Suit Launched to Save California Red-legged Frog From Harmful Pesticides

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jeff Miller, (510) 499-9185

Suit Launched to Save California Red-legged Frog From Harmful Pesticides

SAN FRANCISCO - The
Center for Biological Diversity today notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and EPA of its intent to sue the agencies for failing to study and act
on threats posed by more than 60 pesticides to the threatened California
red-legged frog.

A 2006
legal settlement secured by the Center required the EPA to assess the impacts of
pesticides on the frog, then consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service under
the Endangered Species Act to address those impacts, by 2009. The completed assessments
were submitted to the Wildlife
Service between March 2007 and October 2009. Although the EPA
determined that 64 registered pesticides are likely to harm the frogs, the
Service has not completed any consultations or adopted protective
measures.

"The EPA
acknowledges that scores of pesticides may be dangerous to California's rare
red-legged frogs, but nothing's been done about it," said Jeff Miller, a
conservation advocate with the Center. "This three-year delay violates the
Endangered Species Act and jeopardizes the future of the largest native frog in
California."

Once
abundant throughout California and immortalized in Mark Twain's
story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," red-legged frogs have
declined by more than 90 percent. They have disappeared from 70 percent of their
former range and were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in
1996.

Overall,
more than 200 million pounds of pesticides are applied each year in California; for most of
these chemicals, the EPA has failed to consult with the Service to determine
impacts on endangered species. The Endangered Species Act requires the EPA to
consult with endangered species experts to determine how pesticides affect
species and their critical habitats. The
Center and other groups
have filed a series of lawsuits forcing such consultations, primarily in
California,
and put in place interim restrictions on pesticide use in and near endangered
species habitats.

Amphibians
are declining at alarming rates around the globe, and scientists believe
industrial chemicals and pesticides may be partly to blame. Numerous studies
have definitively linked pesticide use with significant effects on amphibians:
Pesticides can cause deformities, abnormal immune-system functions, diseases,
injury and death in these frogs and other amphibians. Because amphibians breathe
through their permeable skin, they are especially vulnerable to chemical
contamination. Frog eggs float exposed on the water surface, where pesticides
tend to concentrate, and hatched larvae live solely in aquatic environments for
five to seven months before they metamorphose, so agricultural pesticides
introduced into wetlands, ponds and streams are particularly harmful. Many of
the pesticides that pose a threat to the frog are also known to be harmful to
human health.

"Because
they're so sensitive to chemical contaminants, frogs are an important barometer
for the health of our aquatic ecosystems," said Miller. "Ultimately, pesticides
found in the red-legged frog's critical habitat can also contaminate our
drinking water, food, homes and schools, posing a disturbing health risk."

Background

Formal
consultations between the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service are designed to
ensure that the agency avoids authorizing pesticide uses that jeopardize
endangered species. At the completion of consultation, the Service issues a
"biological opinion" that determines if the agency action, in this case
registration of a pesticide, is likely to jeopardize listed species. The opinion
may specify reasonable and prudent alternatives that will avoid jeopardy and may
also suggest use restrictions to avoid adverse effects.

In 2002,
the Center filed litigation challenging the EPA registration and reregistration
of scores of the most toxic and persistent pesticides authorized for use in
California,
based on the risk they pose to the red-legged frog. A federal court found in
2005 that the EPA had violated the Endangered Species Act, and a 2006 settlement
agreement prohibited the use of 66 harmful pesticides near core frog habitats
until the EPA completed the required consultations with the
Service.

The EPA
has since conducted "effects determinations" for all 66 pesticides. The
registrations of two chemicals, Fenamiphos and Molinate, were subsequently
cancelled. The EPA determined that 64 other pesticides are "likely to adversely
affect" or "may affect" the frog; and between 2007 and 2009 the agency began
requesting formal consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service
had 90 days to complete each review, but has failed to meet those
deadlines.

The 64
pesticides that may pose risks to the frog are: 2,4-D, Acephate, Alachlor,
Aldicarb, Atrazine, Azinphos methyl, Bensulide, Bromacil, Captan, Carbaryl,
Chloropicrin, Chlorothalonil, Chlorpyrifos, DCPA, Diazinon, Dicofol,
Diflubenzuron,  Dimethoate,
Disulfoton, Diuron, Endosulfan, EPTC, Esfenvalerate, Glyphosate, Hexazinone,
Imazapyr, Iprodione, Linuron, Malathion, Mancozeb, Maneb, Metam sodium,
Methamidiphos, Methidathion, Methomyl, Methoprene, Methyl
parathion, Metolachlor, Myclobutanil, Naled, Norflurazon, Oryzalin, Oxamyl,
Oxydemeton methyl, Oxyfluorfen, Paraquat, Pendimethalin, Permethrin, Phorate,
Phosmet, Prometryn, Propanil, Propargite, Propyzamide, Rotenone, Simazine,
Strychnine, Telone Thiobencarb, Tribufos, Triclopyr, Trifluralin, Vinclozolin
and Ziram.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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