Why does this matter to human health and wildlife? Take a look at the EPA A-Z index: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-topics/z-index. The EPA is able to regulate and enforce environmental and human health laws as related to air (the Clean Air Act and Amendments), water (the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Water Quality Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Amendments), land (the Wilderness Acts, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act), endangered species (the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Endangered Species Preservation Act), Hazardous Waste (the Solid Waste Disposal Act, the Resource Recovery Act, and the Hazardous and Solid Wastes Amendments Act) and human health (the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Nuclear Waste Repository Act, and the Food Quality Protection Act). In short, the EPA played a very important role in the cleaner air, the cleaner water, and the formerly endangered species we so enjoy today.
Perhaps most important to bald eagles, peregrine falcons, brown pelicans, and many other birds, the EPA banned DDT in the United States in 1972 based on its adverse environmental effects. But that isn't the only banned chemical that affects birds. Remember DN2's death last year? He was poisoned by methomyl, a member of the carbomate chemical family. Carbofuran, a related chemical, killed millions of birds each year before the EPA canceled it for use on crops in 2009. In 1990, diazinon was classified as a restricted ingredient and banned for use on golf courses and turf farms, marking the first time regulatory action was taken specifically on behalf of birds. It was banned entirely on January 1st of 2005. Chlordane was banned for home, garden and agricultural uses in 1983. It is persistent in the environment and still poisons birds today, but not at the levels it once did. Monocrotophos was removed from use in the United States in 1991, although it was linked to huge die-offs of Swainson's Hawks on their wintering grounds in Argentina. You can read more about the American Bird Conservancy's successful intervention here.
So in short, a working EPA is important for birds because its actions have directly benefited many birds including eagles and peregrine falcons, and its enforcement of environmental laws has resulted in cleaner air, cleaner water, and better health. Concerned only with the economy? The estimated economic benefit for banning lead ranges from $110 billion to $319 billion for each year's newborns. The yearly economic benefit of that alone is far bigger than the EPA's annual budget.
So what can we do? In the short term, you have until May 15, 2017 to comment on Executive Order 13777, issued on 2/24/17, which directs agencies to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force to make recommendations about potential repeal, replacement, or modification of EPA regulations. We know it sounds boring and unimportant. We know that a lot of people who follow the eagles have busy lives. We know that our fans come from all over the political spectrum. But conservation isn't red or blue, it is important to birds and humans, and we are asking people to take the time to read through the materials and comment.
Why? We asked you to comment on the 30-year take of bald eagles, and you did. Did the 30-year take pass? Yes. But while it would have been good to see it voided, your comments resulted in a better ruling overall, with more safeguards put into place and outside auditing of companies that choose to participate in the 30-year take program. Without your comments, it would have been a lot worse.
If you would like to read more about the EPA and birds before commenting, follow these links:
- American Bird Conservancy: Birds need the EPA to oversee pesticides and so do we: https://abcbirds.org/birds-need-environmental-protection-agency/
- The EPA's migratory bird initiatives: https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/migratory-bird-initiatives
- A-Z EPA Topics: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-topics/z-index
In the long term, you can educate yourself and others about the substances most toxic to birds. You can support organizations that advocate and do research on behalf of birds. Of course I like it when people support the Raptor Resource Project, but you should also take a look at the American Bird Conservancy and the work they do. You can get involved in local projects: remember, our national concern for the environment grew in part out of local issues, whether it was choking smog, the loss of soil, the contamination of water, or the need for local parks and wild land. We can all keep reminding our congressional representatives and senators that conservation and the environment are important to us. And we should all take strength, determination, and resolve from our polluted past: strength, since we have made significant improvements; determination, so we can keep moving forward; and resolve that we won't go back to those days again.
Things that helped me learn and write about this topic:
- When it comes to pesticides, birds are sitting ducks: This article is from 1998, so some of the information is dated. But it is still an extremely good and very readable article about pesticide hazards to birds.
- What types of pesticides kill birds? From the Journal of Pesticide Reform. Note that the sources on Diazinon come from unpublished sources - something not permissible under the so-called HONEST act passed in the House this week. You can still contact your senator to let them know what you think of it!
- This article on chlorpyrifos.
- This is fascinating! For the Documerica Project (1971-1977), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired freelance photographers to capture images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s. Looking through them brought back memories! https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/collections/72157620729903309/
- Remember acid rain? https://www.epa.gov/acidrain/effects-acid-rain
- Remember Love Canal? https://archive.epa.gov/epa/aboutepa/love-canal-tragedy.html
- The American Bird Conservancy has great information on pesticides and birds.
- I can't mention non-toxic ammo without linking to SOAR! (I did mention the EPA's role in banning lead in paint, gasoline, and toys - right?)
- The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Society is a great place to start learning about public land and related topics.
- You might be surprised at what Pheasants Forever has done for habitat. Or what Trout Unlimited has done for water. Or what Ducks Unlimited has done for wetlands.