The theme for this month’s edition of Riverside Lawyer is environmental law. What do you think of when someone says, “environmental law?” For me, I think about our national parks, the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States.1
My admiration of national parks was born in the late 1980s when my family would take road trips to the various national parks in the West Coast during summer vacation. We would pack the station wagon up and dad would drive us. We visited Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon, Zion and others. 2 By an act of Congress in 1872, Congress declared Yellowstone National Park "as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" and placed it "under exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior." The founding of Yellowstone National Park began a worldwide national park movement and in 1916, the National Park Service was established. The National Park Service (NPS) is guardian of our diverse cultural and recreational resources, environmental advocate, partner in community revitalization, world leader in the parks and preservation community, and pioneer in the drive to protect America's open space.3 NPS preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.4
While at various national parks, one can encounter threatened and/or endangered species, which brings me to my next topic of discussion: The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). "Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” said President Richard Nixon, when he signed the ESA into law. The ESA was signed on December 28, 1973, and provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their range and the conservation of the ecosystems on which they depend. The ESA replaced the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969.5 The ESA is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Under the ESA, species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. "Endangered" means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. "Threatened" means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. All species of plants and animals, except pest insects, are eligible for listing as endangered or threatened.6 The global icon for extinction – the giant panda of China - was upgraded from endangered to vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ICUN).7
The Endangered Species Act and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intersect with the Endangered Species Protection Program (ESPP) of the EPA. The ESPP carries out the EPA’s responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, while complying with the Endangered Species Act.8 When registering a pesticide or reassessing the potential ecological risks from use of a currently registered pesticide, EPA evaluates extensive environmental fate. The EPA also evaluates toxicity data to determine how a pesticide will move through and break down in the environment and whether potential exposure to the pesticide will result in adverse effects to wildlife and vegetation. The EPA routinely assess risks to birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals, and plants to determine whether a pesticide may be licensed for use in the United States.9
The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment. EPA works to ensure that: (1) Americans have clean air, land, and water; (2) National efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information; (3) Federal laws protecting human health and the environment are administered and enforced fairly, effectively and as Congress intended; (4) Environmental stewardship is integral to U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy; (5) All parts of society-- communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments--have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks; (6) Contaminated lands and toxic sites are cleaned up by potentially responsible parties and revitalized; and (7) Chemicals in the marketplace are reviewed for safety.10
EPA has been subject to several citizen suits, which required EPA to conduct scientific assessments and make effects determinations for numerous pesticides, including assessing the effects of products containing any of: (1) 54 pesticide active ingredients to 26 species of listed salmon and steelhead; (2) 66 pesticide active ingredients to the California red-legged frog; and (3) 59 pesticide active ingredients to 11 species in the greater San Francisco Bay area.11
We are all grateful for the work of the EPA in protecting our environment.
The Riverside County Bar Foundation, Inc. (Foundation) is collecting new and/or gently used children’s books and funds to donate to a local elementary school shortly, as part of the RCBA Reading Day Program. If you are interested in donating books, please send them to the Foundation, Inc, c/o RCBA.1 If you are interested in donating funds to purchase books, please send a check, payable to Riverside County Bar Foundation, Inc. Please note that the Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation, so your donation may be tax deductible. Please consult your tax advisor for further details.
I close with an invitation to attend the RCBA’s next general membership meeting, which is scheduled for April 13, noon, in the John Gabbert Gallery at the RCBA. David Gehring, CEO of Distributed Media Lab and Founder of Project Meridio, is speaking on the economics of the open web and the First Amendment. I hope you will be able to join us for this interesting topic.
1 I also think about CEQA but I didn’t have enough time to research it.
2 We also visited national parks in Hawaii and Taiwan.
7 ICUN is an organization that has assessed the conservation status of species, subspecies, varieties, and even selected subpopulations on a global scale for the past fifty years. See: http://www.iucnredlist.org/about/introduction
L. Alexandra Fong is a deputy county counsel for the County of Riverside, handling juvenile dependency cases. She is also president-elect of the Leo A. Deegan Inn of Court.