The Bureau of Land Management Investigates Applebee Aviation Aerial Spraying Violations

October 28, 2015

On 10/27/2015, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) published an article by reporter Tony Schick entitled BLM Investigates After Company Sprays Pesticide on Public Land Without License. As noted by Schick,

"The case of Applebee Aviation, a relatively small operation, shows how companies with a history of violations can continue to win government contracts, despite safeguards intended to prevent 'bad actors' from working on public land...Since 2010, state and federal agencies awarded Applebee Aviation more than $1 million in contracts to apply fertilizer and pesticides on public land in Oregon and Washington. During that same span, Applebee Aviation tallied more complaints, violations and vehicle crashes than any other aerial pesticide operator in Oregon, according to state and federal records."

Government contracts awarded to Applebee Aviation include:

  • $195,000 awarded by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the past 6 years
  • Nearly $1 million for aerial herbicide spraying from the Washington Department of Natural Resources over the past six years
  • Two contracts worth nearly $50,000 awarded by the Oregon Department of Forestry in 2015

A legal declaration submitted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture Program Manager, Dale Mitchell, for Washington County court hearing which was cited in the OPB article (see footnote 3) revealed that following the 9/25/15 suspension of Applebee Aviation's commercial license, the company continued to apply pesticides on government land. On 9/26/15, the day following the revocation, Applebee Aviation sprayed pesticides on Oregon Forestry Land in Astoria then on 10/1/15 and 10/2/15 the company sprayed pesticides on BLM land in Lake County, Oregon.

According to Mitchell's declaration on 9/29/15 Michael Applebee presented unannounced at the ODA and asked for an exception. "Applebee stated that the BLM contract was a 3 million dollar contract and that it would cause Applebee Aviation substantial harm if Applebee Aviation could not fulfill the BLM contract." Though Applebee's request for a reinstatement of his license was denied, several days later Applebee Aviation proceeded to spray pesticides on BLM land. During a 10/8/15 meeting with Mitchell, Applebee reportedly stated that "Applebee himself was the only person authorized to halt operations."

Thankfully the ODA moved forward with a restraining order in conjunction with a $40,000 fine. Per Mitchell, "Defendants' act of performing pesticide application activities without a pesticide operators license poses a serious danger to the public health and safety... the Defendants' deliberate violation of the State Pesticide Control Act and an ODA order sends a dangerous message to other pesticide operators that monetary gain is more important than complying with the law."

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