Following Center for Food Safety Petition, Government Agrees to Eliminate Bee-Toxic Pesticide in NW Wildlife Refuges
Late last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) quietly announced plans to phase out neonicotinoid insecticides in wildlife refuges in the Pacific Region, including Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. According to the new policy, refuge managers will be asked to exhaust all alternatives before allowing the use of neonicotinoids on National Wildlife Refuge System Lands. FWS is the first agency to restrict the use of neonicotinoids—a class of pesticides implicated in pollinator losses around the world—in farming in the U.S. In February 2014, CFS filed a legal petition asking FWS to ban the use of neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges.
“FWS has taken a responsible and necessary first step in the Pacific region, but the agency must permanently institute this policy on all refuge lands across the country,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “As our legal challenges have repeatedly stated, the costs of these chemicals severely outweigh the benefits; we must eliminate their use immediately.”
The FWS directive highlights the “broad-spectrum adverse effects” of using neonicotinoids and found the practice at odds with FWS’s policy of Integrated Pest Management (IMP). A study released by CFS earlier this year found that neonicotinoid seeds treatment rarely improved yields for corn and soybeans, corroborating the findings of FWS.
Prior to the 2016 phase out, refuge managers will need to have an approved Pesticide Use Proposals (PUP) and completed Endangered Species Act consultation documentation before using neonicotinoid pesticides, including the planting of neonicotinoid-treated seed to grow agricultural crops. Center for Food Safety has demanded similar regulation in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Federal wildlife refuges were established to protect natural diversity. Allowing chemical companies to profit by poisoning these important ecosystems violates their fundamental purpose and mission,” added Tomaselli.
FWS has allowed farming on refuge lands for decades despite its harmful effects on wildlife, native grasses, and biodiversity.
Over the past six years, CFS and its allies have repeatedly stopped FWS from permitting the growing of GE crops on numerous National Wildlife Refuges across the country (Northeast and Southeast). CFS is currently litigating FWS’s allowance of industrial agriculture practices on Midwest Wildlife Refuges.