For Immediate Release
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Heather Pilatic, Pesticide Action Network, (415) 694-8596
Landmark Lawsuit Filed to Protect Hundreds of Rare Species From Pesticides
Suit Targets EPA's Failure to Safeguard Species Around the Country in Its Oversight of More Than 300 Pesticides
Action Network North America today filed the most comprehensive legal
action ever brought under the Endangered Species Act to protect imperiled
species from pesticides, suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its
failure to consult with federal wildlife agencies regarding the impacts of
hundreds of pesticides known to be harmful to more than 200 endangered and
"For decades, the EPA has turned a blind eye to the disastrous effects
pesticides can have on some of America's rarest species," said Jeff Miller, a
conservation advocate with the Center. "This lawsuit is intended to force the
EPA to follow the law and ensure that harmful chemicals are not sprayed in
endangered species habitats."
"Endangered species and biological diversity are strong indicators for the
health of the natural-resource base on which we all depend. To the extent that
we fail to protect that base we erode the possibility of prosperity for future
generations," said Dr. Heather Pilatic, codirector of PAN. "This suit thus
presents a real opportunity for American agriculture: By enforcing the law and
counting the real costs of pesticide use, we strengthen the case for supporting
a transition toward more sustainable pest-control practices like crop rotations
and beneficial insect release."
The lawsuit seeks protection for 214 endangered and threatened species
throughout the United States, including the Florida panther, California condor,
piping plover, black-footed ferret, arroyo toad, Indiana bat, bonytail chub and
Alabama sturgeon. Documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and EPA, as
well as peer-reviewed scientific studies, indicate these species are harmed by
the pesticides at issue. More than a billion pounds of pesticides are used
annually in the United States, and the EPA has registered more than 18,000
different pesticides for use. Extensive scientific studies show widespread and
pervasive pesticide contamination in groundwater, drinking water and wildlife
habitats throughout the country.
Many EPA-approved pesticides are also linked to cancer and other severe
health effects in humans. Some pesticides can act as endocrine disruptors,
interfering with natural hormones, damaging reproductive function and offspring,
and causing developmental, neurological and immune problems in wildlife and
humans. Endocrine-disrupting pesticides cause sexual deformities such as
intersex fish (with male and female parts) that cannot reproduce. Scientists
believe that pesticides may also play a role in the recent colony collapse
disorder, the disappearance of bees that are agriculturally important
"The EPA authorizes pesticide uses that result in millions of pounds of
toxins, including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, entering our waterways
each year, polluting our soil and poisoning our drinking water," said Miller.
"Common-sense restrictions on pesticide use that protect endangered species can
also safeguard human health."
View an interactive map of the species involved in the lawsuit, find out more about the Center's Pesticides Reduction campaign, and read Pesticide Action
Network information on the environmental impacts of persistent poisons.
Background Pesticides are a significant threat to
endangered species and biological diversity. We are now experiencing the worst
wave of extinction of plants and animals since the loss of the dinosaurs 65
millions years ago, with species going extinct at 1,000 to 10,000 times the
natural rate. The diversity of life that sustains ecological systems and human
cultures around the world is collapsing. Beyond its intrinsic value,
biodiversity, or ecosystem diversity and integrity, is necessary to human
survival: It provides life support, including a livable climate, breathable air
and drinkable water. Plant and animal diversity are building blocks for medicine
and food-crop diversity, and pollinating insects and bats allow agriculture to
support our populations and prevent food collapse from crop diseases.
Through pesticide drift and runoff, pesticides can travel far from the areas
where they are applied and into sensitive wildlife habitats. Some contaminated
waterways are regularly subjected to toxic pulses of combinations of pesticides
deadly to fish and other life. Some of the pesticides in the lawsuit contribute
to the loss of native fish populations, are a leading cause of the decline in
native amphibians, and can result in significant bird kills. The Fish and
Wildlife Service estimates that 72 million birds are killed by pesticides in the
United States each year.
The EPA is required by the Endangered Species Act to consult with the Fish
and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service regarding pesticides
that may jeopardize listed species or harm their critical habitat. Formal
consultations are intended to ensure that the EPA avoids pesticide uses that
harm endangered species. After consultation, the federal wildlife agency issues
a biological opinion that may specify reasonable and prudent restrictions and
alternatives to avoid harm to species. Yet for decades the EPA has consistently
failed to engage in required consultations to properly evaluate whether
pesticides it registers are harmful to imperiled species. In 2004 the Center
published Silent Spring Revisited: Pesticide Use and Endangered
Species, detailing the EPA's dismal record in protecting endangered
species from pesticides.
An example of the EPA failure to protect people and the environment is the
re-registration of the dangerous herbicide atrazine, a widespread pollutant of groundwater and drinking
water in this country. Atrazine, which causes reproductive problems and
chemically castrates male frogs at extremely low concentrations, has been banned
in the European Union. Recent research links atrazine to
cancer, birth defects and endocrine disruption in humans, as well as significant
harm to wildlife.
A series of lawsuits by the Center and other conservation groups have forced
the EPA to consult on the impacts of scores of pesticides on some endangered
species, primarily in California, and resulted in temporary restrictions on
pesticide use in sensitive habitats. In 2006 the EPA agreed to restrictions on
66 pesticides throughout California and began analyzing their effects on the
threatened California red-legged frog. A 2010 settlement agreement requires
evaluation of the effects of 75 pesticides on 11 San Francisco Bay Area
endangered species. For all of these court-ordered evaluations, the EPA has
concurred that nearly every pesticide at issue is "likely to adversely affect"
the at-risk species identified by the Center. Today's litigation is the first on
this scale, as it seeks nationwide compliance for hundreds of pesticides on
hundreds of species.
Pesticide Action Network campaigns and action network linking local and
international consumer, labor, health, environmental and agriculture groups have
resulted in bans on some of the most deadly pesticides and protections from
toxic exposure for communities and farmworkers.
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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national,
nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online
activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild
Pesticide Action Network North America is a nonprofit organization with more than 50,000 members and online activists and more than 100 organizational partners working to reduce the use of hazardous pesticides and replace them with ecologically sound, socially just alternatives that protect people and the environment.