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From January 26, 2006                                                                                                        

Group Moves for Court Order To Protect Threatened Frog From Pesticides
(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2006)
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in a legal motion today asked a U.S. District Court to protect the threatened California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii) from 66 of the most toxic and persistent pesticides authorized for use in California, by creating pesticide-free buffer zones around the frog’s core habitat and by requiring consumer hazard warnings so that all Californians may learn how to protect frogs.

In response to a lawsuit filed by CBD against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April of 2002, the District Court found in September of 2005 that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by registering pesticides for use without considering how they might impact the continued existence of the red-legged frog. The motion for “injunctive relief” delivered today asks the court to protect the frog from pesticides in or adjacent to aquatic frog habitat designated as core recovery areas, until the EPA completes a formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on the impacts of the pesticides on red-legged frogs, as required under the ESA.

“We all have a responsibility to be good neighbors to California’s imperiled fish and wildlife, and today’s request insures that pesticide applicators look before they leap into activities that can harm Twain’s frog,” said CBD attorney Brent Plater. “We owe it to future generations to ensure that toxic chemicals do not destroy the frog or the wetlands it depends on and these pesticide-application buffer zones are reasonable and effective protection.”

CBD is asking the Court to impose a three-year schedule for the EPA to determine whether the 66 pesticides may affect the red-legged frog and to complete formal consultations with USFWS to ensure the pesticides are not jeopardizing the frog or contributing to its decline. To minimize harm to frogs during the consultation process, the motion asks for an injunction on use of the pesticides around aquatic features and upland habitats within the frog’s core recovery areas, as designated by USFWS in the agency’s Recovery Plan for the California Red-legged Frog. This injunction would also apply buffer areas for terrestrial and aerial pesticide applications, affecting approximately 7 percent of the current range of the frog and less than 1 percent of the area of California. CBD is also requesting that the EPA conduct monitoring for pesticides in three of the recovery areas to determine whether the buffers are effectively protecting the frog, inform pesticide users about the injunction, and post point-of-sale notifications warning consumers about harmful effects these pesticides may have on the frog.

The EPA has violated the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s safety net for imperiled fish, wildlife and plants, by registering pesticides for use without considering how they might impact the continued existence of the red-legged frog. The Act requires federal agencies to consult with endangered species experts to determine how activities such as pesticide registration impact species and their critical habitats. This system of checks and balances helps prevent extinctions – scientists believe that the ESA has reduced extinction rates in the U.S. by an order of magnitude. Since the EPA registers pesticides for use in or upwind of the frog’s few remaining habitats, the court ordered review of pesticide impacts on the frog “at the earliest possible time.” The consultation process is particularly important because EPA has allowed over 200 million pounds of pesticides to be applied each year in California without first consulting with wildlife experts to determine if imperiled species are being harmed.

“There is overwhelming evidence that numerous pesticides have potentially serious impacts on red-legged frogs and other declining amphibians in California, and the EPA must now assess those impacts,” said Jeff Miller, wildlife advocate with CBD. “An informed consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service should result in restrictions on proven harmful contaminants such as atrazine, not just to protect endangered species like the red-legged frog but human health and safety as well.”

Historically abundant throughout California, red-legged frogs have declined in numbers over 90 percent and have disappeared from 70 percent of their former range. Studies implicate pesticide drift from the Central Valley in disproportional declines of several native frog species in the Sierra Nevada, including red-legged frogs. USFWS has noted that the percentage of upwind land in agricultural production is 6.5 times greater for Sierra Nevada and Central Valley sites where red-legged frogs have disappeared than for sites where frogs still live. Amphibians are declining at alarming rates across the globe, and many scientists believe that industrial chemicals and pesticides may be partially to blame.

Numerous studies have definitively linked pesticide use with significant developmental, neurological and reproductive effects on amphibians. Pesticide contamination can cause deformities, abnormal immune system functions, diseases, injury, and death of red-legged frogs and other amphibians. Red-legged frog tadpoles are likely to be killed or paralyzed by some herbicides such as triclopyr and insecticides such as fenitrothion. Recent studies by Dr. Tyrone Hayes at the University of California have strengthened the case for banning atrazine, the most common contaminant of ground, surface, and drinking water. Dr. Hayes demonstrated that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor that interferes with reproduction by chemically castrating and feminizing male amphibians. Atrazine has been linked to increased prostate cancer and decreased sperm count in men and high risk of breast cancer in women.

The 66 pesticides at issue are: 1,3-dichlorpropene; 2,4-D; acephate; alachlor; aldicarb; atrazine; azinphos-methyl; bensulide; bromacil; captan; carbaryl; chloropicrin; chlorothalonil; chlorpyrifos; chlorthal-dimethyl (DCPA); diazinon; dicofol; diflubenzuron; dimethoate; disulfoton; diuron; endosulfan; EPTC; esfenvalerate; fenamiphos; glysophate; hexazinone; imazapyr; iprodione; linuron; malathion; mancozeb; maneb; metam sodium; methamidophos; methidathion; methomyl; methoprene; methyl parathion; metolachlor; molinate; myclobutanil; naled; norflurazon; oryzalin; oxamyl; oxydemeton-methyl; oxyfluorfen; paraquat dichloride; pendimethalin; permethrin; phorate; phosmet; prometryn; propanil; propargite; propyzamide (pronamide); rotenone; simazine; SSS-tributyl phosphororithiolate (DEF or Tribufos); strychnine; thiobencarb; triclopyr; trifluralin; vinclozolin; and ziram.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a science-based environmental advocacy organization that works to protect endangered species and wild places throughout the world through science, policy, education, citizen activism and environmental law. The Center for Biological Diversity is actively involved in protecting red-legged frogs and their wetland habitats throughout California.

Photos and more information regarding the California red-legged frog are available online at: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/rlfrog/rlfrog.html

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