EPA Releases Final Biological Evaluation for Effects of Sulfoxaflor on Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Species and Designated Critical Habitats
This original announcement was published by the EPA on March 30, 2023. Click here for more information.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its final biological evaluation (BE) and its response to comments received on the draft BE. Sulfoxaflor is an insecticide used on a variety of crops to target difficult pests such as aphids and tarnished plant bugs (lygus). As an alternative to older insecticides including carbamates, neonicotinoids, organophosphates, and pyrethroids, sulfoxaflor typically requires fewer applications resulting in less exposure to non-target pests and plants.
In the BE, EPA evaluated sulfoxaflor to determine the potential effects on federally listed endangered and threatened (listed) species and their designated critical habitats, along with predictions of whether sulfoxaflor is likely to jeopardize endangered and threatened (listed) species or adversely modify designated critical habitats. The BE is part of EPA’s efforts to meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This work furthers the goals outlined in EPA’s April 2022 ESA Workplan to provide practical protections from pesticides for listed species.
EPA carefully considered the comments on the draft BE received during the public comment period in 2022. Additionally, since the draft BE was issued, the registrant provided comments and submitted revised proposed labels that EPA incorporated in the analysis for the final BE. The revised proposed labels, once approved, would decrease exposure (e.g., reducing aerial application rates for certain use patterns, prohibiting aerial application for certain uses) which resulted in a reduction of the “likely to adversely affect” determinations and jeopardy/adverse modification predictions in the final BE.
In the final BE, and taking into account the new mitigations in the revised proposed labels, EPA evaluated the effects of sulfoxaflor on more than 1,700 listed species and more than 800 designated critical habitats in the United States, determining that sulfoxaflor:
- Will cause no effect to 47 percent of listed species and 54 percent of critical habitats (as compared to 36 percent and 52 percent, respectively from the draft BE, which did not include the mitigations in the revised proposed labels);
- May affect but is not likely to adversely affect 22 percent of listed species and 37 percent of critical habitats (as compared to 30 percent and 35 percent, respectively, from the draft BE, which did not include the mitigations in the revised proposed labels);
- Is likely to adversely affect but EPA predicts the likelihood that use will not cause jeopardy to 27 percent of listed species or adversely modify 6 percent of critical habitats (as compared to 27 percent and 9 percent, respectively from the draft BE which did not include the mitigations in the revised proposed labels); and
- Is likely to adversely affect and EPA predicts the likelihood that use may cause jeopardy to 4 percent of listed species and adversely modify 3 percent of critical habitats (as compared to 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively from the draft BE which did not include the mitigations in the revised proposed labels).
This LAA determination means EPA reasonably expects at least one individual animal or plant, among a variety of listed species, may be exposed to sulfoxaflor at a sufficient level to have an adverse effect. This is the case even if a listed species is almost recovered to a point where it may no longer need to be listed. The likely “take,” which includes unintentional harm or death, of even one individual of a species, is enough to trigger such a determination. As a result, there are often a high number of LAA determinations in a BE. An LAA determination, however, does not necessarily mean that a pesticide is putting a species in jeopardy.
Since EPA determined that sulfoxaflor is likely to adversely affect certain listed species and/or critical habitats, the Agency has initiated formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively “the Services”). EPA will also continue discussions with the registrant to determine what additional mitigation measures could be implemented to further protect listed species and critical habitats while the consultation is ongoing.
During formal consultation, the Services use EPA’s effects determinations to inform their biological opinions, which will include their final determinations of whether a pesticide jeopardizes each relevant listed species and/or adversely modifies designated critical habitats. The Agency intends to work with the sulfoxaflor registrant, as well as the Services and other stakeholders, during the formal consultation process to identify additional mitigation measures to protect listed species and/or designated critical habitats.
The final BE and the response to comments are available in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0889 on regulations.gov.