A federal district court approved a settlement today requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to better protect California red-legged frogs from seven common pesticides known to be highly toxic to amphibians. The settlement gives the agency two years to prepare “biological opinions” under the Endangered Species Act to analyze pesticide use in and near the frog’s aquatic and upland habitats.
“We’re hopeful the analysis required by this agreement will stop the use of harmful pesticide in the red-legged frog’s most vulnerable habitats and open the door to its recovery,” said Justin Augustine, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s long overdue.”
A 2006 legal settlement secured by the Center required the EPA to assess pesticide impacts on red-legged frogs and to then formally consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. The EPA’s assessments found that widespread use of pesticides is likely harming red-legged frogs and the court ordered temporary pesticide use restrictions that remain in effect today. Despite the EPA’s findings, however, the Service and EPA failed to complete the required consultation, resulting in the litigation by the Center that culminated in today’s settlement.
Today’s court order gives the Fish and Wildlife Service two years to complete biological opinions for seven pesticides: glyphosate, malathion, simazine, pendimethalin, permethrin, methomyl and myclobutanil. This consultation process could lead to permanent restrictions on some of the most harmful pesticide uses.
“Because they’re so sensitive to chemical contaminants, frogs are an important barometer of the health of our ecosystems,” said Augustine. “Pesticides found in red-legged frog habitat can also contaminate our drinking water, food, homes and schools, posing a disturbing health risk.”
Once abundant throughout California and made famous in Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” California red-legged frogs were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1996. Their numbers have declined more than 90 percent; the species is no longer found in 70 percent of its former range. The most severe declines have been observed in the Sierra Nevada mountains east of California’s central valley, where frogs are exposed to pesticides from the intensely agricultural San Joaquin valley. More....