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From January 12, 2006                                                                                                        

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds No-Spray Buffers Near Salmon Streams
(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2006)
On Monday the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a ruling that mandated pesticide buffer zones around Western salmon streams. Three years ago Seattle Judge John C. Coughenour imposed a 100-yard buffer for aerial spraying and a 20-yard buffer for ground application of three dozen pesticides. The banned pesticides include agricultural and household pesticides. Judge Coughenour’s ruling also requires stores in approximately 500 communities to post signs saying, “SALMON HAZARD. This product contains pesticides which may harm salmon and steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams.”

The conditions of the ruling are to remain in effect until the EPA can come up with rules to adequately govern the use of pesticides around the streams in question. The EPA, along with pesticide manufacturers and farm groups, appealed the ruling to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal. The appeal was rejected last June.

The group of stakeholders have continued to appeal the injunction, saying that there was a lack of evidence showing that pesticides would cause irreparable harm. Doug Nelson, general counsel of Washington-based CropLife America, which led the appeal, feels that environmental groups jumped the gun on the whole situation. When the case was originally brought to Judge Coughenour 54 pesticides were at issue. By the time the ruling was made 18 of the pesticides had been cleared for use so that only 36 were actually affected.

Environmentalists contend this assertion. Amie Code, the water quality coordinator for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, points out that the EPA was too quick to clear some of the pesticides for use, and that environmental groups will have to go to court to get the EPA to reconsider.

One example is carbaryl. Carbaryl is a pesticide used in residential and agricultural products that has been approved by the EPA for use within the buffer zones even though harmful amounts of it have been found in area waterways.

According to Ms. Code, the Supreme Court decision to uphold the buffer zones will not just help salmon, but various other species as well. Such species include orca and Kincaid's lupine, a plant that has a symbiotic relationship with Fender's blue butterfly, both which have been found to be negatively effected by pesticides in the past.

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