Department stewards and protects natural predators, such as coyotes, raptors, and herons as well as educate the general public to co-exist with wildlife and care for their habitat. These actions have resulted in an increase in raptors and coyotes and a reduction in rodent activity and rodenticide use.
Another successful education that advocate for water conservation and environmental sustainability for both within the Department and to the general public is the rebranding of “lawns” to “meadows” which allow wildflowers or “weeds” to grow. While many may desire uniformly green lawns, it is most sustainable to let weeds grow naturally as this solution has been proven to reduce the use of chemical herbicide and fertilizer as well as conserve water.