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Information for Species Status and Environmental Baseline for National-Scale Pesticide Listed Species Assessments

On this page:
  • Memorandum
  • Appendix 1 US Geological Survey Basin-scale Reports


October 13, 2011

SUBJECT: Information for Species Status and Environmental Baseline for National-Scale Pesticide Listed Species Assessments

FROM: /s/ Donald J. Brady, Ph.D., Director, Environmental Fate and Effects Division, Office of Pesticide Programs

TO: All Managers and Staff of the Environmental Fate and Effects Division

This guidance supports an analysis of the effects of past and ongoing human and natural factors leading to the current status of the species, its habitat, (including designated critical habitat), and ecosystem. If the species' range is not wholly contained within the action area, this analysis supports the environmental baseline and is a subset of the species range-wide analysis. By regulation (50 CFR 402.02), the environmental baseline includes:

  • The past and present impacts of all State, Federal or private actions and other human activities in the action area,

  • The anticipated impacts of all proposed Federal projects in the action area that have already undergone formal or early section 7 consultation, and

  • The impact of State or private actions which are contemporaneous with the consultation process.

A summary of the environmental baseline complements the information provided in the status of the species section, provides information on the past and present ecological conditions of the action area that is necessary to understand the species' current risk of extinction, and provides the background necessary to understand information presented in the Effects of the Action, and Cumulative Effects section of a biological opinion.

Status/Baseline Assessment for Nationwide Consultations for Pesticides

The consultations for pesticide registration are a continuing series of actions (pesticide registrations) with a broad geographic scope that encompasses potentially the entire United States. The status and baseline developed for pesticide consultations focuses on the status and trends of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the United States and the consequences of that status for listed resources that occur in a general region. Since our action areas and the environmental baselines for the many individual actions OPP takes encompass the entire United States and territories, with many distinct ecosystems, wherever possible, OPP has focused on common indicators of the biological, chemical, and physical health of the nation's terrestrial and aquatic environments. The environmental baseline for OPP consultations provides the backdrop for evaluating the effects of the action on listed resources. The resources recommended here will be updated as new publications become available.

National Scale

The environmental baseline for consultations on pesticide registration was divided into fifteen (15) broad geographic regions, following the lead of the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division (U.S. Dept. of Interior) in its publication, Status and Trends of the Nation's Biological Resources, Volumes 1 & 2 (1998). This report considers the impact of seven factors on the nation's biological resources:

  1. natural processes,
  2. land use,
  3. water use,
  4. climate change,
  5. non-indigenous species,
  6. environmental contaminants, and
  7. harvest.

The fifteen regions defined in the USGS report are:

  1. Northeast,
  2. Great Lakes,
  3. Southeast,
  4. Caribbean Islands,
  5. Mississippi River,
  6. Coastal Louisiana,
  7. Grasslands,
  8. Rocky Mountains,
  9. Great Basin - Mohave Desert,
  10. Southwest,
  11. California,
  12. Pacific Northwest,
  13. Alaska,
  14. Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and
  15. Marine Resources.

The Status and Trends report (USGS, 1998) is hereby incorporated into the environmental baseline analysis by reference.

To update and extend the information in the Status and Trends report (USGS, 1998), the following national-scale USGS reports are incorporated here by reference:

These reports describe our current understanding of impacts to the nation's biological resources. However, they consider only a small percentage of the over 83,000 chemicals currently listed in the Toxic Substances Control Act Inventory and more than 87,000 chemicals including pesticides, commodity chemicals, naturally occurring non-steroidal estrogens, food additives, cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and representative mixtures that have been identified as potential endocrine disruptors by the Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee (1998) convened by EPA. For most of these chemicals, scientific data is insufficient or unavailable for evaluating their potential individual and combined impacts on aquatic environments.

Regional to Local Scale

When a concern for a listed species has been identified in a particular area of the country, the following resources will be used to describe the baseline at the local to regional scale. The US Geological Survey has also published a number of basin-scale reports as a result of the NAWQA program (Complete Listing of NAWQA's Study Units and Summary Reports). These reports will be used to describe baseline conditions when concern for a species within the particular basin has been identified. A listing of the 51 basin reports as of April, 2010 are in Appendix 1.

Current information on the condition of waters of the United States will also be obtained from the U.S. EPA Office of Water's WATERS database:

This reference provides nationwide results (aggregated by state) of water body assessments under sections 303(d) and 305(b) of the Clean Water Act. This resource gives information on the attainment of designated water uses (fishing, swimming, etc.) and indicates which water bodies have TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) limits for any kind of pollutant. This information will be used to describe the overall health of water bodies occupied by listed species, once such species have been determined to be within the effect area of a pesticide.

The U.S. EPA Office of Water's list of waters with Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) restrictions specifically for pesticides can be found at:

This resource will be used to locate water bodies already stressed by pesticide or other pollution, so that potential additive or synergistic effects may be identified, again after a listed species has been determined to occupy that water body within the pesticide effect area. In order to protect proprietary information about species locations, it may be necessary to aggregate this information at a level higher than individual stream reaches. Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 5 may be the appropriate level.

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Appendix 1
US Geological Survey Basin-scale Reports

View a complete listing of the NAWQA study units and reports .

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