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Fish and Wildlife Service Sued on Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, November 26, 2008) On November 10, two Alaskan environmental groups sued the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for failing to conduct a proper assessment of the environmental consequences of using herbicides to kill non-native species in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

The groups, Alaska Survival and Alaska Community Action on Toxics, allege that FWS sprayed hundreds of gallons of herbicide in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge over the past several years. In the complaint to the U.S. District Court of Alaska, the groups say FWS violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to conduct adequate investigations on the environmental impacts of pesticide use and by failing to inform the public of the practice. The lawsuit states, “(Fish and Wildlife) failed to consider the potential harm to aquatic organisms, fish, birds, insects and other non-target species, as well as the potential for adverse effects to humans visiting the area,” and that the “defendants failed to consider the effect of herbicide use on the commercial salmon fishing industry and on subsistence users.”

Under NEPA, all federal agencies are required to conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) before undertaking any action that could affect the environment. If the assessment concludes no significant environmental impact would result from the action, the agency must provide evidence for this conclusion. Otherwise, it must commission a more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). However, according to the complaint, FWS has been spraying herbicides without assessment. The groups are asking the court to order FWS to cease using herbicides until the agency produces a full EIS.

However, refuge manager Gary Wheeler claimed the refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) satisfies NEPA requirements. A CCP is a document that provides a framework for guiding refuge management decisions which all national wildlife refuges are required to develop. The groups counter that the plan barely mentions the use of chemicals.

“They’ve been doing this without any kind of EIS or EA for six years or so,” said Judy Price, director of Alaska Survival, a Talkeetna-based pesticide advocacy nonprofit. “I talked to everybody about trying to get some kinds of environmental document that the public would be able to see, and talked to them about telling the public about (the use of pesticides), they didn’t seem to be inclined to that.” The herbicides were used to combat hawkweed, ox-eye daisy and Canada thistle on Camp Island, Garden Island and areas around the refuge headquarters.

“These chemicals are toxic to natural life forms and have the potential to adversely affect the health and the survival of creatures that inhabit the Refuges and the humans who visit the Refuges,” the lawsuit says.

Source: Kodiak Daily Mirror


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