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State Won’t Spray Malathion on Kangaroo Rats’ Home Turf

April 28, 1990

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) _ Opponents of aerial spraying against the Medfly are angry over a state decision to ban spraying in an area where the endangered kangaroo rat roams.

″This says to me that kangaroo rats are more important than humans,″ said Adelaide Nimitz of Burbank, who heads a group called Families Opposed to Chemical Urban Spraying.

The decision marked the second time this year the state has granted an exemption from the malathion spraying program that some people fear poses health hazards to humans.

Three months ago, state agricultural officials angered Orange County residents by ordering helicopters to spray around the Rev. Robert H. Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove because of an outdoor event, attended by several thousand guests, that coincided with the spraying.

After the outcry, the state pledged to stop issuing exemptions - until the kangaroo rat matter came up.

State officials say federal law protecting endangered species left them no choice but to avoid spraying areas where the rat lives. The kangaraoo rat is a small, long-legged desert rodent known for its jumping ability.

″This is a whole different thing,″ said Pat Minyard, deputy director of the Medfly Project in El Monte. ″There’s a radical difference between doing something to be nice guys as in the case of Crystal Cathedral and doing something because of the law.″

The exemption affects a 5-square-mile area where the rats live within a 19- square-mile Medfly spraying zone near Woodcrest and March Air Force Base.

″I’m just appalled to think that rats have more rights in the state’s eyes than I do or my children,″ said Garden Grove anti-malathion activist Mollie Haines.

Malathion has been sprayed for months over a wide area of Los Angeles County. Recent Medfly discoveries in Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties prompted officials to widen spraying zones.

Mediterranean fruit flies are under attack because they threaten the state’s multibillion dollar farm economy.

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