Court Upholds Pesticide Protection for Salmon
(Beyond Pesticides, July 5, 2005) On June 29, 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling restricting the use of 38 dangerous pesticides near Northwest rivers and streams in order to protect salmon habitat. The appeals court also upheld the requirement for warning signs to be posted where products containing pesticides are sold. The appeal was brought by corporate pesticide manufacturers and farm groups in hopes of blocking the earlier court decision from 2004.
"This is a terrific victory for salmon and everyone who lives in the Northwest, because salmon are part of our lives here, and we all want clean water," said Amy Williams-Derry, an Earthjustice attorney who represented environmental and fishing groups in the case. "Fortunately the courts have just said no to the pesticide makers and their friends in the federal government who think having pesticides in our waters is fine."
The Ninth Circuit confirmed that "evidence in the record demonstrated a causal link between the 54 pesticide active ingredients . . . and adverse effects" on salmon. The appellate court noted that the district court issued "a series of well-crafted orders," and allowed all parties, including corporate pesticide makers, to present evidence on the effects of pesticides.
In 2002, a federal district court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act because it failed to protect salmon from harmful pesticides. The judge ordered EPA to consult with the National Marines Fisheries Service, also known as NOAA Fisheries, to establish permanent restrictions on the use of pesticides to protect salmon. After the 2002 ruling, environmental and fishing groups asked the judge to order no-spray buffer zones while EPA and NOAA Fisheries develop permanent restrictions. In January 2004, the judge granted the request and ordered no-spray buffer zones.
This recent ruling keeps in place no-spray buffers of 100 yards for aerial applications and 20 yards for ground applications, with exceptions for certain applications that are unlikely to pollute water or are used to control mosquitoes.
The court order also upholds a requirement that urban home and garden store customers throughout Washington, Oregon, and California be warned about the danger of using seven common pesticides known to harm salmon. Warning labels on products with these pesticides read, "SALMON HAZARD This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams."
"Hopefully now the public will get the word that pesticides used in home gardens can harm salmon, and that people who want to protect salmon need to use alternative methods," said Norma Grier of the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.
"The administration should focus on developing
methods that are safe for salmon and people, not protecting the interests
of the poison industry," said Erika Schreder of the
Washington Toxics Coalition. "Now that the courts have spoken,
we expect the EPA to get serious about finalizing protections to keep
pesticides from harming salmon."
TAKE ACTION: Contact Stephen Johnson, EPA administrator, and voice your concerns about the inadequate protection of endangered species. Help protect endangered salmon and other wildlife by adopting safer lawn practices, which reduce the use of hazardous pesticides that contribute to damaging runoff.