EPA to assess pesticide impact on endangered species

Under a new policy, the Environmental Protection Agency will now take into account impacts of pesticides on species listed under the Endangered Species Act before allowing the chemicals to be used.

Effective immediately, before registering new pesticides for use, the agency will assess the consequences of active ingredient (AI) exposure on ESA listed species and critical habitat, as well as formally consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or National Marine Fisheries Service.

Prior to the recent policy change, implementation of the EPA’s Endangered Species Act Protection Program fielded longstanding public concern regarding non-compliance with Section 7 of the ESA. Section 7 mandates formal assessment of agency activities that may impact listed species.

“Before today’s announcement, in most cases, EPA did not consistently assess the potential effects of conventional pesticides on listed species when registering new AIs,” the EPA said in its announcement. “This resulted in insufficient protections from new AIs for listed species, as well as resource-intensive litigation against EPA for registering new AIs prior to assessing potential effects on listed species.”

Upon implementation, the policy will seek to enhance the integration of science in the decision-making process and assist the ESA in its goal to prevent the extinction of threatened and endangered species.

“To determine or predict the potential effects of a pesticide on these species and habitats, EPA will use appropriate ecological assessment principles and apply what it has learned from past effects determinations and the Services’ biological opinions,” the EPA stated.

Header Image: Endangered amphibians like yellow-legged frogs (Rana muscosa) are particularly vulnerable to pesticide exposure. The species will benefit from additional biological assessment and exposure-mitigation planning during the EPA’s pesticide registration process. Credit: Adam Braziel