Booker Leads Colleagues to Call for Agricultural Pesticide Bans in National Wildlife Refuges
washington d.c. — Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) led his colleagues to urge the United States Fish & Wildlife Service to stop approving new agricultural pesticide uses on National Wildlife Refuges and initiate a regulations that would completely eliminate these pesticides through the refuge system.
“The Refuge System was created to provide refuge for threatened and endangered species, migratory birds and other listed wildlife,” the senators wrote in a letter to the U.S. Director of Fisheries and of wildlife, Martha Williams. “The Refuges migration sanctuary and breeding grounds are particularly critical for North American birds, as they have faced precipitous population declines; there are 3 billion fewer breeding birds in North America than there were in 1970. Unfortunately, these birds and other endangered species are endangered by the use of pesticides in sanctuaries that were designed to protect them.
The senators pointed to recent rulings by the Environmental Protection Agency “that some of the most commonly used agricultural chemicals have the potential to harm endangered species.” For example, the most commonly used herbicide in the United States, glyphosate (popularly known as Roundup), is likely to adversely affect 93% of all species listed as endangered or threatened under endangered species law. Among the neonicotinoids – the most commonly used class of insecticides in the United States – studies show that imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam are likely to harm 80%, 82% and 81% of all listed species, respectively. .
Agricultural pesticides used in the refuges “also seep into surrounding groundwater and soil and are picked up by flowering plants and native pollinators,” the senators continued. “This directly threatens non-target organisms, the Refuges’ 53 million annual visitors, and surrounding waters and ecosystems.”
Lawmakers urged the Fish and Wildlife Service to “quickly begin a rule-making process to phase out the use of agricultural pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges.” This includes phasing out all chemical or biological pesticides registered under Section 3 of the Federal Insecticides, Fungicides, and Rodenticides Act, permitting the use of pesticides for invasive species control or non-native only on a limited basis when necessary, and the reinstatement of a 2014 memorandum law phasing out the prophylactic use of neonicotinoid pesticides on refuges.
The letter was co-signed by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Alex Padilla ( D-CA) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
The full text of the letter is available here.