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CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good

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In 2005, the Center won a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency requiring the agency to consider the harmful effects of chemical pesticides on the California red-legged frog, a federally threatened species made famous in Mark Twain’s tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the EPA is required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if any of EPA's activities are harming listed species. But the EPA's pesticide registration program is allowing thousands of pesticides to be used across California that may be harming the California red-legged frog. To protect the already imperiled amphibian, a federal District Court ruling has required the EPA to initiate formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act for 66 of the most toxic and persistent pesticides authorized for use in California.

In 2006, the EPA and pesticide industry representatives signed a settlement agreement with the Center that prohibits the use of the 66 pesticides in and adjacent to core red-legged frog habitat throughout California until the EPA completes consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Specifically, the agreement required the EPA to:

• complete formal consultations with the Service on the impacts of the 66 pesticides on red-legged frogs within three years;

• prohibit interim use of the 66 pesticides within and immediately adjacent to red-legged frog habitats, specifically designated critical habitat areas, aquatic features, and upland habitats occupied by the frog;

• mandate pesticide-free buffer zones adjoining frog habitats (of 200 feet for aerial pesticide applications, to prevent drift, and 60 feet for ground applications, to prevent runoff);

• allow exemptions for public-health vector control programs, invasive species and noxious weed programs, uses approved under the Endangered Species Act, and other specific applications that pose little or no risk to frogs; and

• distribute an educational brochure for pesticide applicators and county agricultural commissions regarding the red-legged frog — as well as the impacts of pesticides and contaminants on frogs generally — and describing the interim restrictions on pesticide use in the settlement.

Recent studies have indicated that pesticides, particularly from large agricultural users, are hurting populations of California red-legged frogs. The red-legged frog is highly unlikely to be the only species harmed by pesticides: Amphibians are declining across the globe, and many scientists believe that industrial chemicals and pesticides may be to blame.


San Francisco garter snake photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Taka