Daily News Archive
From September 12, 2006                                                                                                        

EPA Proposes Pesticide Restrictions to Safeguard California Frog
(Beyond Pesticides, September 12, 2006)
The federal government is proposing a temporary restriction on 66 pesticides that scientists have blamed for wiping out the threatened California red-legged frog in some parts of the state. The proposed regulation comes as part of a legal settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Center for Biological Diversity and the pesticide industry in an effort to preserve the state's most populous native frog.

"The California red-legged frog is an extraordinary sentinel of environmental health," said Brent Plater, an attorney with the Center. "So when frogs remain absent from an area despite the appearance of a functioning ecology, that may be a warning sign for our own health." Mr. Plater said the frogs, which have been listed as threatened since 1996, have disappeared from about 70 percent of their former natural habitat.

The settlement is open for public comment until Sept. 18, 2006, after which it must be approved by a federal court, Mr. Plater said. The Center sued EPA in 2002 for failing to consult with wildlife experts about the potential effects of pesticides on the frog.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White last September ruled there was "significant scientific evidence demonstrating potential adverse effects to the frog" from dozens of pesticides. The temporary pesticide restrictions would cover 450,000 acres in 20 California counties designated as critical habitat for the frog.

The 66 chemicals include those often used by farmers such as atrazine, captan and malathion. If approved by the court, the ban would be in place for up to three years while EPA examines each chemical and its effect on the red-legged frog. The studies could include consultations with Fish and Wildlife Service officials. Permanent restrictions are possible if the studies show the chemicals hurt the frog.

EPA also has agreed to publish a bilingual brochure spelling out in English and Spanish potential dangers to the red-legged frog. Thousands will be distributed to pesticide applicators, extension agents and state officials.

Until now, the Bush administration has insisted it simply didn't know how the chemicals affected the frog.

"Federal (officials) maintain that they cannot determine the effects of the 66 chemicals on the California red-legged frog, if any, and define any appropriate protective measures, if any, until they have completed further scientific analyses," the new agreement states. Nonetheless, the ruling by Judge White, an appointee of President Bush's, incited negotiations among the various parties.

The proposed pesticide ban would not extend to weed control or a number of other specified applications, such as use of the chemicals on indoor house plants. The proposed restrictions come a year after endangered species activists won an important lawsuit reigning in EPA’s decade-long failure to protect the California red-legged frog from 66 of the most toxic and persistent pesticides authorized for use in California. (See Daily News Story 9-27-05) In this case, Judge White found that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by registering pesticides for use without considering how these pesticides might impact the continued existence of the red-legged frog. The court determined that because EPA registered pesticides for use in, or upwind, of the frog’s few remaining habitats, EPA was required to review the impacts these pesticides have on the frog “at the earliest possible time.” The court thus ordered EPA to initiate “consultation” under ESA, our nation’s safety net for imperiled fish, wildlife, and plants.

Sources: Associated Press (AP); Contra Costa Times:

TAKE ACTION: Send comments to EPA encouraging approval of the settlement and interim pesticide restrictions to protect the red-legged Frog. Comments must be received by September 18, 2006. Suggested comments and an easy form to fill out to submit the comments can be found at the Center for Biological Diversity’s website.comments can be found at the Center for Biological Diversity’s website.