Toxic Pesticide Use in National Wildlife Refuges

GR: Most of us take for granted that national land management agencies work to protect wildlife refuges and other public lands. However, at every turn, for instance livestock grazing in wilderness areas, we find that destructive commercial enterprises are using the land. In a new report, the Center for Biological Diversity reveals pesticides are being used in national wildlife refuges.

“WASHINGTON— America’s national wildlife refuges are being doused with hundreds of thousands of pounds of dangerous agricultural pesticides every year, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The Center report, No Refuge, reveals that an estimated 490,000 pounds of pesticides were dumped on commodity crops like corn, soybeans and sorghum grown in national wildlife refuges in 2016, the most recent year for which data are available. The analysis was conducted with records obtained by the Center under the Freedom of Information Act.

“These refuges are supposed to be a safe haven for wildlife, but they’re becoming a dumping ground for poisonous pesticides,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center who authored the analysis. “Americans assume these public lands are protected and I think most people would be appalled that so many pesticides are being used to serve private, intensive agricultural operations.”

“The pesticides include the highly toxic herbicides dicamba and 2,4-D, which threaten the endangered species and migrating birds that wildlife refuges were created to protect. Refuge pesticide use in 2016 was consistent with pesticide applications on refuges over the previous two years, the Center analysis showed.

“America’s 562 national wildlife refuges include forests, wetlands and waterways vital to thousands of species, including more than 280 protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“Yet intensive commercial farming has become increasingly common on refuge lands, triggering escalating use of highly toxic pesticides that threaten the long-term health of these sensitive habitats and the wildlife that depend on them.

“In 2016 more than 270,000 acres of refuge land were sprayed with pesticides for agricultural purposes. The five national wildlife refuge complexes most reliant on pesticides for agricultural purposes in 2016 were:

  • Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California and Oregon, with 236,966 pounds of pesticides;
  • Central Arkansas Refuges Complex in Arkansas, with 48,725 pounds of pesticides;
  • West Tennessee Refuge Complex in Tennessee, with 22,044 pounds of pesticides;
  • Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Tennessee, with 16,615 pounds of pesticides;
  • Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, with 16,442 pounds of pesticides.

Additional findings from the report:

  • Aerial pesticide spraying: In 2016, 107,342 acres of refuge lands were aerially sprayed with 127,020 pounds of pesticides for agricultural purposes, including approximately 1,328 pounds of the notoriously drift-prone dicamba, which is extremely toxic to fish, amphibians and crustaceans.
  • Glyphosate: In 2016 more than 55,000 agricultural acres in the refuge system were treated with 116,200 pounds of products containing glyphosate, the pesticide that has caused widespread decreases in milkweed plants, helping to trigger an 80 percent decline of the monarch butterfly over the past two decades.
  • 2,4-D: In 2016 more than 12,000 refuge acres were treated with 15,819 pounds of pesticide products containing 2,4-D, known to be toxic to mammals, birds, amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles and fish and is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened salmonids.
  • Paraquat dichloride: In 2016 more than 3,000 acres of corn and soybean crops on refuge lands were treated, mainly through aerial spraying, with approximately 6,800 pounds of pesticides containing paraquat dichloride, known to be toxic to crustaceans, mammals, fish, amphibians and mollusks and so lethal it is banned in 32 counties, including the European Union.

“These pesticides are profoundly dangerous for plants and animals and have no place being used on such a staggering scale in our wildlife refuges,” Connor said. “The Interior Department needs to put an end to this outrage and return to its mission of protecting imperiled wildlife, not row crops.”

Source: Hannah Connor, (202) 681-1676, hconnor@biologicaldiversity.orgAnalysis: 490,000 Pounds of Toxic Pesticides Sprayed on National Wildlife Refuges


10 thoughts on “Toxic Pesticide Use in National Wildlife Refuges

  1. I didn’t know that farming was allowed in our wildlife refuges. And the spraying of pesticides on these invasive farm crops grown where wildlife is meant to thrive is beyond my comprehension.
    Is there nothing able to be done to stop this abuse of our public lands? It’s not enough that livestock is allowed to graze all over to the detriment of predators, now this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In the U. S., and perhaps in most countries, we have a legalized bribery system that lets commercial enterprises pay (contribute) money to lawmakers for rights to make a profit on virtually everything that exists. The Progressive goal to remove money from politics is perhaps the strongest argument for replacing all our current Republicans and Democrats with Progressives.


  3. Pingback: Toxic Pesticide Use in National Wildlife Refuges — GarryRogers Nature Conservation | Wildlands News

  4. ;good to see these comments, which confirm that your post was much needed. \Paraquat? ‘They’ still use paraquat? That surprises me. I grew up in the farming world, so the glyphosate and 2,4-D weren’t surprises, and that the refuges are no longer refuges doesn’t surprise me either. It would be interesting to know how many trees have been logged, other resources plundered in the various refuges.

    I’ll bet the refuge in Arkansas has a lot of rice, which of course in winter, the ducks go to those fields… Perhaps farmers (or many consumers) really don’t think about eating that rice and the chemical residue – or eating the ducks that eat the rice…

    I am grateful for the lessons learned long ago, as I can detect those aromas of Glyphosate and 2,4-D… Recently two bird-guide friends were with me when I stiffened a bit and stated, ‘2,4-D – hojas anchas’ and they chuckled, ‘Uh-oh, Lisa’s about to go ballistic!’ We were walking by a pasture, and the subtle aroma was all around us. The next week the broad leaves were indeed turning/curling and on their way to certain death. Even the broad-leaf living fence was dying.

    It’s done in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and for sure here in Ecuador – at the end of the rainy season, the landowners do what they know, what their fathers did,… how does a culture break the cycle? The same is true in the USA – it’s hard for those who grow up in the farming culture to wipe their vision and see through more-sensitive eyes….

    These two guide friends and I are discussing ‘presenting’ certificates and maybe signs to put on fences that declare certain landowners ‘Good Stewards’ — and reward those who are doing things well and not desecrating everything they can possibly use….

    Thanks, Garry, even when what you have to share is not very pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lisa, your “Good Stewards” concept is interesting. I have National Wildlife Federation ‘Backyard Wildlife Habitat’ certificates for properties I own. The certificates are issued to applicants that warrant that their property meets a substantial portion of a set of required land-use criteria. ‘Good Stewards’ would have to meet additional criteria.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for that feedback, Garry. Two biologists that work throughout Ecuador are my friends, and with their help, I think we can find a way to move forward with this.. She helped write the plans for several protected forests, so I think I’ll stick to the art and let her select those who are doing things well!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Toxic Pesticide Use in National Wildlife Refuges – Pesticides Watch


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