Press Releases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and a group of their colleagues to urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to stop approving new uses of agricultural pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges and to initiate a rulemaking that would fully phase-out such pesticides across the Refuge System.

“The Refuge System was established to provide sanctuary for listed threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and other wildlife,” wrote the senators in a letter to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director Martha Williams. “The Refuges’ migratory sanctuary and breeding grounds are especially critical for North American birds, as they have faced precipitous population declines; there are 3 billion fewer breeding birds in North America than there were in 1970. Unfortunately these birds and other threatened species are being put at risk by pesticide use in the Refuges that were designed to protect them.” 

The senators highlighted recent determinations made by the Environmental Protection Agency “that some of the most commonly used agricultural chemicals are likely to adversely affect endangered species.” For example, the most commonly used herbicide in the United States, glyphosate (popularly known as Roundup), is likely to adversely affect 93% of all species listed as Endangered or Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Of the neonicotinoids -- the most commonly used class of insecticides in the United States -- studies show that imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam were likely to harm 80%, 82%, and 81% of all listed species, respectively. 

Agricultural pesticides used in refuges also “leach into the surrounding groundwater and soil and are picked up by native flowering plants and pollinators,” continued the senators. “This directly threatens non-target organisms, the 53 million annual visitors to the Refuges, and the surrounding waters and ecosystems.” 

The lawmakers urged the Fish and Wildlife Service to “expeditiously begin a rulemaking process to phase out the use of agricultural pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges.” This includes phasing out all chemical or biological pesticides registered under Section 3 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, authorizing the use of pesticides for the control of invasive or non-native species only a limited basis when necessary and reinstating a 2014 memorandum phasing out the prophylactic use of neonicotinoid pesticides on refuges. 

In addition to Feinstein and Booker, the letter was also signed by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). 

Full text of the letter can be found here.