The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

Lawsuit Initiated to Protect Hundreds of Endangered Species From Pesticide Impacts


The Center for Biological Diversity today filed notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to adequately evaluate and regulate nearly 400
pesticides harmful to hundreds of endangered species throughout the
nation, which also threaten human health. The EPA has violated the
Endangered Species Act by failing to consult with wildlife regulatory
agencies about the impacts of pesticides on hundreds of protected
species that are threatened by pesticide use. The agency has also
violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by registering pesticides that
are known to kill and harm migratory birds.

time for the Environmental Protection Agency to finally reform
pesticide use to protect both wildlife and people," said Jeff Miller, a
conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Many
endangered species most affected by toxic pesticides are already
struggling to cope with habitat loss and rapid climate changes. For too
long this agency's oversight has been abysmal, allowing the pesticide
industry to unleash a virtual plague of toxic chemicals into our

More than a billion
pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States, and the
Environmental Protection Agency has registered more than 18,000
different pesticides for use. 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. Through pesticide drift and runoff, pesticides
often travel far from the areas where they're applied and into
sensitive wildlife habitats. Some contaminated waterways are regularly
subjected to toxic pulses of combinations of pesticides deadly to fish.
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.

Today's notice letter references 887 endangered and threatened species
that may be hurt by pesticides Some examples include 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. Thousands of
non-target animals such as mountain lions, bobcats, hawks, and owls are
killed or harmed each year by poisoned baits approved by the EPA, as
are endangered species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, Utah prairie
dog, giant kangaroo rat, and black-footed ferret. Application of
pesticides such as carbofuran to crops can result in as many as 17 bird
kills for every five acres treated.

of pounds of toxic and poisonous chemicals, including known carcinogens
and endocrine disruptors, find their way into our waterways each year,
causing significant and unnecessary threats to endangered wildlife and
to human health," said Miller. "The Environmental Protection Agency
needs to analyze the effects of pesticides across the board on hundreds
of imperiled species."

pesticides act as endocrine disruptors, chemicals that alter the
structure or function of the body's endocrine system, which uses
hormones to regulate growth, metabolism, and tissue function. Endocrine
disruptors interfere with natural hormone functions, damaging
reproductive function and offspring, and cause developmental,
neurological, and immune problems in wildlife and humans. Pesticides
have caused sexual deformities such as intersex fish (with male and
female reproductive parts) that cannot reproduce, and the herbicide atrazine chemically castrates male frogs at extremely low concentrations.

In 2004 the Center published Silent Spring Revisited: Pesticide Use and Endangered Species, detailing the Environmental Protection Agency's dismal record in protecting endangered species from pesticides. The Center's Pesticides Reduction Campaign
has so far forced the Environmental Protection Agency to begin
evaluating the harmful effects of scores of pesticides on a dozen
endangered species in California.

Regulatory Background

EPA is required by the Endangered Species Act to consult with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service over
registration, re-registration, and approved uses of pesticides that may
endanger listed species or adversely affect their designated critical
habitat. Formal consultations are designed to ensure that the agency
avoids authorizing pesticide uses that jeopardize endangered species.
For decades the agency has consistently failed to evaluate or
adequately regulate pesticides it registers that are harmful to the

A series of lawsuits by the Center and
other conservation groups have forced consultations with the Fish and
Wildlife Service on the impacts of scores of pesticides on some
endangered species, primarily in California, and interim restrictions
on use of these pesticides in and adjacent to endangered species
habitats. 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 agency proposed a
settlement agreement to formally evaluate the harmful effects of 75
pesticides that may affect 11 imperiled San Francisco Bay Area species.

the completion of consultation, the federal wildlife agency issues a
biological opinion that determines if the agency action is likely to
jeopardize listed species. The opinion may specify reasonable and
prudent alternatives that will avoid jeopardy and may also suggest
modifications to avoid adverse effects. The EPA has failed to implement
previous biological opinions on pesticides to meet "no jeopardy"

The EPA has violated Section 2 of the
Endangered Species Act, which requires that federal agencies "seek to
conserve endangered species and threatened species," and Section 7 of
the Act, which requires it to engage in consultation with the federal
wildlife agencies Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine
Fisheries Service to ensure that pesticide registrations are not likely
to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened
species or result in the adverse modification of designated critical
habitat. The agency has failed to enter into consultation regarding the
vast majority of pesticides and to re-consult on species and pesticides
previously addressed in consultations for which there is new
information. It has also violated Section 9 of the Act through
registration of pesticide uses that have resulted in the illegal "take"
of listed species. The agency is violating the Migratory Bird Treaty
Act by registering pesticide uses that cause take of migratory birds.

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.

(520) 623-5252