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Pacific Region National Wildlife Refuges to Ban Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17, 2014) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued an internal memorandum last week that signals a significant shift in its pesticide-application policies for Pacific Region wildlife refuges: no more neonicotinoids. The memorandum, dated July 9, 2014, states, “The Pacific Region will begin a phased approach to eliminate the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (by any method) to grow agricultural crops for wildlife on National Wildlife Refuge System lands, effectively immediately. By January 2016, Region 1 will no longer use neonicotinoid pesticides in any agricultural activity.” In February 2014, environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, filed a legal petition to ban the use of neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges.

The new guidelines go on to explain that the change in policy will also affect the transition period through 2016. During that time, refuge managers must exhaust all remedies before application or use of neonicotinoids, including the use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds. Additionally, starting in 2015 all refuge managers must prepare and submit a Pesticide Use Proposal (PUP) in order to apply any neonicotinoids during the transition to the ban.

While not a direct response to the petition filed earlier this year calling for a ban of genetically-engineered crops and neonicotinoids on National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs), the policy shift cites concerns surrounding pollinators and the use of neonicotinoids as the primary reason for the shift—a fact emphasized in the petition. Specifically, the petition asserted that the allowed use of neonicotinoid pesticides on lands designated as NWRs violates not only the purpose and protective standards of the National Wildlife Refuge Act (NWRA), which seeks to conserve, manage and restore fish wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats for the present and future generations, but also threatens endangered species by resulting in destruction of critical habitat protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The reason neonicotinoids pose such a threat and violate the legal standards that apply to NWRs is well-documented by scientific studies. Neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of pesticides, are often applied as a coating to agricultural seeds that results in the chemical moving through the plants vascular system and expressing itself in nectar, pollen, and guttation droplets. Severely damaging to pollinators, studies have found that honey bees are particularly at risk if exposed to neonicotioid pesticides at high concentrations and sublethal doses. Widespread pollinator loss threatens native plants and the species that rely on them for survival, as well as our nation’s food supply. Over 80% of flowering plants rely on pollination services from these critical species.

FWS’s actions in the Pacific Region, while encouraging and another step in the right direction, still emphasize the need for broader, national, and more assertive efforts to be taken across all NWRs and throughout all federal agencies to protect our pollinators. Communities, big and small, have instituted neonicotinoids bans and BEE Protective initiatives, join Beyond Pesticides in continuing to call for national protections.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Center for Food Safety


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