EPA Releases Draft Strategy Aimed at Protecting Endangered Species from Herbicide Use

United States Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Releases Draft Strategy Aimed at Protecting Endangered Species from Herbicide Use

On July 26, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its draft Herbicide Strategy aimed at protecting federally endangered and threatened (listed) species from conventional agricultural herbicides for public comment.

The Strategy describes proposed early mitigations for more than 900 listed species and designated critical habitats to reduce potential impacts from the agricultural use of these herbicides.

“Ensuring safe use of herbicides is an important part of EPA’s mission to protect the environment,” said Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pesticide Programs for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Jake Li. “This strategy reflects one of our biggest steps to support farmers and other herbicide users with tools for managing weeds, while accelerating EPA’s ability to protect many endangered species that live near agricultural areas.”

Under the Strategy, EPA proposes to identify and begin mitigating for potential impacts even before EPA completes Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations. These early mitigations should expedite EPA’s ability to fully comply with the ESA by reducing impacts to listed species before EPA conducts most of its ESA analysis.

EPA states the Strategy’s proposed mitigations reflect practices that can be readily implemented by growers and identified by pesticide applicators and that provide flexibility for growers to select the mitigations that work best for them.

The agency also noted the Strategy gives credit to landowners who are already implementing certain measures to reduce pesticide runoff. For example, existing vegetated ditches and water retention ponds will qualify for credits that reduce the need for additional mitigation. EPA also reported the Strategy would require less mitigation on flat lands, which are less prone to runoff, and in many western states, which typically experience less rain to carry pesticides off fields.

In the Herbicide strategy, producers are offered a menu of options to choose from to adhere to protections.

Here are the “guiding principles” EPA used to develop the strategy:
• Focus on minimizing impacts to non-target listed plants and animals that depend on plants.
• Focus on routes of exposure—spray drift and runoff/erosion.
• Develop mitigation measures that growers and applicators can easily use and let them choose the mitigation process that works best for them.
• Propose consistent mitigation measures for all conventional herbicides.
• Provide options for adding other measures in the future, particularly in adding new technology or information on the effectiveness of new measures.