Center for Biological Diversity


Protecting Bay Area Species from Pesticides


Harper's August 25, 2006 - Are Weed-Killers Turning Frogs Into Hermaphrodites? The inside story of the shameful history of Atrazine, Syngenta and the EPA

L. A. Times August 25, 2006 - EPA's Pesticide Streamlining Rejected

Greenwire Jan. 16, 2004 - Endangered Species Task Force Influence Over EPA Policy Making; Violates Law, Enviros Say

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Jan. 16, 2004 - Groups sue EPA over pesticide policy

The Oregonian Jan. 18, 2004 - Pesticide-makers power questioned

Austin American-Statesman Jan. 27, 2004 - In lawsuit, SOS says EPA ducks its duties

The Houston Chronicle Jan. 27, 2004 - Environmentalists sue to force Barton Springs study

Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News April 26, 2004 - Proposed counterpart rules illegal, enviromentalists charge

More Media Articles...

Poisoning Our Imperiled Wildlife: San Francisco Bay Area Endangered Species at Risk from Pesticides

Pesticide Threats to Endangered Species: Case Studies


Areas of atrazine and diazinon application near endangered species habitat in California

Pesticide applications detrimental to the California red-legged frog

Pesticide applications detrimental to the California tiger salamander

Pesticide applications detrimental to the San Joaquin kit fox

Glyphosate use in Central Valley steelhead trout habitat

Molinate use in Central Valley steelhead trout habitat

more maps of pesticide use in California salmon and steelhead trout habitat, Courtesy of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics


American Bird Conservancy

Beyond Pesticides

Californians for Alternatives to Toxics

Cascade Resources Advocacy Group

Collaborative on Health and the Environment

Defenders of Wildlife


Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network North American

Rachel Carson Council

Save Our Springs Alliance

Washington Toxics Coalition

Avian Incident Monitoring System - American Bird Conservancy and EPA data and programs dedicated to improving identification, investigation, and laboratory analysis of pesticide poisoned birds

Birds in Agricultural Areas Database - American Bird Conservancy, George Mason University and EPA database identifying which bird species in North America utilize agricultural fields

PAN Pesticides Database – search by chemical or product for toxicity and regulatory information for pesticides

U.C. Davis ExToxNet – search by chemical or product for science-based information about pesticides

USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Pesticides Database – search by species or state for information on causes of decline for federally listed species


Although much has been learned since 1962 when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, alerting the nation to the hazards of poisonous chemicals, current pesticide use still poses major threats to imperiled wildlife and human health. Annual pesticide use has continuously increased since 1962, both in pounds applied and the number of registered active ingredients. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered for use more than 18,000 pesticides and over two billion pounds of pesticides are currently sold in the U. S. each year for agricultural, commercial, and home uses. Pesticides have been shown to be pervasive in fish and wildlife habitat throughout the country, threatening the survival and recovery of numerous imperiled species. Over 375 species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act may be killed or harmed by pesticides. Pesticides have been linked to declines of western amphibians and Pacific salmon, threaten sea turtles in Chesapeake Bay, and continue to kill bald eagles nationwide.

The Center’s Pesticides Campaign is intended to hold the EPA accountable for pesticides it registers for public use, and to cancel or restrict use of harmful pesticides within endangered species habitats. The Pesticides Campaign provides analysis of pesticide impacts on endangered species and education about the threats pesticides pose to wildlife and human health. A key component of this campaign is the Center’s 2004 report detailing the failure of the EPA to regulate pesticides harmful to endangered species (see press release). In February 2006 the Center published a report on the risk toxic pesticides pose to endangered species in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act is the most effective means to cancel or constrain use of harmful pesticides registered by the EPA. Consultation ensures that the EPA will benefit from agency expertise and receive comprehensive scientific information regarding locations, population trends, and threats to the survival of imperiled species. Consultation is designed to protect endangered wildlife by ensuring the EPA’s pesticide registrations do not jeopardize endangered species, but it also benefits public health by forcing the EPA to thoroughly assess the harmful effects of pesticides. Unfortunately, the EPA has failed to complete a single consultation since 1993.

The Center and other conservation groups have been forced to file numerous lawsuits to attempt to compel the EPA to consult on pesticide impacts to endangered species. The Center filed litigation in 2002 challenging approval of 250 pesticides that may affect the California red-legged frog and in 2003 concerning six pesticides threatening the Barton Springs salamander. In response to a lawsuit by a coalition of conservation, fishing and pesticide watchdog groups, a federal court recently found the EPA in clear violation of the Endangered Species Act for failing to protect listed salmon and steelhead trout species from pesticides, and imposed no-spray zones to keep pesticides out of west coast salmon streams.

An example of the EPA’s subservience to the agrochemical industries it was intended to regulate was the agency’s revised registration of atrazine in November 2003. The Fish and Wildlife Service requested in 2002 that the EPA consult on the impacts of atrazine on the endangered Barton Springs salamander in Texas. Atrazine is a heavily used herbicide so dangerous to humans and wildlife that it was recently banned by the European Union. Atrazine is also linked to declines of endangered amphibians in California, sea turtles in Chesapeake Bay, salamanders in Texas, mussels in Alabama, and sturgeons in Midwest waters. Conservationists sued the EPA in August 2003 for failing to consult on the impacts of atrazine to several listed species. Despite numerous studies and overwhelming evidence linking atrazine to significant human and wildlife health concerns (including endocrine disruption), the EPA announced it would impose no new restrictions on its use. Although required by court order to further assess the use of this dangerous chemical, the EPA entered into a private deal whereby atrazine manufacturers will monitor a mere 3% of the watersheds that the EPA has recognized as “at risk” of atrazine contamination.


The Bush administration and the EPA are attempting to further undercut the Endangered Species Act by changing how pesticide impacts on wildlife are evaluated. The EPA proposed regulations in January 2004 which would remove input from the expert wildlife agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries, in determining whether pesticides threaten endangered species. The EPA proposes to retain sole responsibility for assessment of pesticide impacts, despite its dismal track record. This proposal would be particularly harmful not just to endangered species, but also to the health of farm workers who toil in pesticide-laden fields. The EPA estimates that pesticides poison 10,000 to 20,000 agricultural workers every year. The proposal would also allow the agrochemical industry to control the research on the environmental impacts of its products, with special participatory rights in the process not shared by the public. Conservation and pesticide watchdog groups, including the Center, filed a lawsuit in January 2004 to stop the EPA from giving illegal special access to a group of chemical corporations. There has been widespread opposition to the EPA’s proposed changes, including a letter of “serious concern” sent in June 2004 by 66 members of congress. View a fact sheet on the proposed rule, the Center’s press release and the congressional letter.


The Center is filing a series of strategic legal challenges against the EPA to compel it to adhere to federal environmental law when registering pesticides. The legal actions will seek EPA compliance regarding pesticide impacts to specific imperiled species and also programmatic changes in the agency’s registration process.

May 2007 - Environmental Protection Agency Sued Over Pesticide Use Harmful to 11 Bay Area Endangered Species

January 2007 - Lawsuit Threatened to Protect 11 S.F. Bay Area Endangered Species From Toxic Pesticides

October 2006 - Settlement Agreement Will Protect California Red-Legged Frogs From 66 Toxic Pesticides

August 2006 – Court Finds New Bush Administration Pesticide Rules for Endangered Species Are Illegal

July 2006 - Center organizes coalition of environmental, public health, labor and Native American organizations and scientists to oppose bill changing nation’s toxic pollution laws, threatening public health and preventing states from regulating toxic chemicals

February 2006 - Center submits comments opposing BLM's proposal to use aerial spraying of herbicides to control invasive weed species in 17 western states

February 2006 - Published report on the risk pesticides pose to endangered species in the San Francisco Bay Area

January 2006 - Center Moves for Court Order Restricting Use of 66 Pesticides in Core Red-Legged Frog Habitat

September 2005 - Court Finds EPA Failed to Protect Mark Twain’s Celebrated Jumping Frog from Pesticides

September 2004 - Filed lawsuit challenging new EPA rules that eliminate scientific oversight of pesticides

July 2004 - Published report on the EPA’s failure to regulate pesticides harmful to endangered species

2004 - Compelling the EPA perform non-discretionary duties as chair of the Task Force on Environmental Cancer and Heart and Lung Disease

January 2004 - Stopping the EPA from using an illegal insider chemical group to forge policy

December 2003 - Compelling the EPA to consult on impacts of six pesticides on the Barton Springs salamander

April 2002 - Compelling the EPA to consult on pesticide impacts to the California red-legged frog

June 2002 - Filed notice of intent to sue over the EPA's pesticide program


The following are just a few of the many endangered, threatened or imperiled species the Center works to protect that are directly or indirectly affected by pesticides: