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Pesticide applicators should familiarize themselves with EPA’s Bulletins Live! Two system

Map of Illinois PULAs

By now, many pesticide users (particularly those who have applied dicamba or 2,4-D on soybean) may have seen newer pesticide label language concerning requirements to protect endangered species. Those who haven’t yet, will soon as this language will be added with new registrations and registration reviews. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been promising this for a few years now, but the rollout has been slow. Now efforts have become more focused after several court decisions, and the reality is growing much closer as label language should start changing in 2025.

Simply put by Bill Chism in the IPM webinar referenced below, “Endangered species have a certain range. If your field overlaps that range, and if you’re going to use a pesticide that’s on the list that could harm them, then this is going to impact you.” In addition, it could be that the species itself is directly harmed or it could be that it is affected indirectly when its critical habitat is harmed by the pesticide application. Every county in the U.S. has an endangered species.

There have been many news reports in recent months describing EPA’s plans to get in compliance with Endangered Species Act (ESA) consulting requirements. The Illinois Pesticide Review newsletter and Pesticide News blog featured “Change Coming to How EPA Protects Endangered Species from Pesticides – Feedback Needed” in December 2022 and “EPA releases draft herbicide strategy; public comment period open” in August 2023. As a result of EPA’s recent comment periods, it is likely that EPA will continue to improve the usability of their Bulletins Live! Two (BLT) system which pesticide users will be required to use. Now is a good time for pesticide users to become familiar with using BLT so that they are ready if and when their particular pesticide application requires its use.

Essentially, if you see endangered species language on the label, simply follow the directions, which will lead you to either calling or emailing EPA or going to their website to see if further federal application use limitations exist for your specific region and product. These use limitations, intended to protect endangered species, are presented in the form of a “Bulletin” (printable PDF) within the Bulletins Live! Two system. It’s important to know that Bulletins are 1) enforceable under FIFRA just as the label is and 2) time-sensitive. You will have a 6-month window to obtain a Bulletin before you apply a pesticide. It was designed this way because pesticide restrictions could change at any time. Be sure to follow the Bulletin for the month of your pesticide application. If a Bulletin with use limitations exists for your application, it is recommended that you print a copy of the Bulletin for your records. However, printing is not required. Again, you are then covered for the month of the use even if a week later a new biological opinion adds restrictions. EPA encourages you to check for updates before you apply, but this is not required. Simply checking once within the 6-month window is sufficient.         

EPA has a really informative webpage on Endangered Species Protection Bulletins that describes the process and includes links for a tutorial and a quick start guide. It is helpful to read through these guides before jumping right into the Bulletins Live! Two system. To obtain a Bulletin relative to an actual application you are planning to make, you will need to know 3 things that you will enter into the search box:  1) the application location, 2) the application month, and 3) the pesticide product’s EPA registration number.

But if you are new to the system, it is recommended that you go ahead and become familiar with it now before a product label you intend to use requires the use of BLT. For now, you can still play around within the system in the absence of detailed application-specific information. Without all of this information, you’ll find that if you simply zoom in on the map, much of Illinois is shaded in pink. A shaded area indicates that it is a pesticide use limitation area (PULA). Click on the PULA within the map and a yellow border will appear to note that it has been selected. A table titled ‘Limitations for Selected Area’ that contains the associated limitations will be displayed. Note that the “Printable Bulletin” button on the top right corner will be red. However, if it is green, there is no PULA within your intended pesticide application area. Clicking on this button, regardless of color will allow for a PDF version of the Bulletin to be printed or saved. In simply playing around with the map at this writing, I found overlapping PULA’s for Dicamba and Cyantraniliprole applications in March 2024. Click on the active ingredient of interest and scroll down for full details of the required buffers or droplet size, etc., to be used. For that particular month, the pesticide is to be applied following those restrictions.

For the application location, you can zoom in on the map to find it. You can also search by city or even county. It’s particularly helpful to have GPS coordinates as field locations can be challenging to find. Road names are provided but the shading can make them difficult to read. To assist with this, you can use the setting at the bottom left to change the opacity of the shading. Satellite imagery can be added by clicking on the bottom right icon.

The pesticide product’s EPA registration number can be found on the front panel of the product label. Look for “EPA Reg. No.” followed by two or three sets of numbers. This registration number must be used to see if there are any Bulletins associated with the product. This number may have 2 or 3 parts. Enter the first 2 parts only. If you have entered it correctly, the product name should automatically populate. Labels may also list numbers for “EPA SLN No.” and “EPA Est. No.” These numbers are not used with the BLT system and can be ignored when searching for Bulletins. Also, no letters should be entered. EPA’s website provides more details on numbers as well as examples.

EPA addresses several potential concerns in their Q&A. It’s a great resource and I particularly like how they are continually seeking feedback from users. EPA makes it easy to reach out if you have difficulties using BLT. Many topics are discussed in this section, including accessing Bulletins, timing, updates, using cell phones, PULAs, compliance and enforcement. An important reminder found there bears repeating. “When users are directed to check Bulletins Live! Two on a pesticide label, Bulletins are enforceable mitigations under FIFRA. Not following the limitation on your Bulletin may be a misuse of the pesticide and enforceable under FIFRA. If this misuse results in ‘take’ of listed species, the action may also be enforceable under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or National Marines Fisheries Service.” Additionally, “take as defined under the ESA means ‘to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.’ Incidental take is an unintentional, but not unexpected, taking.” So, it’s essential that applicators carefully read and follow all label directions and comply with any necessary Bulletins.

Understanding the need for these label changes and navigating through BLT can be complicated and tricky. Other good resources for more information include:

  • EPA’s Bulletins Live! Two webinar materials that walk users through using BLT.
  • EPA’s webpage on their Endangered Species Protection Program.
  • New York State Integrated Pest Management’s webinar, “Endangered Species Act and Pesticides: An Example,” which discusses how pesticide labels may change.
  • Weed Science Society of America’s webpage on Herbicides and The Endangered Species Act: What You Need to Know.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Wiesbrook provides subject matter expertise and training in pesticide safety with an emphasis on horticultural weed science. She serves as the Illinois Pesticide Review newsletter editor, collecting and organizing material; and co-coordinates social media information for the PSEP program and ensures its timely publication. Her other interests include herbicide injury and invasive species.