Daily News Archive
From November 4, 2005                                                                                                           

Bush Administration Bows to Pesticide Industry With Weak Endangered Species Program
(Beyond Pesticides, November 4, 2005)
On November 2, 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a plan for its long-delayed program that is supposed to create on-the ground protections for endangered species from pesticides. Conservationists faulted the program as being sorely inadequate to ensure compliance with restrictions on pesticide use. They called it a "don't ask-don't tell" program because information on pesticide restrictions will be hidden on EPA's website rather than communicated directly to pesticide users.

"We have waited close to 20 years for EPA to protect endangered plants and animals from pesticides. The resulting program is a slap in the face to anyone who wants future generations to enjoy our nation's wildlife and the special places they call home," said Aimee Code the Water Quality Coordinator at the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.

The program's primary provisions are as follows:

  • The pesticide label will not specify restrictions necessary to protect endangered species. Rather, to learn what restrictions are required for a given pesticide, pesticide users will need to consult a website or call a toll-free number.
  • EPA will establish protections for endangered species as part of its regular pesticide review process, in which each pesticide is reviewed only once every 15 years. Since EPA is now completing congressionally mandated registrations of most pesticides currently on the market, EPA will postpone endangered species protections for another 10-15 years and leave imperiled species at risk.
  • Unfortunately, EPA has declined to institute monitoring of endangered species impacted by pesticides and it will make only selective use of surface water monitoring undertaken by the U.S. Geological Survey, states, and tribes.
  • EPA will give chemical companies and pesticide users special rights to comment on any proposed restrictions on pesticide uses and EPA will strive to minimize burdens on pesticide users. EPA will exclude the public from these special reviews, and places no comparable emphasis on ensuring that endangered species receive the most effective (as opposed to the least burdensome) protection from harmful pesticides.

In comments on the program, conservationists had called for restrictions to be on the pesticide label or to be distributed along with the product at the point of sale. They had also called for EPA to take swift action to develop and implement restrictions on the most harmful pesticides.

The conservationists also point to a giant loophole in the new program - a 15-year delay in establishing much-needed protections for endangered fish and wildlife from pesticides. It comes on the heels of recent bill that passed the House of Representatives that would exempt pesticides from the Endangered Species Act for a period of five years.

"The safety net for protecting endangered fish and wildlife from pesticides has been removed," charges Patti Goldman, of Earthjustice. "The federal government is giving the green light for the pesticide industry to profit at the expense of our nation's wildlife."

Current uses of pesticides are causing harmful levels of pesticides to enter the habitat of endangered species. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nationwide more than 90% of the surface water samples collected had residues of at least one pesticide. In Oregon's Willamette Valley River basin, home to threatened Chinook salmon 50 pesticides were found in surface water in cities and near farms, 11 pesticides of which were at levels harmful to aquatic life. In Seattle, all 10 of the urban streams sampled were contaminated with pesticides commonly used in homes and gardens.

Conservationists demand a program that both creates regulations that will keep harmful pesticides out of the habitat of endangered plants and animals, and ensures those restrictions are communicated and enforced. They called on EPA to improve the program, and for state agencies, which play a primary role in pesticide enforcement, to communicate restrictions to pesticide users and enforce them.

"Our agencies need to step up and protect species, not just create a program with a cheery name. Our agencies can fill some of the gap that EPA has created by ensuring that pesticide users know when pesticides are restricted to protect fish and wildlife," stated Erika Schreder, staff scientist at the Washington Toxics Coalition.

With legal representation from Earthjustice, NCAP and WTC were joint plaintiffs in a lawsuit to protect Pacific salmon from pesticides. In that case, Federal District Judge John Coughenour found EPA wholly out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act and ordered EPA to begin evaluating the risks that 54 pesticides pose to Pacific salmon. The judge further ordered mandatory protections while EPA conducts the evaluation.

To read new program description, visit the EPA website.