ESA in the News: lobbying, legislation and NOAA biological opinion with jeopardy finding on pesticides
An interesting article from the New York Times today about the potential use, or in some minds, abuse, of the Endangered Species Act as a tool to change federal climate change policy (or lack thereof). On the one hand, the article notes that EPA issued a finding last week that "greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare," see Greenwire story, and environmental advocates argue that EPA's conclusion should lead the Interior Department to repeal a Bush Administration rule that "explicitly exempted greenhouse gases from Endangered Species Act regulation." On the other hand, the Interior Department may not agree, because "David Hayes, Obama's nominee to be Salazar's second-in-command, told senators during his confirmation hearing that the endangered species law was ill-suited for addressing climate change." As another Interior spokesperson said: "We have zero legislative authority to regulate carbon emissions. That's just not what we do."
Meanwhile, a few blocks down on Constitution Avenue, species protection has re-emerged as a priority topic among legislators. MongaBay notes that "The US House of Representatives passed today, the 39th Earth Day, two bills that would aid some of the world’s most embattled wildlife: the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act (H.R. 411) and the Crane Conservation Act (H.R. 388)." And Gannett reports that the pet lobby has reacted, predictably, with fits over the "Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act," because species deemed invasive by federal wildlife biologists would be barred from entering the country. For some perspectives on why this bill -- or at a minimum, some form of pet industry regulation -- has become necessary, visit my "Exotic Consequences" article for PawTalk about how the invasion of pythons threatens endangered and other species in the Everglades. Simply put, pet stores, and pet owners, simply cannot be trusted NOT to release their unwanted pythons, iguanas, and even piranhas into the environment. Sure, it's not all pet stores, nor all pet owners. But the irresponsibility of some is creating huge problems for everyone, so government intervention, and regulation, has become unavoidable.
The invasion of exotic species in Florida has become such a problem that it is spawning new trapping enterprises by folks like the author of the Wildlife Removal Blog.
In other ESA news, a recent NOAA biological opinion looks like it could bring yet another layer of controversy to the region. According to the Kitsap Sun, citing NOAA, "continued use of the pesticide carbaryl and two related chemicals could jeopardize the survival of salmon and steelhead populations throughout the Northwest." As the biological opinion explains, the scope of this conclusion is significant:
"After reviewing the current status of California Coastal Chinook salmon, Central Valley springrun Chinook salmon, LCR Chinook salmon, Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Snake River fall-run Chinook salmon, Snake River spring/summerrun Chinook salmon, UCR spring-run Chinook salmon, Upper Willamette River Chinook salmon, Central California Coast coho salmon, LCR coho salmon, Southern Oregon and Northern Coastal California coho salmon, California Central Valley steelhead, Central California Coast steelhead, LCR steelhead, MCR steelhead, Puget Sound steelhead, Snake River Basin steelhead, South Central California coast steelhead, Southern California steelhead, UCR steelhead, and Upper Willamette River steelhead, the environmental baseline for the action area, the effects of the proposed action, and the cumulative effects, it is NMFS’ Opinion that the registration of carbaryl and carbofuran is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these endangered or threatened species."
Despite the jeopardy conclusion, NOAA does propose a Reasonable and Prudent Alternative that would allow continued use of the pesticides, with multiple limitations on the use of carbaryl, carbofuran, and methomyl: (1) Do not apply pesticide products within specified buffers of salmonid habitats; (2) Do not apply when wind speeds are greater than or equal to 10 mph; (3) do not apply pesticide products when soil moisture is at field capacity; (4) Report all incidents of fish mortality that occur within four days of application; and (5) EPA shall develop and implement a
NMFS-approved effectiveness monitoring plan for off-channel habitats with annual reports.