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Daily News Blog

15
Aug

Prohibit Ag Pesticide Use on Wildlife Refuges to Protect Biodiversity

(Beyond Pesticides, August 15, 2022) Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and seven other members of the United States Senate are calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to phase out the use of toxic pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges in order to protect declining wildlife species and the country’s unique natural resources. The senators sent a letter to FWS Director Martha Williams urging FWS to “expeditiously begin a rulemaking process to phase out the use of agricultural pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges.” The move comes at a time when native wildlife and the ecosystems humans rely upon are under greater threats than ever before from climate change, habitat destruction, and the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides.

Join eight U.S. Senators in calling for a phase out of the use of toxic pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges.

“The Refuge System was established to provide sanctuary for listed threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and other wildlife,” wrote the senators in their letter. “The Refuges’ migratory sanctuary and breeding grounds are especially critical for North American birds, as they have faced precipitous population declines; there are 3 billion fewer breeding birds in North America than there were in 1970. Unfortunately these birds and other threatened species are being put at risk by pesticide use in the Refuges that were designed to protect them.” 

Responding to court challenges in 2014, the former Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System officially phased out the use of genetically engineered crops and neonicotinoids insecticides on all US wildlife refuges. The decision, as outlined in a memorandum by former Chief James Kurth, was based on the fact that neonicotinoid use, and the harms associated with it, “is not consistent with Service policy…[]based on a precautionary approach to our wildlife management practices and not on agricultural practices.”

Despite these important restrictions, other toxic agricultural pesticides continued to be sprayed in these sensitive and protected sites. A report by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) found that in 2016 alone over 270,000 acres were sprayed with more than 490,000 pounds of hazardous pesticides. Despite these concerning statistics, the Trump administration’s FWS released a memorandum reversing the 2014 restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides, allowing use on a “case-by-case basis,” thus unnecessarily exposing a broad range of threatened and endangered wildlife to chemicals that do not belong in protected natural areas. As the senators write, these chemicals “leach into the surrounding groundwater and soil and are picked up by native flowering plants and pollinators.” This threatens not only non-target organisms, but also the 53 million annual human visitors to U.S. Wildlife Refuges.

An update to CBD’s report, finds pesticide use expanded 34% from 2016, to more than 363,000 acres of wild lands. Use of the most dangerous pesticides increased by more than 70% within this time frame. To remedy the situation, the senators are calling for the Refuge System to work to eliminate all toxic pesticide use in favor products compatible with organic land care. The letter to FWS also asks for provisions that permit pesticide use on non-native species only on a limited basis if compatible with a Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan. Furthermore, they ask that the 2014 memorandum issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Chief James Kurth be reinstated, phasing out neonicotinoids.

In addition to Senator Booker, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) signed on to the letter.

Help support the efforts of these Senate champions by joining calls to urge FWS to reinstate Refuge System protections. Further support Senator Booker’s steadfast efforts to protect American children and the wider environment from toxic pesticides by urging your own senators to join in cosponsoring the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act.

Join eight U.S. Senators in calling for a phase out of the use of toxic pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges.

Letter to FWS Director Martha Williams

I am writing to support the request by Senator Cory Booker and seven other U.S. Senators that FWS phase out the use of toxic pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges in order to protect declining wildlife species and the country’s unique natural resources. Native wildlife and the ecosystems upon which humans rely are under greater threats than ever before from climate change, habitat destruction, and the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides.

As stated by the senators, “The Refuge System was established to provide sanctuary for listed threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and other wildlife. The Refuges’ migratory sanctuary and breeding grounds are especially critical for North American birds, as they have faced precipitous population declines; there are 3 billion fewer breeding birds in North America than there were in 1970. Unfortunately, these birds and other threatened species are being put at risk by pesticide use in the Refuges that were designed to protect them.”

Along with the senators, I ask that you expeditiously begin a rulemaking process to phase out the use of agricultural pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges. Specifically, I ask that:
1. All chemical or biological pesticides registered under Section 3 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act be subject to phase out on National Wildlife Refuge land, automatically exempting minimum risk pesticides such as those used in organic production.
2. The use of any pesticides for the control of invasive or non-native species be authorized only on a limited basis when necessary so long as it is compatible with each Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan and strictly in conformity with an Integrated Pest Management plan.
3. As a short-term fix, I ask that the 2014 memorandum issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Chief James Kurth be reinstated, phasing out neonicotinoids.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators

I am asking you to support the request by Senator Cory Booker and seven other senators that U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) phase out the use of toxic pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges in order to protect declining wildlife species and the country’s unique natural resources. Native wildlife and the ecosystems upon which humans rely are under greater threats than ever before from climate change, habitat destruction, and the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides.

As stated by the senators in a letter to FWS, “The Refuge System was established to provide sanctuary for listed threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and other wildlife. The Refuges’ migratory sanctuary and breeding grounds are especially critical for North American birds, as they have faced precipitous population declines; there are 3 billion fewer breeding birds in North America than there were in 1970. Unfortunately these birds and other threatened species are being put at risk by pesticide use in the Refuges that were designed to protect them.”

Along with the senators, I ask that you ask FWS to expeditiously begin a rulemaking process to phase out the use of agricultural pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges. Specifically, I ask that:
1. All chemical or biological pesticides registered under Section 3 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act be subject to phase out on National Wildlife Refuge land, automatically exempting minimum risk pesticides such as those used in organic production.
2. The use of any pesticides for the control of invasive or non-native species be authorized only on a limited basis when necessary so long as it is compatible with each Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan and strictly in conformity with an Integrated Pest Management plan.
3. As a short-term fix, I ask that the 2014 memorandum issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Chief James Kurth be reinstated, phasing out neonicotinoids.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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