National Wildlife Refuges Now Contaminated with Toxic Pesticides
According to a new study, the U.S. National Wildlife Refuges, originally set aside to protect living things in the wild, are being flooded with hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic pesticides each year.
The study, No Refuge, was published by the Center for Biological Diversity in May 2018.
America’s wildlife refuges date back to 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt established the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. That first national refuge was set aside to protect pelicans and other birds in the area from hunting.
Since that time, many refuges have echoed the intent of this first one and have been named with the goal of providing an “inviolate sanctuary for migratory birds.”there are now 562 National Wildlife Refuges in the United States. Each was created either by presidential executive order, by an act of Congress or by a joint initiative from both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch of the United States. Though they started with birds being the dominant species protected, the refuges now protect more than 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species and more than 1,000 species of fish in addition to more than 700 bird species. More than 280 of these species were added after they were identified under the Endangered Species Act.
The regions covered by the refuges include forests, wetlands and waterways that are all critical to the life functioning of the delicate ecosystems within the refuges.
Currently, the wildlife refuges are regulated for the most part by the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. It calls for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the federal agency responsible for all refuges) to manage the refuges as “a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources.” The act goes on to direct the service to “provide for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants” and to make sure the full ecological and biological diversity of the refuges, along with their environmental health, are constantly preserved.
At one time, these were pristine reserves set aside just for the use of the species who natively live there. Encroachment on that original charter happened slowly, first by allowing private farming within the refuges. That private farming was narrow in its charter, with the goal being preparing native habitat seed beds and making sure that food sources were available within the refuges to support the wildlife protected within their borders.
Over time, that charter has evolved and disintegrated. Many of the lands are now open for industrial farming, something that was in theory allowed with the moronic idea that it would not disturb the native lands. Heavy
pesticide use followed, and that is where the troubles began.
According to the No Refuge study, in 2016 an estimated 490,000 pounds of pesticides were applied to these industrial farming areas. Crops like corn, soybeans and sorghum were farmed in large quantities, using similar techniques as in commercial farms outside the wildlife refuges.
The pesticides include dangerous herbicides such as dicamba, 2,4-D and glyphosate. Together with other pesticides and the increased presence of commercial farms within these federal preserves, the ecosystems there are under attack like never before.
According to the study, in 2016 the five National Wildlife Refuges that received the highest amounts of pesticides were as follows: • Central Arkansas Refuge Complex in Arkansas, with 48,725 pounds of pesticides
• West Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Tennessee, with 22,044 pounds of pesticides
• Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Tennessee, with 16,615 pounds of pesticides
• Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California and Oregon, with 236,966 pounds of pesticides
• Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, with 16,442 pounds of pesticides
The following are some other statistics, for 2016 alone, noted in the study:
Aerial spraying of pesticides covered 107,342 acres of refuge lands. This amounted to a total of 127,020 pounds of pesticides. Of those, 1,328 pounds were from dicamba, an herbicide that in runoff is highly toxic to fish, crustaceans and amphibians.
More than 116,200 pounds of glyphosate-laden products were applied to more than 55,000 agricultural acres across the refuge network. This is the same pesticide that was identified as a probable carcinogen in California, that has caused major damage to milkweed plants and that has helped drop the population of the monarch butterfly by 80% in the past 20 years.
More than 15,819 pounds of pesticides containing 2,4-D were applied to more than 12,000 refuge acres. This dangerous chemical compound is known to be toxic to mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and crustaceans.
More than 6,800 pounds of pesticides containing paraquat dichloride were applied on more than 3,000 acres of corn and soybean crops on the refuge lands. They were applied primarily by aerial spraying. Paraquat dichloride is considered so toxic that it is banned in 32 saner countries, including the European Union. Numerous crustaceans, mammals, fish, mollusks and amphibians will sicken and/or die after exposure to the chemical.
Besides the pesticide use, under new orders from Trump, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, protected from any outside influence for almost 60 years, is now open for oil drilling for the very first time. This happened as a rider within the latest federal budget passage some months ago. It can only cause serious damage to that particular refuge, both from likely occasional spills and from the combination of drilling, construction of roads and increased land use within the refuge. Many of the plants in this very cold region of the world can take many years to recover even from the damage caused by a single footstep taken in the wrong place.
In commenting about the increased use of pesticides on refuge lands, Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “These refuges are supposed to be a safe haven for wildlife, but they’re becoming a dumping ground for poisonous pesticides. 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.” She went on to say that “these pesticides are profoundly dangerous for plants and animals and have no place being used on such a staggering scale in our wildlife refuges. The Interior Department needs to put an end to this outrage and return to its mission of protecting imperiled wildlife, not row crops.”
Without further outrage from the public demanding such action, it is unlikely that the current U.S. administration will back off from its current plans to accelerate the abuse and poisoning of these important formerly protected lands. It is also so far “under the radar” for most people that few even know this is happening. Trillions urges you to share this article with others and to demand action from your Congressional Representatives and the White House to reverse these policies before it’s too late.