For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 817-8121,

Lawsuit Challenges Feds' Failure to Assess Impacts of Three Harmful Pesticides on Two Bay Area Endangered Species

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Failed to Protect Alameda Whipsnake, Delta Smelt for Six Years

WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal court in California today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to ensure three widely used pesticides — atrazine, 2,4-D and alachlor — don't jeopardize the survival of the delta smelt and Alameda whipsnake, two Bay Area endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to act on a request from the Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether measures are needed to protect the delta smelt and Alameda whipsnake from exposure to these pesticides.

“These pesticides are known to harm wildlife even in miniscule amounts, so it’s long past time that we start taking commonsense steps to protect endangered species, our water and ourselves,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center. “Putting off any analysis of the harms caused by pesticides for six years is simply unacceptable, and has set back the recovery of these two species substantially.”

Scientific research has shown that atrazine can harm the development of amphibians at exposures of just a few parts per billion, that it is toxic to fish, reptiles, mammals and birds, and that it may even elevate risks of birth defects in people. Up to 80 million pounds of atrazine are used in the United States each year. An EPA risk assessment for 2,4-D concluded that the pesticide poses acute risks to freshwater fish and invertebrates and causes chronic impacts in other wildlife. Alachlor is now a restricted-use pesticide, having been classified by the EPA as a “likely” human carcinogen. Approximately 4 million pounds are used in the country each day. All three pesticides have been routinely found in surface and groundwater tested by the U.S. Geological Survey.


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“Despite pesticides saturating our lands and waters, the Fish and Wildlife Service has simply stuck its head in the sand for years and ignored the widespread harm to endangered species across the country,” said Hartl. “When a pesticide like atrazine has been shown to chemically castrate amphibians at concentrations of a few parts per billion, it’s unconscionable that the Service has simply done nothing.”

The Center previously sued the EPA for failing to consult over the impacts of pesticides on endangered species in the Bay Delta. In 2006 the Center reached a settlement imposing restrictions on pesticide use until the consultation was completed. The EPA completed its portion of the settlement, requesting that the Fish and Wildlife Service complete consultations. But those consultations have not been completed because the agency has refused to finish the process.


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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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