EPA Releases ESA Herbicide Proposal

EPA Releases Proposed Strategy to Protect Endangered Species From Herbicides

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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EPA released a proposed draft strategy Monday to protect endangered species from herbicides. (Photo courtesy USDA)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- EPA released a proposed draft strategy on Monday outlining how the agency would protect endangered species when it comes to herbicide applications.

Back in December 2022, the agency posted for public comment a comprehensive workplan developed to address a decades-long challenge of protecting endangered species from pesticides.

The proposed herbicide strategy describes early mitigations for more than 900 listed species and designated critical habitats.

The EPA launched a 60-day public comment period on Sunday that will run through Sept. 22, 2023. Comments will be accepted by the agency here: https://www.regulations.gov/….

As part of the overall workplan created by the EPA, the agency has proposed a menu of mitigation measures that can be used across a range of pesticides.

Measures are intended to reduce spray drift, surface water runoff and transport of ag chemicals through erosion.

EPA said in a news release Monday that the herbicide strategy focuses on agricultural crop uses in the lower 48 states, "because hundreds of millions of pounds of herbicides (and plant growth regulators) are applied each year, which is substantially more than for non-agricultural uses of herbicides and for other pesticide classes (e.g., insecticides, fungicides)."

In addition, EPA said hundreds of listed species in the lower 48 states live in habitats adjacent to agricultural areas.

"The proposed mitigations in the strategy would address the most common ways that conventional agricultural herbicides impact these listed species," EPA said in a news release.

"EPA expects that the strategy will increase the efficiency of future ESA consultations on herbicides with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has authority over most listed species that could benefit from the proposed mitigations."

EPA proposes to identify and begin mitigating for potential effects on listed species before completing ESA consultations, the agency said.

"These early mitigations should expedite EPA's ability to fully comply with the ESA by reducing impacts to listed species before EPA conducts most of its ESA analysis," EPA said in a news release.

The agency said its strategy is to use mitigations that reflect practices that can be readily implemented by growers and identified by pesticide applicators and that provide flexibility for growers to select the mitigations that work best for them.

EPA said its traditional chemical-by-chemical, species-by-species approach to meeting Endangered Species Act obligations is "slow and costly."

Because of that, the agency said it has completed ESA obligations for less than 5% of its actions "creating legal vulnerabilities for the agency, increased litigation and uncertainty for farmers and other pesticide users."

The proposed strategy would give credit to landowners who are already implementing certain measures to reduce pesticide runoff, EPA said.

"For example, existing vegetated ditches and water retention ponds will qualify for credits that reduce the need for additional mitigation," EPA said.

"Similarly, the strategy would require less mitigation on flat lands, which are less prone to runoff and in many western states which typically experience less rain to carry pesticides off fields."

The draft framework document includes a discussion of both the proposed scope of the herbicide strategy and the proposed decision framework to determine the level of mitigation needed for a particular herbicide, according to EPA.

"The draft framework document also includes examples of how the proposed herbicide mitigation would apply to some of the herbicides for which EPA has conducted case studies as well as EPA's proposed implementation plan," the agency said.

Read more on DTN:

"EPA Proposes New Approach for Pesticides," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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