For Immediate Release: May 28, 2021
Sharon Selvaggio, Xerces Society, firstname.lastname@example.org, (503) 704-0327
Adam Bronstein, Western Watersheds Project, email@example.com, (208) 244-0904
FIELDS, Ore. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is currently accepting bids under their “Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Program” to spray insecticide by aircraft across 30,000 acres of public lands in Oregon. This action is being done with the aim of controlling “outbreaks” of native grasshoppers and crickets that compete with livestock for forage.
Portions of the project area include protected Wilderness Study Areas and are located near recreational and biodiversity hotspots such as Steens Mountain, the Alvord Desert and the Pueblo Mountains.
“It’s horrifying that the government sprays insecticides from aircraft across the public lands of the West,” said Adam Bronstein, Oregon/Nevada Director of Western Watersheds Project. “They are poisoning the food of grassland birds, including imperiled species like the sage-grouse for the sake of public lands livestock grazing. It makes no sense.”
The insecticide to be sprayed is an insect growth regulator called diflubenzuron, which kills developing insects by impeding their molt. While the insecticide is meant to kill grasshoppers, any insect that ingests the insecticide could also be harmed, including those that naturally keep grasshoppers in check. Pollinators such as native bees and butterflies have no inherent protection against diflubenzuron and immatures are vulnerable to injury and death if exposed.
Between 700-800 species of native bees are estimated to be present within the area. Western monarchs may also use the area for breeding. The Western population of the monarch butterfly has undergone a 99.9% population decline since the 1980s.
“We find it extraordinary that APHIS did not even mention potential impacts to the monarch butterfly in its 2021 Environmental Assessments, nor did they propose excluding milkweed stands from treatment,” said Sharon Selvaggio, Pesticide Program Specialist with The Xerces Society. “This is a species on the brink of extinction. We can’t afford any more losses to monarchs. We need to step back and rethink this.”
Read more about the threats grasshopper sprays pose to beneficial insects and birds.
Learn more about the importance of grasshoppers to rangeland ecosystems and the impact of control programs in the spring 2021 issue of The Xerces Society magazine, Wings.
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice. We collaborate with people and institutions at all levels and our work to protect pollinators encompasses all landscapes. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, botany and conservation biology with a single passion: protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more about our work, please visit www.xerces.org or follow us @xercessociety on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring wildlife and watersheds throughout the American West.