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Report faults EPA on wildlife.

Report faults EPA on wildlife

A self-commissioned "audit' of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revealed serious shortcomings in the protection provided to endangered species. According to a report issued last week by the Center for Environmental Education (CEE), the EPA failed to take appropriate action on nearly one-third of the approximately 40 pesticides found between 1980 and late 1984 to threaten endangered species. On a few occasions, says CEE, EPA did not even investigate reports of pesticide poisoning.

Under the Endangered Species Act, EPA is required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whenever a pesticide is suspected of threatening a species on the endangered list. If the pesticide is found to jeopardize any species, EPA is required to restrict its use. Instead, according to the report, the agency at times ignored the recommendations of Fish and Wildlife or acted before receiving them. In one instance, EPA registered the pesticide chlorpyrifos, though the Fish and Wildlife Service had advised that it jeopardized 110 endangered species.

"It was not a deliberate decision on the part of the agency to downplay the protection of endangered species,' says Milton Russell, assistant administrator of policy planning and evaluation at EPA. Agency officials say they have been using drafts of the report for the past year in an effort to correct the problems and will be in complete compliance with the Endangered Species Act within the next two years.

According to Michael Slimak, chief of the EPA's Ecological Effects Branch, some of EPA's actions were intended only as stopgap measures, while the agency moved from a case-by-case method of pesticide review to a "cluster' approach. Restrictions on single pesticides tend to shift users to other nonrestricted but often equally dangerous pesticides, Slimak says. Such restrictions, though required by the Endangered Species Act, "wouldn't provide any protection to the species' until the agency developed a policy of reviewing related groups of pesticides. With this cluster approach in place, Slimak says, the EPA is now going over those decisions. "In the next two years, we will essentially catch up.'

Says Susan Hagood of the Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife, "We're supportive of the effort to critique themselves. But we look to the PEA for follow-through. In the absence of substantive changes, we'll probably take them to court.' On Aug. 27, the Defenders filed suit against the EPA in an effort to ban most above-ground uses of the rodenticide strychnine.
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Author:Davis, Lisa
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 6, 1986
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