Poison-Free Santa Monica Mountains?

Malibu City Council’s anticoagulant rodenticide ban

By Sam Catanzaro

Following a string of mountain lion deaths at the hand of rat poison, a large portion of the Santa Monica Mountains may soon be poison-free after Malibu lawmakers banned anticoagulant rodenticides in the face of a state law prohibiting them from doing so.

At a meeting last month, Malibu City Council voted unanimously to amend the city’s Land Use Plan to include the prohibition of pesticides, including anticoagulant rodenticides (rat poison).

According to a recent study, 17 of 18 local mountain lions had rat poison compounds in their system. In September, two GPS-tracked mountain lions were found dead due to anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning.

Many of the pesticides included in the Malibu ban are already prohibited in the Santa Monica Mountains on land under Los Angeles County jurisdiction. For years, however, activists led by Poison Free Malibu have been fighting for the ban of rat poison in the heavily populated Coastal Zone of the Santa Monica Mountains within the city of Malibu.

Before it can take effect, Malibu’s ban must first survive a likely legal battle. California state law prohibits cities from banning such pesticides but environmental attorneys representing organizations fighting for the ban say that the Coastal Act gives cities the right to ban pesticides within the Coastal Zone. Despite Coastal Act protections, Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin said at the December meeting that the move may attract legal challenges from pesticide companies. Concern over lawsuits forced an earlier Malibu City Council to delay enacting a citywide prohibition on pesticides, choosing instead to limit the ban to public parks and buildings. Now, however, city leaders are ready to face potential legal action.

“This has to happen,” said Malibu City Councilmember Mikke Pierson speaking at the December meeting. “If it ends up in some sort of lawsuit or whatever, let’s go there because this is so immoral.”

At the state level, a bill is moving through the legislature that would ban the use of any pesticide or rodenticide for the eradication of nonnative invasive species in California. The bill, AB1788, would abolish the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides in California, with exceptions for agricultural activities, while also banning first-generation anticoagulant rodenticides on state-owned lands.

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