Setting Priorities for Endangered Species Assessments
Primary Priority-Setting Approach
The magnitude of EPA’s responsibility to review each pesticide’s potential effect on each listed species has prompted us to explore priority-setting approaches that will be both efficient and effective. In 2001, EPA and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Interior requested that the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science convene a committee of independent experts to examine topics pertaining to tools and approaches for assessing the effects of proposed FIFRA actions on endangered and threatened species and their critical habitats. After NAS released its report in April 2013, EPA began working collaboratively with the Services and USDA to develop the scientific methods described in the interim approaches.
Currently, EPA is working on nationwide assessments (Biological Evaluations and Biological Opinions) for several pilot pesticides. In April 2016, EPA released the first-ever draft biological evaluations of three chemical pesticides Search EPA Archiveas a pilot test of a new process to analyze the nation-wide effects of pesticides on endangered and threatened species and designated critical habitat. The evaluations were developed using interim scientific methods developed collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
The interim scientific methods represent a new paradigm for analyzing pesticides for effects on endangered species. Where registered uses of the pesticides are “likely to adversely affect” species or habitat, USFWS and NMFS will use EPA data and analyses in their final biological opinions, and EPA may determine that a pesticide’s registration, label or use instructions should be altered to reduce or eliminate potential risk to the species or habitat.
Special Circumstances Influencing Priorities
As EPA carries out its Endangered Species Act responsibilities and therefore sets its priorities for review of pesticide effects on listed species, there may be special circumstances that lead EPA to assess potential effects outside those ongoing processes. For example:
- There may be situations in which information is brought to EPA’s attention that indicates a listed species may be exposed to a particular pesticide in a manner resulting in unacceptable risk.
- EPA may assess risks to listed species on schedules ordered by a Court as a result of litigation.