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Judge Moves to Impose Pesticide Restrictions

by Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press
Lewiston Tribune, July 18, 2003

Action aims at protecting salmon in coastal streams

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A federal judge Thursday ordered the government to establish temporary buffer zones for more than 50 common pesticides along salmon-bearing streams while it creates permanent environmental regulations.

The order, issued by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in Seattle, comes after the court ruled in 2002 in favor of environmentalists and fishing groups who sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its pesticide regulations.

Coughenour's action was hailed as a major victory by environmentalists, who said the buffers would protect dwindling salmon numbers from pesticides while the government devises more thorough rules -- a process that could take years. The buffers apply to salmon streams located anywhere along the coast from the Puget Sound in Washington to central California.

"There's so few restrictions on agricultural activities to protect salmon and it takes so long to get meaningful restrictions on pesticide use," said Patti Goldman, managing attorney for Earthjustice, a plaintiff in the case.

Heather Hansen, with Washington Friends of Farms and Families, did not return calls for comment Thursday. Officials from the American Crop Protection Association also did not return calls.

In the original lawsuit, the groups alleged that the agency hadn't evaluated the threat to 26 threatened and endangered salmon species posed by 54 pesticides used on everything from forests to suburban lawns.

As a result of the lawsuit, the EPA must consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine permanent regulations for those pesticides. That process could result in a ban on some chemicals and severe restrictions on others, including possible bans on aerial spraying, spraying in salmon-bearing watersheds or seasonal bans, Goldman said.

The government will hold a public hearing Aug. 14 to solicit suggestions on the size of the temporary buffers. There's no set date for when they will be established.

The plaintiffs had suggested a 20-yard buffer for ground applications and a 100-yard buffer for aerial applications. They also proposed stricter conditions for suburban pesticide use, such as banning the over-the-counter sale of the listed chemicals and only allowing application by certified professionals.

The judge did not comment on those recommendations, Goldman said.

Glen Spain, regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said the order was good news for anglers.

"The salmon industry was a $1.25 billion industry in the Northwest and now it's shrunk to a ghost of that because of salmon declines," he said. "The region is spending tens -- if not hundreds -- of millions of dollars to help save these salmon and it doesn't make any sense to continue poisoning them in the meantime."

Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press
Judge Moves to Impose Pesticide Restrictions
Lewiston Tribune, July 18, 2003

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