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
- Assessing Effects of New Pesticides on Listed Species
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.
As of January 11, 2022, before registering any new conventional pesticide active ingredient (AI), EPA will evaluate the potential effects on listed species and their designated critical habitats and initiate ESA consultation with the Services, as appropriate.
If EPA finds through its analyses that a new conventional pesticide AI is likely to adversely affect listed species or their designated critical habitats, EPA will initiate formal consultation with the Services before granting a registration for a product containing a new AI. As part of its analysis and under its existing authorities, EPA will consider the likelihood that the registration action may jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or adversely modify their designated critical habitat and provide its findings to the Services. To determine or predict the potential effects of a pesticide on these species and habitats, EPA will use appropriate ecological assessment principles and apply what it has learned from effects determinations and the Services’ biological opinions and other relevant documents.
If EPA determines that jeopardy or adverse modification is likely, the Agency will only make a registration decision on the new AI after requiring registrants to implement mitigation measures that allow EPA to predict that jeopardy or adverse modification is not likely. If EPA finds that a new AI is likely to adversely affect listed species or their critical habitat, but that jeopardy/adverse modification is not likely, the Agency may nonetheless require registrants to include measures on their registration and product labeling to minimize unintentional harm (i.e. “take”) to listed species that could result from use of a pesticide. In both situations, formal consultation with the Services is still necessary. Further, EPA may determine that it is necessary for registrants to incorporate a link to Bulletins Live! Two—an online system that describes pesticide use limitations by geographic area—into the product’s labeling.
Mitigations may include measures intended to reduce the amount of pesticide that may leave a treated field, restrict the geographic or temporal scope of pesticide applications, and reduce maximum application rates or number of applications allowed on a treated site.
EPA looks forward to collaborating with stakeholders to ensure that meaningful measures are put into place to protect listed species from pesticides.