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PROTECTING BAY area species from toxic pesticides

Pesticides are poison to more than just pests. In fact, they could be detrimental to at least 30 of the 51 Bay Area animal species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Pesticides of concern have been documented in Bay and Delta aquatic habitat for the delta smelt and tidewater goby; tidal marshland habitat for the California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse; freshwater and wetlands habitat for the California tiger salamander, San Francisco garter snake and California freshwater shrimp; and terrestrial habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox, Alameda whipsnake, valley elderberry longhorn beetle and Bay checkerspot butterfly.

In good news for nearly a dozen Bay Area animals threatened by poisonous chemicals on their home turf, in July 2009 the Center settled a 2007 lawsuit filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the Endangered Species Act. Under a proposed settlement agreement, the EPA offered to restrict the use of 74 toxic pesticides in San Francisco Bay Area habitat for 11 endangered and threatened species. The EPA agreed it would formally evaluate the pesticides’ harmful effects species in the Bay Area; it also agreed to impose interim restrictions on use of these pesticides in and adjacent to endangered species habitat.

As the result of a previous Center lawsuit, in 2006 the EPA and pesticide industry representatives signed a settlement agreement with the Center that prohibits use of 66 toxic and persistent pesticides in and adjacent to core California red-legged frog habitats throughout California until the EPA completes formal consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service. (Find out more about the red-legged frog settlement and statewide pesticide use restrictions.) And thanks largely to Center litigation, in 2010 the EPA announced a ban on endosulfan, a toxic endocrine disruptor detrimental to many Bay Area species.

Also in 2006, the Center released a comprehensive, 53-page report detailing the risk toxic pesticides pose to endangered species in the San Francisco Bay Area and the failure of the EPA to regulate pesticides harmful to Bay Area imperiled species. The report, Poisoning Our Imperiled Wildlife: San Francisco Bay Area Endangered Species at Risk From Pesticides, also analyzes the EPA’s ongoing refusal to reform pesticide registration and use in accordance with scientific findings.

Learn more about the Center’s Pesticides Reduction Campaign, which holds the EPA accountable for pesticides it registers for public use and works to cancel or restrict use of harmful pesticides within endangered species’ habitats.

San Francisco garter snake photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Taka