The Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of endangered species, recently filed a series of lawsuits to force consultations on pesticide impacts. The extensive legal action argues that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to consider the impacts of nearly 400 pesticides on 887 protected species across the country. These includes the Florida panther, coho salmon, California condor, Everglade snail kite, northern Aplomado falcon, mountain yellow-legged frog, California tiger salamander, arroyo toad, Indiana bat, and green sturgeon.
Jeff Miller, conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “The EPA must live up to its obligations. This lawsuit is to get the agency to analyze the effects of pesticides across the board on hundreds of imperiled species.” According to the lawsuits, the EPA has never effectively evaluated or regulated pesticides known to be harmful to threatened species as well as human health. “Through a sequence of strategic legal challenges, we’re forcing the agency to adhere to federal environmental law when registering pesticides for use,” says Miller. Some of the pesticides named include 2,4-D (the most commonly used pesticide in the nonagricultural sector), atrazine, triclosan, and pyrethrins.
“For too long this agency’s oversight has been abysmal,” Miller declared, “allowing the pesticide industry to unleash a virtual plague of toxic chemicals into our environment.” Many of the endangered species that Miller said are most affected by toxic pesticides are at the same time struggling to cope with habitat loss. “It is time for the EPA to “finally reform pesticide use to protect both wildlife and people,” Miller said.
Pesticides have “played a major role in the collapse of many native fish populations and are a leading cause of the loss of native amphibians,” Miller claimed. Documents from the Center for Biological Diversity states, “Extensive scientific studies have shown that pesticide contamination is widespread and pervasive in groundwater, drinking water, and aquatic habitat for fish and wildlife throughout the country.” The pesticides make their way into sensitive fish and wildlife environments far from where they may have been applied.
The center’s documents specify that the EPA “violated section 2 of the Endangered Species Act when it failed to seek to conserve endangered species and threatened species. The agency has also violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by registering pesticides that are known to kill and harm migratory birds. Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires the EPA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service when registering, reregistering, or determining the approved use of a pesticide that may harm a listed species or damage its critical habitat.”
The center’s Pesticides Reduction Campaign has so far forced the EPA to begin evaluating the harmful effects of scores of pesticides on a dozen endangered species in California. In a previous suit, in 2006, the EPA agreed to interim restrictions on applying 66 pesticides throughout California and began analyzing their effects on the California red-legged frog. In 2010 the EPA proposed a settlement agreement to formally assess the harmful effects of 75 pesticides that may affect 11 imperiled San Francisco Bay Area species.
According to Miller, the completion of consultations should result in permanent use restrictions.
The Santa Barbara County endangered and threatened species harmed by pesticides are, according to the Center for Biological Diversity:
Giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens)
San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica)
California condor (Gymnogyps californianus)
California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni)
Least Bell ‘s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus)
Light-footed clapper rail (Rallus longirostris levipes) (U.S. DPS)
Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus)
Western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) (Pacific DPS)
Steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) (Southern California population)
Tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi)
Arroyo toad (Bufo californicus)
California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii)
California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) (Santa Barbara County population)
Blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila)
Island night lizard (Xantusia riversiana)
Longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna)
Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi)
Beach (layia Layia carnosa)
California jewelflower (Stanfordia californica)
Gambel’s watercress (Rorippa gambelii)
Gaviota tarplant (Hemizonia increscens ssp. villosa)
Hoffmann’s rock cress (Arabis hoffmannii)
Island barberry (Mahonia pinnata ssp. insularis)
Island bedstraw (Galium buxifolium)
Island malacothrix (Malacothrix squalida)
Island phacelia (Phacelia insularis var. insularis)
Island rush-rose (Helianthemum greenei)
La Graciosa thistle (Cirsium loncholepis)
Lompoc yerba santa (Eriodictyon capitatum)
Salt marsh bird’s-beak (Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus)
San Joaquin wooly-threads (Lembertia congdonii)
Santa Barbara Island live-forever (Dudleya traskiae)
Santa Cruz Island bush mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus var. nesioticus)
Santa Cruz Island dudleya (Dudleya nesiotica)
Santa Cruz Island lacepod (Thysanocarpus conchuliferus)
Santa Cruz Island malacothrix (Malacothrix indecora)
Santa Rosa Island manzanita (Arctostaphylos confertiflora)
Soft-leaved Indian paintbrush (Castilleja mollis)
For more information check out www.biologicaldiversity.org.