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Six Pesticides Threaten Over Half of Endangered Species

by Center for Biological Diversity
Lawsuit Targets Federal Fish and Wildlife Service’s Failure to Protect Endangered Species From Toxic Pesticides
TUCSON, Ariz, February 1, 2024 — The Center for Biological Diversity filed new legal challenges today to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop allowing some of the most dangerous pesticides from threatening up to 97% of endangered species.

“From rusty patched bumblebees to Florida panthers, hundreds of plants and animals are really suffering while they wait for basic protections from toxic pesticides,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act is incredibly effective, but it can’t stop extinctions if the agency tasked with protecting wildlife refuses to do its job.”

In 2022 the Center sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect imperiled wildlife from the insecticides chlorpyrifos and diazinon, as required under the Endangered Species Act.

Today’s amended complaint expands the case to include four additional pesticides the Environmental Protection Agency has found to be widely harming the wildlife: carbaryl (91%), methomyl (61%), atrazine (56%), and simazine (55%). The agency’s assessment of the dangers of these four chemicals to endangered species resulted from a 2019 legal agreement with the Center.

Over six years ago, the EPA determined that 97% of the more than 1,800 animals and plants protected by the Endangered Species Act are likely to be harmed by chlorpyrifos and 78% are likely to be hurt by diazinon.

Later in 2017 the finalization and release of the Service’s initial analysis of the effects of chlorpyrifos and diazinon on endangered species was blocked by political appointees in the Trump administration, as reported in a New York Times investigation. Today’s lawsuit seeks to require the Service to complete analyses of the harms to endangered species posed by those two pesticides, plus the four additional ones.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service is required to expeditiously review the EPA’s findings of pesticides’ harms and put measures in place to prevent species from going extinct or being unnecessarily killed by the chemicals. But the Service has routinely failed to comply.

“The science is clear that these pesticides are a serious threat to imperiled plants and animals, and many of them are so dangerous they’ve been banned in other countries. But federal wildlife officials just aren’t putting measures in place to protect our native wildlife,” said Burd. “The ongoing failure of our federal wildlife agency to protect vulnerable critters from these poisons leaves us no choice but to take them to court.”

The pesticides at issue are used on a wide array of crops across the United States and known to pose substantial threats to human health as well. Chlorpyrifos and carbaryl have been linked to a developmental problems, especially in children, and chlorpyrifos has been banned on food uses in California, Hawai‘i, Maryland, New York and Oregon.

Atrazine is linked to a range of hormonal and birth defects and has been banned in Europe for more than a decade.

The lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court in Tucson, Arizona.

Photo: Rusty patched bumblebee/USFWS

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
§Legal Challenge
by Center for Biological Diversity
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