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Endangered Species Litigation and Associated Pesticide Limitations
Among other things, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) helps ensure that actions taken or permitted by the federal government will not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or result in adverse modification of designated critical habitat. The ESA requires federal agencies to:
- determine whether their actions might harm a listed species or its designated critical habitat (procedural obligations); and
- ensure the action taken or permitted will not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or result in adverse modification of its designated critical habitat (substantive obligations).
The ESA also includes provisions that allow the public to bring suit in court against a federal agency when they believe a listed species is not being adequately protected (called citizen suit provisions). Such suits may be focused on a federal agency’s procedural or substantive obligations under the ESA.
EPA has been subject to several citizen suits, which required EPA to conduct scientific assessments and make effects determinations for numerous pesticides, including assessing the effects of products containing any of:
- 54 pesticide active ingredients to 26 species of listed salmon and steelhead.
- 66 pesticide active ingredients to the California red-legged frog.
- 59 pesticide active ingredients to 11 species in the greater San Francisco Bay area.
In order to assist the public in understanding certain other measures the courts have put in place, EPA developed interactive maps that depict certain court ordered buffer areas, or no use areas, around certain water bodies:
- Salmon Mapper (to protect endangered or threatened salmon and steelhead in Washington, Oregon and California).
- Interactive map for San Francisco Bay Area interim use limitations (applies to 11 threatened or endangered species).
These measures are not enforced by EPA under FIFRA.
Some endangered species assessments, also called "effects determinations" and "biological evaluations," have been completed as part of litigation, while other are pending. View these assessments and related documents.
EPA is currently working on nationwide assessments (biological evaluations) for the following five pesticides:
In separate litigation, the National Marine Fisheries Service has agreed to complete final biological opinions for chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon by December 2017 and for carbaryl and methomyl by December 2018.
EPA and the Center for Biological Diversity have also agreed to a revised settlement agreement modifying a 2010 court order. As part of this agreement, EPA has agree to complete nationwide effects determinations on the following four pesticides:
The agreement includes schedules for completion of determinations and initiation of consultation for the four pesticides by 2020.
For all of these nationwide effects determinations, EPA intends to use and build on the interim scientific approaches that were developed based on the April 2013 National Academy of Sciences report recommendations.
Read information on the NAS report and our implementation of it:
- National Academy of Sciences report. Exit
- Interim Approaches for Pesticide Endangered Species Assessments Based on NAS Report Recommendations.
Consistent with EPA’s desire to conduct the business of the public in an open and transparent manner, the Agency makes available information on each lawsuit, orders issued by the courts, assessments and effects determinations made consistent with the outcome of litigation, and other relevant information. As future actions are taken by the courts and as EPA completes additional assessments and effects determinations, or takes other actions consistent with the outcome of litigation, that information will be posted as well.
Information on Litigation Cases
Cases with Ongoing Court-ordered Use Limitations
- Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) v. EPA (salmon and steelhead in the Pacific northwest)
- Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) v. EPA (salmon and steelhead in the Pacific northwest)
- Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) v. EPA (75 chemicals, 11 species in San Francisco Bay area)
- Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) v. Johnson (effects of 66 pesticides on the California red-legged frog)
Completed Cases Involving Only Effects Determinations
- Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) v. EPA (effects of atrazine on 21 species) Search EPA Archive
- Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Save Our Springs Alliance (SOSA) v. EPA (Case No: 1:04-Cv-00126-Ckk, 2004) (Barton Springs salamander) Search EPA Archive
- Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) v. EPA (Case No. C00-3150-CW, 2002) (effects of 18 pesticides on certain listed forest plants and salmonids) Search EPA Archive