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Basic Information About ESPP

Basic Information

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the government protects endangered and threatened plants and animals (listed species) and the habitats upon which they depend. The ESA requires federal agencies to ensure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out, does not "adversely impact" any listed species, or "destroy or adversely modify" any critical habitat for that species. Read more about how the ESA is administered.

EPA's Endangered Species Protection Program (ESPP) helps promote the recovery of listed species. The ESPP is a program designed to determine whether pesticide use in a certain geographic area may affect any listed species. If limitations on pesticide use are necessary to protect listed species in that area, the information is related through Endangered Species Protection Bulletins.


The goal of EPA's Endangered Species Protection Program (ESPP) is to carry out its responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (PDF) (106 pp, 743 K, about PDF) in compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), without placing unnecessary burden on agriculture and other pesticide users. EPA is responsible for reviewing information and data to determine whether a pesticide product may be registered for a particular use. As part of that determination, the Agency assesses whether listed endangered or threatened species or their designated critical habitat may be affected by use of the product. All pesticide products that EPA determines “may affect” a listed species or its designated critical habitat may be subject to the ESPP.

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The Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is intended to protect and promote the recovery of animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. Threats to a species from habitat destruction, pollution, over-harvesting, disease, predation, and other natural or man-made factors must be reviewed and evaluated before an animal or plant can be placed on the federal endangered or threatened species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries Service (collectively, the Services) administer the ESA. However, all federal agencies must ensure that their actions will not jeopardize the existence of listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitat. Therefore, EPA must ensure that use of pesticides it registers will not result in harm to listed species or their critical habitat.

History of the ESPP

EPA established the ESPP in 1988 to meet its obligations under the ESA. At that time, it was a voluntary program that provided geographically specific pesticide use limitations in areas of concern based on Biological Opinions issued from the Services. The original ESPP was not an enforceable program but relied on cooperation between the FWS, EPA, states, tribes, and pesticide users. In December, 2002, EPA published for public comment its proposed approach to field implementation of the ESPP and received comments from many sources, including: industry, the grower community, government entities, and public interest groups. After reviewing and considering these comments, EPA published its final approach to field implementation of the ESPP on November 2, 2005, making it an enforceable program under FIFRA.

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Field Implementation

EPA will evaluate species concerns within the context of pesticide registration, reregistration, and registration review so that when a registration or reregistration decision is made, it fully addresses issues relative to listed species protection. If a risk assessment determines that use limitations are necessary to ensure that legal use of a pesticide will not harm listed species or their critical habitat, EPA may either change the terms of the pesticide registration or establish geographically specific pesticide use limitations. When geographically specific use limitations are necessary, they will be reflected in Endangered Species Protection Bulletins.

Bulletins identify the species of concern and the name of the pesticide active ingredient that may affect the listed species. They also provide a description of the protection measures necessary to protect the species, and contain a county-level map showing the geographic area(s) associated with the protection measures, depending on the susceptibility of the species to other factors such as vandalism. Bulletins will be effective and enforceable as part of the product label. The Bulletin are must be dated within six months of pesticide use.

Pesticide users who fail to follow label provisions applicable to their pesticide application, whether that failure results in harm to a listed species or not, will be subject to enforcement under the misuse provisions of FIFRA.

Role of States and Tribes

States and tribes will continue to be integral to the success of the ESPP. Local, state and tribal circumstances may influence the effectiveness of different approaches to listed species protection; therefore, local, state, and tribal governments may be afforded specific opportunities for Bulletin review, including review of maps and use limitations. States and tribes may also assist in determining the effectiveness of the ESPP via enforcement and inspection activity.

States and tribes may propose plans to EPA, which will review and adopt them if the proposed plan can be implemented via the generic label statement and Endangered Species Protection Bulletins and if any measures contained in the plan are determined to be appropriate for the protection of the listed species.

Public Participation

EPA intends the ESPP to be flexible and to modify it as necessary to achieve the goals of protecting listed species and minimizing the impact on pesticide users. The ongoing program will incorporate public participation within existing processes of registration, reregistration, and registration review. The processes for public participation during registration and registration review are under development. Reregistration generally is a four- or six-phase process that provides one or two formal opportunities for public input. In general, there are three major phases of a listed species assessment that provide opportunity for public input:

(1) prior to a “may affect” determination by EPA,
(2) when identifying potential mitigation if a risk assessment identifies a listed species concern, and
(3) prior to issuance of a Biological Opinion to EPA by the Services.

EPA will publish specific details of this process on its Web site as they are developed and refined.

View our Frequent Questions for more information on the ESPP.

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