Daily News Archive
From October 25, 2006                                                                                                        

Red-Legged Frog Gets Pesticide Protection
(Beyond Pesticides, October 25, 2006)
A court settlement between federal environmental officials and a nonprofit conservation group has been finalized in efforts to protect the California red-legged frog from 66 potentially harmful pesticides. The chemicals include those often used by farmers such as atrazine, captan and malathion.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to prohibit use of the pesticides in or near vital red-legged frog habitats throughout California until it, working in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirms the chemicals do not threaten the species. The study is expected to last three years.

The settlement came in response to a 2002 lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a nonprofit conservation group based in San Francisco. In 2005, the U.S. District Court of Northern California found that EPA had violated the Endangered Species Act by registering pesticides for use without considering how they might affect the red-legged frog. The court determined that because EPA registered pesticides for use in, or upwind, of the frog’s few remaining habitats, EPA was required to review the impacts these pesticides have on the frog “at the earliest possible time.” The court thus ordered EPA to initiate “consultation” under the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s safety net for imperiled fish, wildlife, and plants. (See Daily News Story 9-27-05 and 9-12-06).

"Some of those pesticides will be reviewed sooner rather than later; and nobody knows for sure what the results will be," said CBD legal counsel Brent Plater. "But of course these were selected for their toxicity, so I don't think we run the risk of finding these things benign. These pesticides are designed to kill."

Mr. Plater said the resolution strikes a balance between the interest of farmers and the red-legged frog by only limiting their use in areas identified as habitat for the creature. In addition to banning the use of more than five dozen pesticides in frog habitats, the settlement mandates a pesticide-free buffer zone adjoining the habitats: 200 feet for aerial pesticide applications and 60 feet for ground applications.

The pesticide ban would not extend to weed control or a number of other specified applications, such as use of the chemicals on indoor houseplants.

"It doesn't say don't spray these pesticides anywhere in the county," Mr. Plater explained. "It says don't spray them on the frog or the frog's home. Those can be defined pretty clearly.”

Historically abundant throughout California, red-legged frogs have disappeared from 70 percent of their former range, according to CBD. Studies point to pesticide drift from the Central Valley as a source of the declines of several native frog species in the Sierra Nevada, including the red-legged frog.

Thank you to everyone who sent comments to EPA encouraging protection of the red-legged frog.