The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 is intended to protect and promote the recovery of animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. Threats to a species from habitat destruction, pollution, over-harvesting, disease, predation, and other natural or man-made factors must be reviewed and evaluated before an animal or plant can be placed on the federal endangered or threatened species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) administer the ESA. However, all federal agencies must ensure that their actions will not jeopardize the existence of listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitat.

Thus the ESA requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consult with these federal agencies on how certain EPA pesticide regulatory actions might affect species on those lists.

This is an incredibly complex task for the EPA to perform for each pesticide’s active ingredient and all the listed endangered and threatened species, and the EPA has been working actively since 1988 to meet its obligations under ESA.

If a NMFS or FWS assessment determines that use limitations are necessary to ensure that legal use of a pesticide will not harm listed species or their critical habitats, EPA may either change the terms of the pesticide registration or establish geographically-specific pesticide use limitations.

Should this process not be followed – or be imperfectly followed – pesticide opponents can file suit to enforce the ESA.

Further Resources

Endangered Species Act: Overview, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered Species Protection, CropLife America

Racke, K.D. et al. Pesticide Regulation and the Endangered Species Act, American Chemical Society, 2012, Symposium Series No. 1111.