Earlier this week, more than 100 groups sent three letters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outlining urgent actions that they believe are needed to protect the nation’s wildlife and their habitats from dangerous pesticides.
Conservation, environmental justice, and agriculture organizations, representing tens of millions of people, detailed a range of opportunities to ramp up protections, including calling on the Service to:
“No nation uses pesticides more recklessly than the U.S., with some of the worst abuses in our most important wildlife habitats,” said Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health Director at the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement. “To stop the heartbreak of animals and plants going extinct, the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to give endangered species a respite from toxic chemicals. We’re offering common-sense measures that would go a long way toward halting extinction trends.”
Tragically, more than one billion pounds of pesticides are reportedly used across the United States each year, causing lethal and sublethal harm to imperiled wildlife and plants that rely on fields, forests, and waterways where pesticides are often used or end up.
Even in areas that the Service has legally designated as critical habitat essential for helping species dodge extinction and recover, pesticides are frequently used. The groups are urging the Service to use its authority to prohibit pesticide use in designated critical habitat, at least until the Environmental Protection Agency completes its long-overdue consultation to assess whether the poisons can be safely used in these areas.
More than 350,000 pounds of agricultural pesticides were sprayed on more than 363,000 acres of crops on America’s national wildlife refuges in 2018. That is a 34% increase over the acreage sprayed in 2016, according to an analysis of refuge pesticide use data. Pesticides used on refuges include glyphosate, 2,4-D, dicamba, and paraquat, all of which have been shown to harm wildlife.
In 2014, the Obama administration moved to phase out the use of pesticide-intensive genetically engineered crops and bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture on all national wildlife refuges following a successful campaign by the Center for Food Safety and others. Sadly, the Trump administration reversed that decision in 2018.
“We deserve a better future, one in which we produce food that doesn’t harm our amazing biodiversity,” George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety shared, noting that it would be better to end all pesticide use on wildlife refuges.
In 2017, scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the ongoing existence of 1,399 endangered plants and animals are being jeopardized by chlorpyrifos; 1,284 endangered species are threatened by malathion; and 175 are at risk from the use of diazinon.
These reviews were put on an indefinite hold by then acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, and the Biden administration has not indicated if or when it will release new analyses for chlorpyrifos or diazinon.
A Fish and Wildlife Service draft analysis released last week found that malathion jeopardizes the continued existence of 78 endangered plants and animals. This represents a dramatic departure from the science-based findings of the Obama administration.
You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg