California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision in the early 1980s to bomb California with malathion in an effort to defeat the Medfly derailed his career for a long time. Could a decision to systematically kill gypsy moths cause similar problems for Oregon’s Gov. Brown — Kate Brown, who will face voters next November?

The Associated Press reports that Oregon state agriculture officials want to spray about 8,000 acres in the Portland area next spring, adding that aerial spraying of a moth-killing insecticide — even though it’s a biological pesticide, not chemical — “has been controversial in the past.”

Asian gypsy moths are not a significant problem in Oregon or anywhere in the U.S., but agricultural officials worry that the insects could move in and cause real trouble if they’re not vigilant. Gypsy moths, which were introduced to the U.S. in the late 19th century, devour shrubs and trees, leading to a range of problems in forests. An infestation in the Northwest could lead to quarantines on Christmas trees and raw timber. The U.S. Forest Service calls the gypsy moth “one of North America’s most devastating forest pests.”

Washington state agriculture officials also are considering proposing an attack plan to stop gypsy moths. They want to spray a pesticide over 10,500 acres across seven sites in Western Washington, including a neighborhood in Seattle.

— Douglas Perry

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