Plans to plant trees around schools 'just a PR stunt'

Steve Sharratt
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Earth Action co-ordinator Sharon Labchuk says a Potato Board plan to plant trees around Island schools to block pesticide spray, including here at at Donagh regional, is nothing but an opportunistic stunt.


Sharon Labchuk challenges effectiveness of plan by P.E.I. Potato Board

DONAGH - A plan to plant trees around Island schools to block pesticide spray is nothing but a public relations stunt using children as pawns, says an outspoken P.E.I. environmentalist. 

Sharon Labchuk challenges the effectiveness of a plan by the P.E.I. Potato Board to plant trees as a way of protecting students from pesticide sprays on nearby farm land. 

“It’s nothing but a scheme and a stunt because there is no evidence that planting a strip of trees between schools and potato fields will lessen the damaging impact of agricultural pesticides on children’s health,” said Labchuk. 

“It’s an opportunistic public relations stunt using children as pawns.”

Labchuk’s Earth Action produced a report almost 20 years ago documenting the proximity of schools to sprayed agricultural fields and found that 80 per cent of rural children attended schools within one-and-a-half kilometres of sprayed fields.

“Nothing has changed,’’ she says, pointing to an aerial map of Donagh regional school in eastern P.E.I., which shows the school surrounded by fields on three sides.

It’s not the only school either. 

Earth Action claims schools should not be anywhere near agricultural fields.

The P.E.I. Potato Board is undertaking the tree-planting effort in conjunction with the he P.E.I. Watershed Alliance and the Department of Agriculture.

“We initiated a conversation with provincial environment staff about ways we could support planting trees in green spaces around Island schools,” said potato board manager Greg Donald. “We see the benefit for enhanced green spaces between school grounds and adjacent properties, including agricultural land. Our next step will be to approach the schools to see if they’d like to participate this spring.”

Donald said the board was not seeking any publicity and is surprised that Earth Action is opposed to their plan. 

Labchuk says it is a myth that planting trees and buffer zones make a difference.

“The sheer intensity of pesticide use in P.E.I. means children are exposed to highly dangerous chemicals simply by breathing. No strip of trees is going to change that,” she said.

Donagh principal Jason Kielly said the tree boundary at the school offers protection from wind and spray.

“A couple of years ago our home and school planted more trees to act as a wind barrier in the cold winter months,” he said. “Up to this point in time I haven’t had any parents inquire about the field or spraying of crops.”

Organizations: P.E.I. Potato Board, Donagh regional school, P.E.I. Watershed Alliance Department of Agriculture

Geographic location: Iceland

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Recent comments

    March 24, 2016 - 08:37

    The Province should have planted lots of trees the minute the school was finished, and more after,as they do in civilized societies. However since they did not, the Potato Board is to be applauded for doing it. As stated in todays Guest Opinion, lots of good things comes from planting trees where ever possible. So go to it, - the sooner the better.

  • April
    March 20, 2016 - 19:18

    Unfortunately it's really hard to take anything serious that Labchuck says. If Labchuck really cares about the environment she should stop being an eviromentalist or at least stop being the member of the group that speaks to the public. I'm sure I'm not the only one rolling their eyes when they see her.

  • Trees are progress
    March 19, 2016 - 17:26

    It's pathetic that Labchuck some how has twisted the good efforts of local farmers planting trees at their children's schools into a negative story?!?! She is doing a great job for earth action... "Hey let's stop these farmers from planting trees at elementary schools" says Labchuck!

  • david
    March 19, 2016 - 15:23

    Why would a group called Earth Action be opposed to plating more trees. Labchuck needs to look at the her own group and why it exists if it is opposed to planting more trees. Everyone knows planting trees is good for the environment and the air quality. Any credibility this group or woman had is gone now that they are opposed to planting trees. Unbelievable that any environmental group would be opposed to planting trees no matter what the reason. Disgusting!!!

    • Oliver Oak
      March 19, 2016 - 21:12

      Earth Action never said it was against planting trees. It isn't. It's against this publicity stunt that distracts from the very real problems of our air contamination due to pesticide spraying. Deal with the issue in a real and effective manner.

  • Oberst
    March 19, 2016 - 14:34

    If it was not for the backward thinking, that has been prevalent about planting schools out in no where, in order that nobody got the benefit of being close to a school, schools would have sensibly been located within towns and build up areas. But no, there they sit on the midle of fields. Further it should be a given that schools, should be properly landscaped and wind belts planted around them, as soonas they are build. More backward thinking. Honestly, one wonders about 'thinking' at all by anybody in charge, politicians and bureaucrats alike. Has anybody got any vision at all, or is it just -go to work, sit there from 9 to 5 and collect the pay. Take the collection of support payments, - 19 people in the division,headed by a highly paid lawyer no less, and they can't get their act together. Would love to know if there is political interference there, or are they just dense.

  • Smarter than that...
    March 19, 2016 - 08:51

    Labchuck is right, what a joke. Who thought this little stunt up? Some PR flack in Environment? Waste of time and resources... Sure, trees are nice, plant some, they provide good services and make things look better, but don't bother trying to fool the rest of us please... Labchuck called it and the PEI Potato Board should be ashamed for failing to address the real problem: too much poison being sprayed around children. I mean children... yes.... those little people who have no say that are exposed to potato poisons. Disgraceful move...

    • Headshaker
      March 19, 2016 - 15:03

      What resources? Any idiot can plant a tree.