Dangerous Pesticides Kill Wildlife, Harm Unique Ecosystems
(Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2017) On behalf of American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice has petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to adopt a statewide prohibition on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the more than one million acres of wildlife habitat under its jurisdiction. “We need to be sure that these lands remain safe havens for birds and other wildlife,” said Cynthia Palmer, ABC’s Director of Pesticides Science and Regulation.
Neonics are a relatively new class of chemicals with the potential to derail California’s efforts to safeguard its unique ecosystems. Neonics are deadly to pollinators and other wildlife, including birds. For example, a single seed coated with neonics is enough to kill a songbird, and exposure to just one-tenth of a coated seed per day during the egg-laying season is enough to impair reproduction. Even tiny doses can cause birds to lose coordination and the ability to fly. Neonics are also lethal to many of the terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates — including butterflies, bees, earthworms, and mayflies — that are critical food sources for birds and other wildlife.
“What’s so stunning about these pesticides,” said Palmer, “is the fact that they can actually exacerbate the pest problems they were meant to solve. By harming pollinators like bees and butterflies, as well as natural pest control agents like birds and beneficial insects, neonics are sabotaging the very organisms on which we all depend.”
Europe has enacted a moratorium on the use of neonics, and Canada has proposed a nationwide ban on the most widely used neonic, imidacloprid, given the risk it poses to birds, insects, small mammals, and other wildlife. In addition, many U.S. companies such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, True Value, and BJ’s Wholesale Club, as well as state and local legislatures, are reining in the use of neonics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned neonic use on National Wildlife Refuge lands as of last year.
“We hope that the California Fish and Game Commission will follow the lead of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and prohibit any use of neonicotinoid pesticides on the important network of wildlife refuges it oversees throughout California, one of the nation’s most biodiverse states,” said Trent Orr, the Earthjustice staff attorney who worked on the petition.
“It’s time for the agencies managing state refuges across the nation to join in protecting our endangered species and other wildlife from these poisons,” Palmer stated. “California has long been an environmental standard-bearer for the other states on everything from auto emissions to building codes. We urge the California Fish and Game Commission to lead the way on pesticides, as well, by adopting a statewide prohibition on neonicotinoid insecticides.”
(Photo: Banning the use of neonics on Califonia's public lands would benefit songbirds such as Horned Lark and many other species. Photo by Tom Grey)
American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.
Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.