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

 

Protect kids from pesticides as they go to school

Pesticides Poison Children of All Species

GR: The article below focuses on human children. Many of us would like to focus on wildlife as well. All young creatures are especially sensitive to pesticide poisons. The massive decline in numbers of wild animals is our fault. We need to teach or remind children, parents, teachers, and schools that our wild neighbors need our protection. Everyone is aware of the plight of the bees and Monarch butterflies. However, many other species also suffer from the toxic materials we spread across the land. Without focused effort on wildlife and nature conservation, silence will spread across the Earth like the Nothing in the Neverending Story. Let’s ban pesticides and then move on to eliminating our other destructive impacts too. Neighborhood schools are a great place to start.

“School policies must protect children from pesticides by adopting organic land and building management policies and serving organic food in cafeterias. At the start of the school year, it is critical for school administrators to make sure that students and teachers are learning and teaching in an environment where no hazardous pesticides are used in the school’s buildings or on playing fields. It is also essential that children have access to organic food in food programs and manage school gardens organically.

Send a letter to your local officials urging them to tell school districts to adopt organic management and serve organic food to students.

“In addition, there are other things you can do:

“Whether a parent, teacher, student, school administrator, landscaper or community advocate, there are steps that should be taken to make sure the school environment is a safe from toxic chemicals, as the new school year begins.

For Parents and Teachers

“Because children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure due to their smaller size and developing organ systems, using toxic pesticides to get control insects, germs, and weeds can harm students much more than it helps. The good news is that these poisons are unnecessary, given the availability of practices and green materials that do not poison people or the environment.

“Studies show children’s developing organs create “early windows of great vulnerability” during which exposure to pesticides can cause great damage. This is supported by the findings of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which concluded, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.” You can help to eliminate children’s exposure to toxic chemicals by urging school administrators to implement organic management practices that use cultural, mechanical, and biological management strategies, and, as a last resort, defined least-toxic pesticides. See Beyond Pesticides ManageSafeTM database for managing all insects and weeds without toxic pesticides.” –Beyond Pesticides (Continue reading:  Gmail – Action of the Week: Protect kids from pesticides as they go back to school.)

Accounting for Individual Animals and Animal Welfare in the Anthropocene

GR: This article by Brandon Keim includes calls on people to apply the concept of animal welfare to wild animals. Applying animal welfare doesn’t mean that animal needs are more important than human needs. However, it does mean that we should not cause animals unnecessary pain or death and that we should treat animals as humanely as convenient. Go here for more on animal welfare and animal rights, the idea that animals have rights equalling ours.

Matt Reinbold (CC 2.0)

“When land is converted to human use, the environmental impacts are typically measured in terms of pollution and populations and species. Unless they’re endangered, the fate of individual animals doesn’t enter the discussion. They’re practically invisible. Given the vast scale of human development and the care given to domestic animal welfare, it’s a big inconsistency.

“Development’s consequences are not limited “to impacts on the environment and biodiversity,” says Hugh Finn, an environmental law professor at Australia’s Curtin University. “The concept of harm should include harm caused to the welfare of individual wild animals.” Writing in the journal Wildlife Research, Finn and Nahiid Thomas, a wildlife pathologist at Murdoch University, call for animal welfare to be included in environmental impact statements.

 

“The welfare of wild animals, however, is still a niche issue, though not for the animals themselves. As Finn and Thomas point out, animals are frequently killed by machinery, earth-moving and vegetation-clearing. Those who survive often find themselves without homes, competing in a radically transformed landscape that’s been stripped of food and laid open to invasion. They experience physical pain and psychological distress. In the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales alone, Finn and Thomas estimate that converting habitat to human use kills 50 million mammals, birds and reptiles each year. Globally those numbers hit the billions.

“By the standards applied to domestic animals, these are clearly welfare issues, and ignoring that “is an act of wilful blindness,” write Finn and Thomas. They urge governmental bodies “to require decision-makers to take animal welfare into account when assessing land clearing applications.” –Brandon Keim (Continue reading: Accounting for individual animals in the Anthropocene | Anthropocene.)

Human Beliefs and The Ecocentric Alliance

Black-headed Grosbeak and two Lazuli Buntings.
These Grosbeaks aren’t as large as Robins, but they are big enough to have trouble perching on bird feeders. Young birds flutter and flap and sometimes end up hanging upside down as they learn to use the feeder. (Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona. GarryRogers.com. Photo: Male by GR.)

The Future of Human Understanding of Nature

If we come through global warming, overpopulation, and overuse of the Earth, our experience will have reforged our view of the world. I think we will have a clearer understanding of the limits of nature. This post discusses one probable shift in our post-anthropocene view of the world.

Those of you that have read about nature ethics and conservation are probably familiar with the two principal points of view, the human-centered or homocentric, and the nature-centered or ecocentric. The first views nature as socially and economically valuable because of the benefits for humans. The second views nature as intrinsically valuable independent of any benefits for humans. Near the end of a long career in the U. S. Forest Service, Aldo Leopold wrote:

“[A] land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”  Aldo Leopold, 1949.

Monarch Butterfly caterpillar on a milkweed outside my office.

The homocentric view has always dominated organized land use and management. The view calls for protecting the health and integrity of ecosystems so that their use is not interrupted–the sustainable idea. However, opening all of nature to attempts at economic use has led to mistakes and abuses. Moreover, it justifies changing the land for human benefit. Cities and farms remove and replace nature for human benefit. Thus, as our population and needs have grown, the extent, health, and integrity of ecosystems has declined. One symptom of this that is visible to us all is the decline in wild animals. Extensive counts and recounts have shown that more than half of all Earth’s amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, lizards, and turtles has disappeared over the past 45 years.

Alexander helping build the dog-proof fence around the garden.

The Ecocentric Alliance, formed from the ideas of Leopold and others of the same mind, is working to explain why we must shift to the ecocentric approach to nature if there is to be a real hope for survival of Earth ecosystems and us humans. The Alliance gives rational explanations of ecocentrism, and provides a venue for peer-reviewed discussions and analysis of the concept.  The Ecological Citizen is an online journal that addresses the central issue of our time: how to halt and reverse our current ecocidal course and create an ecological civilization.

The Ecocentric Alliance is a youthful organization that is still concerned with understanding its role in conservation. For this reason, we should ignore the introspective flavor of the explanations below.

Defining Ecocentrism

“Ecocentrism is a worldview that: (1) extends ethical considerations to all components — biotic and abiotic — of Earth’s living systems (the Ecosphere), as well as the dynamics of their interactions; and (2) values non-human nature independently of any benefit it may have for humans specifically.

“Ecocentrism brings with it new standards for thought, conduct, and action on such seemingly intractable problems as loss of habitat for non-human nature, degradation of living systems, and overpopulation and overconsumption by humans.

“Ecocentric ethics can provide moral guidance to corporate and governmental policy-makers, as well as to individuals across the globe, on reversing the decline of non-human nature and on building economic systems and communities that are in harmony with the Ecosphere.” –The Ecocentric Alliance.

The outline below gives a clear explication of the concepts and goals of the Alliance,

Ecocentrism Concepts and Goals

Eight ideas from this article

1: The well-being and flourishing of the living Earth and its many organic and inorganic parts have intrinsic value, that is, value in themselves. Such values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.

2: The richness and diversity of Earth’s ecosystems, including the organic forms that they nurture and support, contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

3: It is wrong for humans to reduce the diversity of Earth’s ecosystems and their vital constituents, organic and inorganic.

4: The creative flourishing of Earth and its multitudinous nonhuman parts, organic and inorganic, requires a substantial decrease in human population. The flourishing of human life and culture is compatible with such a decrease.

5: Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

6: The pattern of human activities must therefore be changed. These changes will affect basic economic, technological and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs would be deeply different from the present.

7: An important part of this change is appreciating all life and its intrinsic value rather than mainly pursuing endless economic growth.

8: Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

Ecocentrism Principles

From this article

CORE PRINCIPLES

1: The Ecosphere is the center of value for humanity.

2: The creativity and productivity of Earth’s ecosystems depend on their integrity.

3: The Earth-centered worldview is supported by natural history.

4: Ecocentric ethics are grounded in awareness of our place in nature.

5: An ecocentric worldview values diversity of ecosystems and cultures.

6: Ecocentric ethics support social justice.

ACTION PRINCIPLES

7: Defend and preserve Earth’s creative potential.

8: Reduce human population size.

9: Reduce consumption of Earth’s vital constituents.

10: Promote ecocentric governance.

11: Spread the message.

Practical basis for agreement

1: We have arrived at our perspective regarding the ultimate value of Earth and its systems via diverse routes, including science, intuition, literature, poetry, various spiritual traditions and experiences in nature. Ecocentrism is holistic, encompassing the best scientific evidence as well as the deepest intuitions and realizations of our human status on this planet.

2: We agree that giving the highest priority to Earth’s ecological integrity and health (i.e. ahead of economic considerations) is the wisest survival strategy for all species, including our own.

3: The sense of the ultimate values of Earth and her systems comes from a combination of plain living, observing, and experiencing the obvious wonders and profound beauty of nature in all natural ecosystems.

4: Our ethics follow from valuing Earth and its constituents, inclusive of human beings.

5: Human welfare, as well as the possibility of a desirable future, absolutely requires functioning ecosystems.

6: While it is of course legitimate for all living beings, including humans, to live and enjoy living, we have to do so in ways that don’t damage the time-tested regenerative systems of Earth.

7: Sometimes it makes sense to appeal to human self-interest. However, narrow human self-interest cannot override the requirement of respect for the Earth’s health and integrity.

Links:

Forty-five Years of Wildlife Decline

The Ecocentric Alliance

The Ecological Citizen