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House Panel Advances Bill to Curb Pesticides on Wildlife Refuges (1)

Nov. 20, 2019, 9:01 PMUpdated: Nov. 20, 2019, 10:17 PM

A bill that would reinstate a regulation banning certain pesticides from wildlife refuges was approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources on Nov. 20.

The Protect Our Refuges Act of 2019 (H.R. 2854), sponsored by Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.), would reinstate a 2014 ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in national wildlife refuges.

The bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 17-13. It now moves to the House floor for consideration.

A companion bill in the Senate, S. 1856, has been authored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)

“It is our duty, as a committee, to preserve and protect biodiversity, not the bank accounts of chemical manufacturers,” said Velazquez. “Yet for too long we have allowed these toxic chemicals to infect our soil, our waterways, and our communities. I’m proud the committee has taken decisive action to conserve and recover our national wildlife refuges.”

The Trump administration’s Interior Department revoked the 2014 ban in August of 2018, citing the increased importance of genetically modified (GMO) seed crops, which often contain neonicotinoid seed coatings, for maintaining agricultural operations of wildlife preserves.

According to a memorandum from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Gregory Sheehan, use of GMO seeds is necessary to maintain habitat for migrating waterfowl.

“Despite the intense level of planning and coordination there still are instances where a state or regional area does not meet it’s habitat objectives and the energetic impact of losing private farm land cannot be readily alleviated by increasing production on state or federal areas under current management practices,” wrote Sheehan.

In recent years neonicotinoids have been linked to population declines of commercial and native pollinators, as well as vertebrate species such as birds and fish.

Two conservation groups are also suing the Fish and Wildlife Service for reversing the ban.

(Story has been updated with quotes from Rep. Velazquez as well as additional background and context )

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Allington in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Renee Schoof at