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Frequently Asked Questions About the Washington State-Initiated Plan

What is a state-initiated plan?

EPA has defined a "state-initiated plan" as a plan developed by a state or tribe for protecting their resident Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species from exposure to pesticides. A state-initiated plan is tailored to address site-specific pesticide exposure conditions and landowner needs, and to reduce the potential adverse impact on the state or tribe pesticide users.

What is the benefit of WSDA developing a state-initiated plan? 

A state-initiated plan allows WSDA to develop a local plan to determine the best approach for protecting endangered species while minimizing the impact on Washington state pesticide users.

Under the Washington state-initiated plan, WSDA will work interactively with local user groups to provide technical assistance for a "surgical" approach to pesticide application and to provide measures for protecting agriculture, the environment, and Pacific Northwest salmonids.

WSDA will facilitate the incorporation of state-specific data into the ESA consultation process to ensure that decisions made for pesticide use in Washington state are based on accurate, Washington state data. Also, by implementing a state-initiated plan, WSDA will open an avenue for developing mitigation measures that are both protective of endangered species and practical for implementation.

What are the goals of the Washington state-initiated plan?

The goals of the Washington state-initiated plan are:Key Elements of the Washington State-Initiated Plan
  • to provide EPA, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) with scientifically accurate and defensible data that reflects current pesticide use and exposure conditions in Washington state's salmonid habitat
  • to ensure that the data is used by the agency(s) in their decision-making process
  • to participate in developing Endangered Species Protection Bulletins, thereby providing a process for Washington stakeholders to have input into the development of mitigation measures required by EPA that will be the least disruptive to Washington agriculture while ensuring protection of ESA-listed species

What are the key elements of the Washington state-initiated plan?

​The key elements of the Washington state-initiated plan are:

  • WSDA provides state-specific data to EPA for effects determinations
  • WSDA provides state-specific data to NMFS for consideration in biological opinions
  • WSDA, in collaboration with EPA, develops Endangered Species Protection Bulletins pesticides that need mitigation

What are Endangered Species Protection Bulletins?

​Endangered Species Protection Bulletins are a form of pesticide labeling that identifies pesticide use limitations for the protection of ESA-listed species in a specific county.  The Bulletins contain maps indicating the location of listed species in the county along with instructions regarding any appropriate buffer zones, application timing or methods, threshold application rates, or other limitations of pesticide use designed to protect the listed species and their habitats in that county.  Not all counties will need Bulletins.

How will pesticide users know about and obtain Endangered Species Protection Bulletins?

​Pesticide users will know that an Endangered Species Protection Bulletin has been issued when the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3 pesticide label carries a statement requiring the pesticide applicator to obtain and follow the Bulletin.  The following statement will be printed on the label immediately following the directions for use portion of the label. 


This product may have effects on federally listed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat in some locations. When using this product, you must follow the measures contained in the Endangered Species Protection Bulletin for the county or parish in which you are applying the pesticide. To determine whether your county or parish has a Bulletin, and to obtain that Bulletin, consult, or call 1-800-447-3813 no more than 6 months before using this product. Applicators must use Bulletins that are in effect in the month in which the pesticide will be applied. New Bulletins will generally be available from the above sources 6 months prior to their effective dates.

WSDA will use its program website, newsletter and other education and outreach activities to notify applicators when an Endangered Species Protection Bulletin has been issued for a county in Washington state. WSDA's Licensing and Recertification Program, in cooperation with Washington State University, will work to ensure pesticide licensing and education programs provide up-to-date Bulletin information to pesticide users.

Are the Endangered Species Protection Bulletins enforceable?

​Endangered Species Protection Bulletins are enforceable under the misuse provisions of FIFRA.  When the label statement appears on a pesticide product in the marketplace, the applicator must comply with the instructions and use limitations specified in Bulletin. 

The Washington state-initiated plan identifies three data components: 1) crop mapping data, 2) pesticide use data, and 3) surface water monitoring data. What is the relationship between these components?

​All three components are critical pieces of the Washington state-initiated plan. These elements, when combined can be used to estimate exposure of salmonids to pesticides which is the first step in assessing risk.

When used to determine a threatened and/or endangered (T/E) species' exposure to a pesticide, the three data components act synergistically to support an exposure estimate that is more accurate than what each component is able to provide individually - like the legs of a 3-legged stool.


Three Data ComponentsFor example, using the crop mapping data the total acres of a specific crop within a watershed can be established.  Using pesticide application information (rate of application, number of applications, and percent of the crop treated), the pounds of active ingredient applied in the watershed can be calculated.  Using surface water assessment tools, the concentration of the pesticide in the water can be determined. The calculated pesticide concentration in surface water can be compared with the actual pesticide concentration measured in surface water during typical pesticide application periods.

Additional data elements identified in the Washington state-initiated plan, including salmonid habitat locations and hydrology maps, are publicly available data sets that were obtained from the agency with regulatory authority over the data development.

What assurances does WSDA have that the federal agencies will use WSDA data? Does WSDA's data complement the established process?

​Approval of the Washington State-Initiated plan by EPA formalizes the agreement that EPA and NMFS will use WSDA's data. Federal agencies are required under the ESA to use the best available science. The data provided by WSDA - locally accurate pesticide use information, crop mapping information, and pesticide monitoring data - are examples of the best available science.Over the past four years, WSDA has been working closely with EPA and NMFS to identify data gaps, develop data protocols, and discuss methodologies for evaluating the impacts of pesticides on T/E species using the best available science.

Why should EPA use Washington state pesticide use data to develop risk assessments rather than maximum use rates?

When EPA develops risk assessments using Washington state pesticide use data, the exposure scenarios reflect a more realistic picture of local pesticide use. 

All pesticide registrations require a risk assessment detailing their potential environmental fate and effects.  WSDA provides EPA with typical use rates in Washington state.  EPA has access to maximum label rate through their registration process. 

Although EPA uses the maximum label rate to estimate the upper limit of potential risk, typical pesticide use rates are an important part of the risk assessment process.  For example, a maximum use rate may be necessary to control a pest in the Midwest but a lower rate may be used in Washington state because pest pressure isn't as heavy or local pests may be controlled with lower application rates.

Will WSDA request pesticide use records from growers to gather locally accurate pesticide use information and, if so, will the records be kept confidential?

​WSDA does not request or obtain individual pesticide use records to gather information about local pesticide use practices. All pesticide use information collected by WSDA is public information, however.Because it is addressing statewide pesticide use practices, WSDA develops typical pesticide use practices based on commodity-level input on typical practices in specific geographic regions.

Will WSDA separate agricultural and urban pesticide use data?

​WSDA will provide data to EPA, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and NMFS for effects determinations that indicate separate agriculture and urban pesticide use patterns. WSDA developed the surface water monitoring program to accurately reflect the differences in pesticide use practices in agricultural and urban watersheds and how those use differences may affect salmonid exposure to pesticides.

Is the WSDA surface water monitoring program data available to the public?

​Public access to the WSDA surface water monitoring program data is available on the Washington State Department of Ecology website at The data mat be queried using CBUR as the "User Study ID." The data may also be searched by the study name, "surface water monitoring for pesticides."

The data report, "Surface Water Monitoring Program for Pesticides in Salmonid-bearing Streams," is published annually and posted on the WSDA website here.

What impact does the Washington state-initiated plan have on actions that may be required under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA)?

​The scope of the Washington state-initiated plan does not extend beyond the overlap of ESA and FIFRA. WSDA is aware that there may be other regulatory statutes that can overlap with FIFRA but this plan is not designed to address those regulations.

Why has WSDA abandoned the strategy outlined in the Washington State Pesticide/ESA Task Force document, "A Process for Evaluating Pesticides in Washington State Surface Waters for Potential Impacts to Salmonids"?

The Washington State Pesticide/ESA Task Force strategy was developed because there was no national process in place to evaluate the impacts of pesticides on T/E species. EPA has now implemented a course of action to evaluate the effects of pesticides on T/E salmonids as required by the July 2002 ruling in Washington Toxics Coalition, et. al., v. EPA.The Task Force member agencies and the federal agencies involved in the pesticide evaluation process recognized that competing processes would be neither efficient nor effective.The strategy outlined in the Task Force document provided for an evaluation and analysis of the levels of pesticides found in salmonid habitat. That data was then compared to the levels of pesticides that cause harm to salmonids.The data for the evaluations is now provided under the Washington state-initiated plan. However, the state-initiated plan relies on the federal agencies required to do the analysis under Section 7 of the ESA rather than an agency without mandate or authority under ESA, i.e., WSDA.