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Town of Vail fights for Colorado to allow local control over pesticides

The town wrote a letter to its state legislators, arguing the control is critical to its Gore Creek restoration efforts

The town of Vail is urging Colorado legislators to allow local governments to provide more stringent regulations on pesticides, citing how critical this would be to restoring Gore Creek.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

The town of Vail is hoping Colorado legislators will push through a bill allowing for local control of pesticides.

“I wish to express our support for HB 24-1178, to restore limited local authority to regulate landscaping chemicals,” wrote Vail Mayor Travis Coggin in a March 25 addressed to Sen. Dylan Roberts.  

“Our small mountain community, surrounded by two of America’s most spectacular wilderness areas, has been impacted by overuse and misuse of landscaping chemicals, including the neonicotinoid insecticides this bill proposes to reclassify.”



Current state law prohibits local governments from creating their own regulations around pesticides. The state preemption means that towns and counties cannot adopt pesticide regulations that are more stringent than the state or federal regulations.

is the latest attempt to change the state law. Last year, the Colorado Pesticide Applicators’ Act was sunsetting. In the 2023 legislative process, certain organizations and municipalities 鈥 including the town of Vail 鈥 were advocating for lawmakers to lift the preemption as part of the bill. However, these attempts were unsuccessful and the act passed without lifting the ban.

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This year, the issue is coming as a standalone bill, which if passed would allow “local governments to create and enforce laws regulating the sale or use of pesticides to protect the health and safety of the community with certain exceptions,” according to the .

According to the current bill text, local governments would still be prohibited from limiting the use of pesticides for certain uses including the production of agricultural products; for accomplishing dry-up, revegetation or noxious weed management in land enrolled in water conservation programs or land from which water irrigation is removed; for public utility property; for water supply and distribution operation and maintenance; or the cultivation of marijuana; and more.

The bill also creates guidelines for what kinds of rules and regulations could be implemented.

The bill was introduced to the House Energy and Environment Committee on Feb. 1. Ultimately, it was passed with no revisions through appropriations and to the House floor. 

In early March, Rep. Meghan Lukens told Vail Town Council that she expected the bill to be “somewhat controversial” as it hits the floor, citing having heard both support and disapproval from those in her jurisdiction.

Gore Creek

The town’s interest in this bill is rooted in Gore Creek’s presence on the state’s list of impaired waterways.

Through Vail’s “Restore the Gore” efforts, the town has attempted education and outreach efforts, eliminating foliar-applied pesticides from its own landscaping practices and restoring its riparian habitat and water quality infrastructure. Yet, still, the creek remains defined as “impaired.”


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“We’ve spent millions of dollars over the past decade trying to get Gore Creek off the 303(d) list,” said Vail Council member Jonathan Staufer at the March 7 meeting with Roberts and Lukens. “We don’t think we can get further with that without being able to regulate pesticide use.”

In the letter to Roberts, Coggin wrote that a 2009 to 2016 study from the town, Eagle River & Sanitation District and other partners “attributed declines in aquatic insect life in Gore Creek in part to the overuse and misuse of ‘pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers,’ in our community.”

In August 2024, Peter Wadden, the town’s watershed health specialist, reported that he felt pesticides were the one thing the town could control that continues to cause problems in Gore Creek. Wadden has been advocating at the state capital for the passage of the latest House bill.

Eliminating pesticides 鈥 at least within 100 feet of the creek bed 鈥 is the leading thing that could have the biggest positive impact on the stream health in town, Wadden reported to the council last summer.

Wadden says this is evidenced by a turnaround in one of Gore Creek’s tributaries, Red Sandstone Creek. Red Sandstone previously had the same impairments as Gore Creek but has seen greater improvement, which he attributes to the use of pesticides being eliminated from two large properties along the creek.

Still in its letter, the town acknowledges that “the use of appropriately applied chemicals in the management of our landscaping is a necessary tool in the control of invasive and deleterious species,” but reiterates that this must be balanced with the potential harm the chemicals can cause.

The National Institute of Health  that “pesticides can contaminate soil, water, turf and other vegetation,” which can have widespread impacts on the ecosystem.

“In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and non-target plants,” the institute states, adding that treated plants and soil can lead to pesticide runoff in surface water.

When the government began regulating these chemicals in the 1970s, this included the creation of certifications to allow certain professions to use certain chemicals (but not the general public), and laws around labels for chemicals including ratings for where and by whom they could be used.

“We urge the legislature to take this opportunity to empower communities like ours to be good stewards of our economies and ecosystems through thoughtful, scientifically sound, local regulation of landscaping chemicals,” wrote Coggin.


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