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New Consultation Rules Give Endangered Species A Better Chance
Federal agencies must consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and/or NOAA Fisheries before they take actions that might affect endangered species. The consultation process has not worked well in the past. One problem is that FWS and NMFS do not have the resources to study all agency actions that might affect endangered species. Some environmental groups have exploited the current consultation process problems to try to prevent EPA from allowing pesticide use. Some of these groups care much less about endangered species than they do about banning pesticides. They are institutionally opposed to all pesticides, and they will use whatever they can to stop them.

On July 29, 2004, FWS and NOAA Fisheries announced that they have finalized proposed rules that change the current consultation process for pesticides. The final rules will soon be published in the Federal Register. Basically, the new rules allow EPA to determine that use of a particular pesticide under specified conditions will not adversely affect endangered species. FWS and/or NOAA fisheries will periodically review EPA's determinations to ensure they are correct. When EPA determines that use of a particular pesticide may adversely affect endangered species, then it will have to consult with FWS and/or NOAA before making a final decision on the pesticide.

Steve Williams, FWS Director, said the rules "create a workable framework to protect species, ranging from salmon to butterflies and songbirds, ensuring that the potential effects of thousands of pest-control products are examined in a timely and comprehensive manner"; while also ensuring that "farmers can continue to provide abundant food for our country and that consumers can continue to use many popular household and garden products."

Some environmental groups are already threatening to sue on the new rules.

Winston thinks Mr. Williams is right. The new rules may be the only way both to protect endangered species and to continue to allow pesticide use. Opposition to the new rules is probably just a cover for what the opponents really oppose: any pesticide use in this country.

  • Click for FWS discussion of new rules.

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