Bees, Birds and Beetles Inspire Federal Pesticide Challenge

WASHINGTON (CN) — Fighting to prevent the extinction of 26 endangered species — from woodpeckers and bumblebees to frogs and dragonflies — conservationists brought a federal complaint Tuesday to vacate the registrations of neonicotinoid pesticides.

“Neonics pose significant adverse consequences to threatened and endangered species,” the complaint states. “Yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hundreds of neonic-containing pesticide products without consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as required under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.”

Filed in Washington, Tuesday’s complaint is led by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The group notes that spraying a plant with a systemic pesticide like a neonic makes everything inside the plant toxic to pests and other wildlife. When it rains, the NRDC says, a pesticide’s neonic active ingredients — acetamiprid, dinotefuran, and imidacloprid — then leach into the soil and work their way into groundwater.

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Dozens of endangered species whose continued survival is threatened by the ubiquity of neonics are listed in the complaint.

“The collapse of bee and other pollinator populations in the last decade, like that of the endangered rusty patched bumble bee, is one consequence of this contamination,” it says. “The chronic presence of neonics in ground and surface water also threatens aquatic species.”

Introducing the court to eight members who make it a point to observe creatures like the American burying beetle and the San Bruno elfin butterfly, the NRDC says its interests “are and will be directly, adversely, and irreparably affected by defendants’ violation of the law.”

Claiming that the failure of the EPA to consult with Fish and Wildlife about the pesticide registrations violates the Endangered Species Act, the environmentalists want those registrations vacated until the required consultations occur.

The NRDC is represented by in-house counsel Aaron Colangelo.

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“EPA ignored endangered bees, butterflies, and birds when it approved the widespread use of neonics,” Rebecca Riley, a senior attorney with NRDC out of Chicago, said in a statement. “Massive pollinator die-offs across the country show that these pesticides cause serious harm to wildlife. It’s time for EPA to do its job and make sure our most vulnerable species are protected from the products it approves,”

In addition to the rusty-patched bumble bee and the San Bruno elfin butterfly, endangered species mentioned in the complaint include the black-capped vireo, Taylor’s checkerspot, the Oregon silverspot butterfly and the Oregon spotted frog, several species of yellow-faced bees from Hawaii, and two blue butterflies.

The dwarf wedgemussel, the vernal pool fairy shrimp, the rabitsfoot mussel, the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, the yellow-billed cuckoo, the streaked horned lark, the red-cockaded woodpecker and the pallid sturgeon are each mentioned as well.

A representative with the EPA has not responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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