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Forestry Pesticide Applicators' Toolbox

Wisconsin DNR developed the following guidance and resources for terrestrial pesticide use on state owned or managed land and for the MFL certified group. Most of the concepts and links should be equally useful for SAF foresters throughout Wisconsin.


Pesticide Applicator Training Policy

Based on guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and DNR's policy in Manual Code 4230.1:

Use pesticides only after receiving appropriate training or commercial (not for hire) applicator certification and licensing from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Certification must be current. The following pesticide-use training guidelines apply:

  1. Restricted use pesticides can only be applied by DATCP certified personnel with training in a relevant commercial applicator category.
  2. Pesticide application in aquatic environments requires DATCP training certification.[1]
  3. Except for applications in aquatic environments, DNR staff (including volunteers) may apply general use pesticides on DNR land even though they are not DATCP certified, but they must be working under direction of someone who is. The certified personnel should be aware of the pesticide use but does not need to be in work status at the time of the application or be present at the site of the application. Designated certified personnel are responsible for assuring that general use pesticide applicators are given instructions for responsible and safe usage, clean-up and storage procedures, including necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  4. Wisconsin DNR staff may provide information and prescribe products consistent with pesticide labels to others including private landowners even if the DNR staff have not received DATCP pesticide certification.
  5. DNR staff that direct actual pesticide application on non-DNR land (e.g. applying product or requiring someone to use a specific product for cost-sharing approval) must be DATCP certified even for general use products.
  6. State regulations also require that pesticide applicators be DATCP certified if they apply or direct the use of pesticides on a for-hire basis, pesticides in public schools or on school grounds, or pesticides that contain metam sodium.


Minimizing Use of Pesticides

DNR personnel should:

  • Integrate physical or biological methods into control programs wherever practical to minimize chemical use.
  • Choose non-chemical controls whenever practical.
  • Select the least hazardous chemical whenever two or more would be effective and non-chemical alternatives are not practical.
  • If a product label allows for lower concentrations, use the least amount of pesticide that is effective in the applicable situation.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs should also encourage practices that prevent or avoid pest occurrence where practical. Alternatives to chemical pest control and prevention or avoidance techniques are available in handbooks (such as the DNR Silviculture Handbook) and through Internet search tools. A couple Internet examples:

FSC Prohibited Pesticide Considerations

Other than intensive use properties like forest nurseries, fish hatcheries, share crop fields, boat landings, communications tower sites and administrative facilities, most DNR owned and managed land participates in third-party forest certification. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is one of the independent standards Wisconsin DNR is certified to. Accordingly, DNR land managers need to be aware that FSC classifies some pesticides "highly hazardous" due to concern over environmental persistence or impacts on non-target species. Although some FSC "highly hazardous" pesticides may be legal to use in Wisconsin (including a number of general use products that are readily available in retail outlets and restricted-use products available to licensed applicators), FSC-listed pesticides shall not be prescribed or applied on FSC certified DNR lands or Managed Forest Law Group land that is FSC certified. An exception allowing use on certified land would be available only if DNR received an FSC-approved derogation. Intensive use areas like nurseries and fish hatcheries that are not FSC certified need not be concerned with the FSC-prohibited chemical list.

Knowing what commercial products contain FSC-banned chemicals can be challenging. You can use a web database provided by the Pesticide Action Network of North America to determine if any products you are considering are affected.

To use this tool:

  1. Enter the chemical name (copy and paste from the FSC list) and click "search"
  2. Under the chemical name, click "Details"
  3. On the new page, scroll down to "View U.S. Products" (but first click the button for "currently registered products"). You'll be presented with all the trade name products in the US market that contain the chemical.

You can also search on the trade name of a product as it appears on a commercial package and check to see if it contains any of the FSC prohibited chemicals.

You can also search for approved pesticides in the state by pesticide name, active ingredient, pest, and other means.

Handling, Storage and Disposal of Pesticides

  1. According to federal regulations, the pesticide label is the law in which to follow for the proper use of each product. 
  2. Substitute low hazard materials whenever possible.
  3. Obtain pesticides only in quantities necessary for planned activities in order to minimize the amount and duration of storage. DNR may contract for services in lieu of staff use/storage whenever practical.
  4. Protect original labels on the container from damage or destruction and keep them in readable condition. Identify date of purchase, ownership, and if pertinent, date of repackaging.
  5. Store materials appropriately (a) to prevent hazard to persons, property and wildlife, including during accidental spillage; and (b) at locations that are secure from access by children or the general public.
  6. Separate pesticide storage areas adequately from food, feed, seed, drugs, plants, and other materials so as to prevent contamination through volatilization, spills, or other causes. Any outdoor storage must be within a fenced or walled enclosure.
  7. Store, use, and clean up materials in compliance with instructions on the product label and the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Extremely hazardous substances, as identified by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (also known as EPCRA), should not be stored in quantities above the threshold planning quantity. A list of extremely hazardous substances and threshold planning quantities can be found on the EPA Emergency Planning Website.
  8. Container rinsate must be applied or disposed according to label directions.
  9. Obtain water for application equipment in a manner that fully protects the source from backflow, back-siphoning, overflow, leakage, spillage or any potential route of contamination.
  10. Inform any employee involved in usage, storage, or clean up of these materials regarding the safety instructions and precautions. Furnish appropriate personal protective equipment for these activities.
  11. Pesticides should not be stored for more than one year, unless it can be shown from the Annual DNR Pesticide Inventory (4200-007) that the pesticide is being used.
  12. Department generated hazardous waste must be stored, treated or disposed of through the Department of Administration Statewide Hazardous Waste Contract at licensed hazardous waste facilities. See MC 4831.1

Worker Protection Guidelines

Pesticide Use Approval

All chemical treatment projects must be reviewed by technical and administrative personnel prior to application of the chemical. [Note: The DNR approval process has been omitted here.]

Recordkeeping Requirements

As required in Manual Code 4230.1, ALL pesticide use on DNR lands (or by DNR staff) must be reported. An online chemical use report form is available at: [DNR link omitted here, but everyone applying pesticides should keep a record of use. DATCP provides a useful record form here.]

Pesticide Certification and Licensing

Anyone in the state must be certified if they apply or direct the use of:

  • restricted-use pesticides
  • pesticides on a for-hire basis
  • pesticides in public schools or on school grounds
  • pesticides that contain metam sodium
  • pesticides in aquatic environments

Wisconsin requires licenses or certification to be held by commercial or private pesticide applicators, pesticide application businesses or pesticide dealers that sell restricted-use pesticides. All pesticides sold and used in Wisconsin must be licensed. Certification options are administered by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Applicators become certified by taking an exam after receiving Pesticide Applicator Training. Most DNR employees get one or more of the following certifications:
Aquatic Control of algae, plants, insects, shellfish, fish, and fish parasites in waters of the state (such as lakes, rivers, marshes, and ponds but not sewers, swimming pools, water treatment plants, cooling towers, or water tanks for potable water supplies); Adult and larva mosquito control in both aquatic and terrestrial sites.
Forestry Forest Nurseries or Forests and Wild lands (including grasslands and prairies that are not part of developed residential/commercial land)
Right-of-way Vegetation management along roadsides, fire lanes, pipelines, railways, runways; under powerlines & around power stations; along stream banks or drainage ditches to water's edge (or entire drainage ditch when dry); Nature/hiking trails;         Nonselective weed control in right-of-way sites that do not cross property lines (e.g., substations, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways), or to prepare ground at such sites for blacktop or sidewalks, or selective or nonselective control in median strips;         Nonselective weed control in non-landscape industrial settings (e.g., lumberyards)
Turf and Landscape Residential/commercial prairie/grassland; Non-forested parts of campgrounds, parks; Trails through turf/ornamental areas; Selective or nonselective weed control in any landscape (including fence lines) more than 10 feet from a structure; Nonselective weed control within 10 feet of a structure to remove habitat for structural pests; Nonselective weed control in right-of-way sites that do not cross property lines (e.g., substations, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways), or to prepare ground at such sites for blacktop or sidewalks, or selective or nonselective control in median strips.

University of Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Training

The University of Wisconsin offers Pesticide Applicator Training (PAT) through its Internet site. You can find out which PAT category is best for you, download training manuals, register for courses, watch videos, etc.

Rare or Endangered Species Considerations

Federal and state listed endangered, threatened and special concern species must be protected from pesticide use. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA's Endangered Species Pesticide Program  continues to develop its national program to protect federally endangered and threatened species from pesticide harm while minimizing the economic impact to pesticide users.  In general, endangered (includes threatened) species are considered within the risk assessments performed on pesticides before they are registered.
Where harm from a pesticide cannot be mitigated within the formulation or label instructions, a reference to endangered species will appear on the label.  The user then needs to obtain the bulletin for the county he/she is operating in, if such a bulletin exists, and follow the use limitations for products that might harm the species.  A map will indicate the areas that need protection.
In Wisconsin DATCP's Endangered Species Habitat Program operates as an information and negotiation arm to these laws that protect endangered and threatened species and regulate pesticide (including herbicide) uses in Wisconsin.  Pesticide users may receive help with treatment locations, product planning, site and species monitoring, etc. 
Questions: Contact DATCP at 608-224-4538 or
WI endangered species laws treat plants and animals differently, and for plants, deal with public and private lands differently. In general you may not "take" (including kill) a state endangered or threatened animal anywhere in the state, or an endangered or threatened plant on public lands, depending on the activity involved. See the detailed laws below:
To determine if state endangered or threatened species are known on the land on which pesticides are to be applied, consult the WI Natural Heritage Inventory
Contact DNR's NHI at 608-264-6057 or
Federally Listed (Endangered and Threatened) Species in WI

Canada lynx (T)
Dwarf lake iris (T)
Eastern massassauga rattlesnake (C)
Eastern prairie fringed orchid (T)
Fassett's locoweed (T)
Gray Wolf (T?)
Hine's emerald dragonfly (E)
Higgins' eye pearly mussel (E)
Karner blue butterfly (E)
Kirtland's Warbler (E)
Mead's milkweed (T)
Northern wild monkshood (T)
Piping Plover (E)
Pitcher's thistle (= dune thistle) (T)
Prairie bush clover (T)
Sheepnose mussel (C)
Spectaclecase mussel (C)
Whooping Crane (proposed T)
Winged mapleleaf mussel (E)

How to protect rare or endangered species from pesticide injury

The best way to protect endangered and threatened species from herbicide and other pesticide harm is to:

  1. Apply according to the pesticide label.
  2. Allow a non-treatment barrier between listed species habitats and treatment sites.
  3. Insure that the pesticide being applied does not move off-target by air (wind direction), water (runoff) or soil movement. 
  4. Do not make applications off-target by assuming a wild area near your treatment site does not have natural values. It may harbor listed or rare species including important wild pollinators.
  5. Also, see the publication Herbicides in Native Habitat Management, a comparative guide and explanation prepared by DATCP of ecological impacts of various pesticides.

Pesticide Spills

  1. Pesticide mixing and loading at the following sites must be conducted over a spill containment surface (there are limited exceptions) that meets state standards:
    1. Any site located within 100 feet of a well or surface water.
    2. Any site at which more than 1,500 lbs. of pesticide active ingredient are mixed or loaded in any calendar year.
  2. No person may clean or fill pesticide equipment in waters of the state, or in any manner that may contaminate waters of the state.
  3. A person who spills a pesticide must:
    1. Take immediate action to contain the spill, recover the pesticide, and clean surfaces exposed to the pesticide. Spilled pesticides may not be stored below ground level.
    2. Immediately report the spill to the Department of Natural Resources, if the spill exceeds the relevant amount specified in Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter NR 706.
  4. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) may order a person to take corrective action to recover a spill and minimize environmental contamination.
  5. A person must obtain a DATCP permit to land spread soil contaminated with spilled pesticides.
  6. A person who takes appropriate corrective action to recover a pesticide spill and minimize environmental contamination may be entitled to reimbursement from DATCP (see Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter ATCP 35). Spill cleanup payments are financed by pesticide industry license surcharges.

Pesticide Regulations

Apply chemicals with strict adherence to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) product label specifications, any applicable requirements of Chapter ATCP 29, Wis. Adm. Code (Pesticide Use and Control), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limitations regarding foodstuffs, and Chapter NR 150 (Environmental Analysis and Review Procedures for Department Actions), Wis. Adm. Code. Use equipment and methodologies prescribed on the product label or the equipment instructions to prevent significant human or environmental risk during or after application.

Other Pesticide Links





[1] Per advice of DNR Legal Counsel, October 30, 2009: If you are applying pesticides to actual water you need to be certified through DATCP as a aquatic pesticide applicator and you need to use only pesticides that are labeled for aquatic use.  You also need a NR 107 permit for chemical treatment of water.  If you are applying to an area that is between the ordinary high water mark and the water's edge you still need to be certified as an aquatic pesticide applicator, you may need a NR 107 permit and you may have to use a pesticide labeled for aquatic use.  If you run into this situation, please consult with the NR 107 program. Policy on this issue is in flux. In 2010, DATCP is starting the process to change ATCP 29 that deals with certifying pesticide applicators.  The Department is also starting a process for revising NR 107 (chemical treatment of aquatic plants) and NR 109 (the mechanical removal of aquatic plants) to address other legal issues.


Pesticide Use Toolbox Compiled By: Tom Boos, Kelly Kearns and Paul Pingrey

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Last updated: Nov.30, 2009