EPA’s Workplan and Progress Toward Better Protections for Endangered Species
On this page:
- Overview: EPA and the Endangered Species Act
- Workplan for Improving Outcomes for Listed Species
- Workplan Update and Implementation
When EPA registers a pesticide or reevaluates it in registration review, the Agency has a responsibility under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to ensure that the pesticide registrations do not jeopardize the continued existence of federally threatened or endangered (listed) species or adversely modify their designated critical habitats. Chemical stressors, such as pesticides, are one of many factors that can contribute to population declines of listed species. Other factors include habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, and pests/diseases.
Where EPA determines that a pesticide in the registration or registration review process “may affect” a listed species, EPA must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services), as applicable. During consultation, the Services provide EPA with measures, where needed, to avoid jeopardy to listed species and adverse modification of critical habitats from a pesticide. EPA faces several challenges that have made it difficult to implement timely and effective strategies that specifically address protecting listed species from possible pesticide effects. To better protect listed species, EPA is working to improve how EPA assesses effects to listed species in its pesticide evaluations and consultation processes.
EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and ESA are important laws that allow EPA to meet its mission. Through these and other laws, EPA decides how best to regulate pesticide uses to ensure they achieve society’s pest control goals without unduly harming human health or the environment, including listed species. This is a difficult task, considering that there are many pesticide products and amendments that require EPA assessment and over 1,600 listed species in the United States. In addition, information on the vulnerability, biology, and location of many of these species is limited, especially information on how pesticides may impact their survival.
In 2021, prompted by the escalating challenges of fulfilling its ESA obligations for pesticide decisions, EPA began developing a comprehensive, long-term approach to meeting those obligations. Informed by EPA’s past efforts and by its recent discussions with stakeholders, EPA in 2021 began holding a series of internal and external meetings on how the Agency could address its ESA obligations. These include quarterly ESA-FIFRA meetings with stakeholders and a widely attended January 2022 public listening session on improving the ESA-FIFRA process.
The outcome of these dialogues is a workplan, Balancing Wildlife Protection and Responsible Pesticide Use (pdf) which reflects EPA’s experiences, assesses its future ESA workload, and describes administrative and other improvements that EPA will pursue or consider pursuing. The workplan reflects the Agency’s most comprehensive thinking to date on how to create a sustainable ESA-FIFRA program.
On November 16, 2022, EPA announced an ESA Workplan Update (pdf) that explains steps EPA is and will be taking to better protect non-target species, including listed species, earlier in the process through pesticide registration review and other FIFRA actions. On November 17, 2022, EPA hosted a webinar to discuss these efforts and answer questions. See the webinar recording and the presentation slides (pdf) .
Registration review efforts
- EPA has developed a menu of FIFRA Interim Ecological Mitigation measures to draw from for many future conventional and biological pesticide registration and registration review actions to protect nontarget species. For each FIFRA action, EPA will consider this menu and propose, based on the risks and benefits of the particular pesticide, which specific measures to include on the pesticide label. EPA’s proposed interim decisions (PIDs) for DCNA, etofenprox, norflurazon, and thiophenate-methyl and carbendazim (TM/MBC) are the first to incorporate these measures. EPA is accepting public comment on these PIDs until March 8, 2023.
- EPA has proposed label language to expand the use of online endangered species protection bulletins to implement geographically specific mitigation measures for individual listed species. These measures are designed to focus protections only in specific needed areas, minimizing impacts to agriculture. Where needed, EPA may develop these measures to complement generic FIFRA ecological mitigation.
- EPA is beginning registration review ESA pilots to incorporate early ESA mitigation measures into registration review decisions for carbaryl, methomyl, rodenticides and neonicotinoids (forthcoming). For each of these pilot chemicals, EPA is identifying certain listed species that likely need protection and is proposing mitigation for those species.
Programmatic ESA initiatives
- Identifying ESA mitigation measures for pilot species (Federal Mitigation Pilot and Vulnerable Species Pilot).
- Assessing effects of new pesticides on listed species.
- Incorporating early ESA mitigation measures for groups of pesticides (e.g., herbicides). Historically, EPA’s analyses have been focused on a single pesticide. Now, EPA is moving away from a pesticide-by-pesticide approach. EPA’s process involves developing mitigation measures across a pesticide group to address the taxon (e.g., plants, invertebrates) that EPA expects is most likely to be adversely affected by the pesticides in that group.
- Developing region-specific strategies. EPA is exploring development of mitigation measures to address the effects of pesticides on listed species on a geographic basis. For example, evaluating Hawaii as a whole, rather than on a pesticide-by-pesticide or species-by-species basis, would make the consultation process more efficient.
- Exploring broad mitigation strategies for nonagricultural uses.
- Using other programmatic approaches to consultation, as listed in the ESA Workplan Update.
See the ESA Workplan Update (pdf) for more information on these initiatives.