ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Forest Service managers created a potential threat to the public through risky spraying of pesticides and weed-killers in the Southwest, a federal official charges in a whistleblower complaint obtained by The Associated Press.

Environmental laws and the agency’s own rules on spraying were ignored, the complaint says. For example, it says that over the past three years thousands of pounds of insecticides were used near campgrounds in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest without justification or determining the risk to campers and other visitors.

Doug Parker, the pesticide coordinator and assistant director of forestry and forest health for the Forest Service’s Southwestern Region, would not discuss his accusations, saying his supervisor has ordered him not to speak publicly about the matter.

His lawyer, Dennis Montoya, said Parker believes he could lose his job for speaking out but considers it critical that the Forest Service ensure that pesticides are used responsibly.

Regional Forest Service spokesman Jim Payne said Monday that the agency couldn’t comment specifically on the accusations by Doug Parker’s accusations because it had not seen them.

Parker alleged that there is a “systemic problem” in the agency’s Southwestern Region of officials seeking to complete projects without going through proper procedures, such as preparing risk assessments and getting permission from agency officials who have the authority to make decisions about pesticides.

Skirting those rules and laws has resulted in “potentially serious public safety and environmental threats,” he said in his main complaint, filed in March with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Montoya said Parker has worked for the Forest Service for nearly 38 years.

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