On November 16, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an update to its Endangered Species Act (ESA) Workplan that outlines steps to increase protections for wildlife while also providing regulatory certainty for pesticide users. The update, which follows the EPA’s April 2022 ESA Workplan, aims to address the complexity of meeting the Agency’s obligations under the ESA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). When registering or reevaluating a pesticide, EPA has an obligation under FIFRA to determine whether the pesticide presents unreasonable adverse effects on human health or the environment. EPA is also obligated under the ESA to ensure pesticide registrations do not imperil the continued existence of ESA-listed species or adversely impact their respective critical habitats.
To better fulfill the Agency’s obligations under the ESA, the Workplan update stresses the need for pesticide registration review and other FIFRA actions to provide protections for nontarget species, including endangered and threatened species, earlier in the review process. As well as resulting in better ESA compliance, these changes could provide farmers with more predictable access to pesticides.
- Describes EPA’s overall approach to mitigating ecological risks in registration review, which includes prioritization of registration review cases based on opportunities to reduce a pesticide’s risk to human health or the environment.
- Proposes a menu of FIFRA Interim Ecological Mitigation measures that EPA will draw from for future conventional and biological pesticide registration and registration review actions to protect non-target species
- Proposes label language to expand the use of online endangered species protection bulletins to implement geographically specific mitigation measures for individual listed species. These measures are designed to focus protections only in specific needed areas, thus minimizing impacts to agriculture..
- Describes current and future programmatic initiatives with other federal agencies to prioritize mitigation for listed species that are particularly vulnerable to pesticides and to improve the efficiency and timeliness of the ESA-FIFRA process.
The FIFRA Interim Ecological Mitigation measures will focus on reducing pesticide spray drift and runoff. and will be applied on a case-by-case basis, depending on the level of risk that a particular pesticide presents to species and the exposure route. This approach is intended to more efficiently protect nontarget species, including listed species, and to standardize protections across similar pesticides, rather than addressing risks on a pesticide or species-specific basis as the EPA has done in the past.
Additionally, the Agency plans to work with registrants of pesticides to add language to pesticide labels that direct users to reference Bulletins Live! Two, a website containing endangered species protection bulletins. These bulletins contain use limitations to protect threatened and endangered species and their designated critical habitat in specific geographic areas. The EPA expects that adding the reference to Bulletins Live! Two, to pesticide labels in advance of consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, will save time and resources by reducing the number of amendments to labels. It further plans to add language on pesticide incident reporting and advisory language to protect insect pollinators to protect listed and other non-target species better.