Washington, D.C. – Chemical pesticides applied to lawns, gardens, and industrial agriculture operations are a major threat to imperiled wildlife, according to a new report released today. “Poisoned: 10 American Species Imperiled by Pesticides” details how domestic and commercial pesticides—including herbicides, insecticides, and rodenticides—are contributing to the decline of many common and lesser known species of wildlife.
“Pesticides are toxic chemicals that persist for days, months and even years in our environment—poisoning all life forms, from bees and fish to mammals—and they are linked to a range of serious illnesses and diseases in humans,” said Dr. Jan Randall, Coalition board member and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee. “We owe it to future generations to protect our air, water and wildlife from these poisonous chemicals.”
In the U.S. alone, we spend nearly $9 billion annually on pesticides, toxic chemicals that end up contaminating the drinking water for as many as 50 million people, according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A 2017 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that just two commonly used pesticides (malathion and chlorpyrifos) were so toxic that they jeopardize more than 1,200 endangered species. That report, however, was blocked by political appointees at the Department of Interior, including Secretary David Bernhardt, who now oversees the department. The Trump Administration then overruled Environmental Protection Agency experts and rejected a ban on chlorpyrifos, which is also linked to brain damage in children.
With their continued widespread use, pesticide impacts are felt across the web of life—from insects to mammals. The monarch butterfly, for instance, has declined by nearly 80 percent in the last two decades, largely due to eradication by herbicides of milkweed—the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Similarly, the Crotch’s bumblebee has paralleled the decline of many other native bees as a result of the use of neonicotinoids—a widely used but highly toxic insecticide. Native bees are important pollinators, not only for wild plants, but for agricultural crops, as well.
“Southern Resident killer whales are apex predators and therefore they are ingesting high levels of toxicants in their prey, primarily Chinook salmon,” said Dr. Deborah Giles, resident scientist at the University of Washington. “We must do everything possible to stop toxicants from entering the food web and ensure abundant high quality Chinook for the whales.”
Poisoned: 10 American Species Imperiled by Pesticides:
|California red-legged frog
|Northern spotted owl
|Pink mucket pearly mussel
|Streaked horned lark
|San Joaquin kit fox
|Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Staff Pick)
|Crotch’s bumble bee
Endangered Species Coalition’s member groups nominated species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations and chose the finalists. The full report, along with photos can be viewed and downloaded at http://endangered.org/poisoned. The Endangered Species Coalition produces a Top 10 report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.
The Endangered Species Act was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House, and signed by President Richard Nixon 45 years ago on December 28. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting the law has a success rate of more than 90 percent, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, like the bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.
Although the Administration and some members of Congress have been seeking to weaken the Act, public opinion research indicates that the law continues to maintain broad, bipartisan, public support. A 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic lines support the Endangered Species Act.