U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(United States Department of the Interior)
National Marine Fisheries Service
(United States Department of Commerce)
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 and its subsequent amendments comprise the major federal legislation that protects not only threatened or endangered wild plants and animals, but also critical habitats and ecosystems that support those and many other species. Referring to endangered or threatened plants and animals, ESA states in the preamble that “these species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the nation and its people.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service are responsible for identifying candidate species for federal endangered species protection. Species proposed for listing are made public through a notice of review in the Federal Register. This notice of review is the process whereby these two federal agencies ask all interested persons and organizations for biological and ecological information on each species on the proposed list. Currently, 3,600 species or subspecies of plants and animals have been identified as candidates for listing.
In the United States, information sufficient to move approximately 600 species from candidate status to the United States List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants has been gathered. Federally listed species are given full federal protection: No one shall “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.” All federal agencies (e.g., Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) must comply with ESA by ensuring that their activities will not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species.
EPA Office of Pesticide Programs’ Endangered Species Protection Program
ESA mandates that federal agencies shall not undertake activities or make decisions whose consequences will adversely impact the existence of federally threatened or endangered species or their habitats. EPA must comply with the provisions of ESA in assuring that a pesticide registration does not create the potential for exposure of, or otherwise jeopardize a federally listed species. The scope of this program covers all outdoor uses of pesticides, including home and garden uses.
The Endangered Species Protection Program has two phases: consultation and implementation. The EPA’s “may affect” determination takes place prior to formal consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and is the key to initiating consultation. Following are the fundamental steps in the process:
Species that potentially could be impacted by the use of pesticides are identified. EPA, the United States Department of Agriculture, and FWS have collaboratively ranked approximately 93 species for pesticide vulnerability.
Pesticides that may impact any of these species are identified. EPA identifies the pesticides registered for use in areas within the range of a protected species and issues what is known as “may affect” determination.
EPA may eliminate a “may affect” determination. EPA may remove a “may affect” determination through pesticide use limitations that are sufficient to achieve a “no effect” determination.
Environmental Protection Agency consults with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the remaining “may affect” determinations. EPA requests a formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service. A thorough review of the species allows FWS to develop a Biological Opinion, which indicates if harm is likely to result from pesticide exposure to a specific organism in a specific habitat. This Biological Opinion will specify reasonable and prudent measures, such as specific pesticide use limitations, that EPA must implement to protect the species.
Habitat maps are developed. Where there is potential for impact, EPA develops species habitat maps within an Endangered Species Bulletin. The bulletin identifies pesticides that may harm the species and describes use limitations necessary to protect them.
Pesticide users must read labels. Pesticide labels alert the pesticide user to refer to county Endangered Species Bulletins. If the area in which the user will be making an application is included in the bulletin, the user must comply with all of the provisions. The bulletin becomes a part of the labeling and therefore carries the full force of law if not properly followed.
Program implementation includes several components, depending on the approach to protection selected by state pesticide regulatory agencies. Currently, there is an EPA interim program in which some pilot states are conducting activities to protect endangered species from pesticides. The federal approach to protection is through labels, bulletins, and fact sheets. The label refers the user to a bulletin and a toll-free endangered species hotline number to call for information about endangered species, such as whether there is a bulletin available for the county. The user must comply with use restrictions in the bulletin, which contains a map, a list of pesticides, and use limitations such as buffer zones or limitations on application methods.
State “Protection from Pesticides” Plans
About one-fourth of the states manage or are developing their own programs to protect federally listed species from pesticide injury as an alternative to, or in addition to, the EPA labeling program. In many cases, protection is accomplished by providing information and education on endangered species and pesticides directly to affected landowners, land managers, operators, applicators, and dealers. Pesticide management plans are negotiated jointly with users for lands near these species. Some states are involved in mapping, developing protection guidelines, or in other ways providing protection from potential harm from pesticides. State plans need the approval of FWS and EPA and can substitute for EPA bulletins and fact sheets. Some excellent brochures have been developed by state programs.
State Wildlife Resource Management Programs
States have considerable responsibility in protecting wildlife. State biologists are actively creating species inventories from which a better understanding of distribution and abundance can be obtained. Using the guidelines established by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, most states adopt similar strategies to help protect wildlife and habitat.
Identification of Species and Habitats and Setting Priorities for Conservation. A comprehensive biological inventory of the state’s endangered species and natural habitats is the first step toward their protection. Without this information, responsible management decisions cannot be made concerning the fauna and flora of an area.
Protection by Saving the Best and the Rarest. After identification, ecologically significant lands are protected by acquisition, conservation easement, or landowner registry. Creative partnerships among public agencies, private conservation organizations, and private landowners are the key to protecting all the major types of wildlife habitat.
Stewardship by Managing Endangered Species and Unique Habitats. The protection of threatened natural lands is critical in the conservation process. Active management, including monitoring and restoration, often is required to maintain the ecological conditions necessary for the long-term survival of endangered species and their habitats.
Promoting Public Awareness Through Education. Educational programs enhance public awareness of the loss of natural habitat and the potential jeopardy to endangered species will result in increased public support for conservation initiatives.
Federal/State Pesticide Applicator Certification Programs
The certification process was established to provide technical knowledge for those using restricted-use pesticides; those pesticides that pose the greatest risk of harm to people, wildlife, and the environment if handled improperly. The certification process generally involves educational training and examinations that cover pest biology, human health and safety, environmental issues (e.g., water quality and endangered species), regulatory updates, label interpretation, and other job-specific information. Nationally, there are approximately one million applicators certified to purchase and apply restricted-use pesticides. Certified applicators are generally required to retest periodically, or attend pesticide education programs to maintain their certification.
Authored by Fred Whitford, et al.
The above information is the property of Purdue University, reprinted from Pesticides and Wildlife, PP-30. All information on authors and disclaimers relative to the use of this information can be found at that address.