Tuesday, March 3, 2015

NRDC sues EPA to force action on monarch butterflies

The Natural Resources Defense Council has accused the Environmental Protection Agency of dragging its feet on efforts to save the imperiled monarch butterfly and filed suit to force the agency to act.

EPA’s failure to respond to an urgent petition that sought to limit the use of a pesticide that’s been destroying monarch habitat, filed more than a year ago by NRDC, has resulted in “significant ongoing harm” to the vulnerable butterfly population, according to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in New York City.

“The longer EPA delays, the greater the risk we could lose the monarch migration,” said Dr. Sylvia Fallon, an NRDC senior scientist and director of its Wildlife Conservation Project, in a statement.

The monarch butterfly, a North American species that makes a 2,500 mile annual migration from the mountains of central Mexico to Canada and back, has been in serious decline for 15 years. Once numbering as many as a billion, only 56.5 million of the orange-and-black winged pollinators were counted last month at their Mexican refuge, the second lowest total ever.

Experts say the primary cause for the population collapse is the use of the herbicide glyphosate on genetically modified corn and soybeans, which has wiped out much of the milkweed — a native wildflower — that monarchs need to survive. Since EPA last reviewed the safety of glyphosate in 1993, its use has increased ten-fold, yet the agency has never considered the herbicide’s impact on monarchs.
NRDC filed an urgent petition last February with EPA, asking for an immediate review of glyphosate and its impact on monarchs and for measures to limit the harm the chemical is causing to the species. EPA has failed to respond to the petition, and given no public explanation for its silence. Today’s suit seeks a court order to force EPA to respond to the petition.

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