The Environmental Protection Agency is hailing newly announced measures to protect endangered species from malathion as a “major milestone” in its work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect federally listed species.

EPA said Tuesday that “agreed-upon mitigation measures include no spray zones, reductions in application rates and number of applications, and other changes to the labels that, once approved, pesticide users must follow.”

The insecticide is widely used to kill mosquitos but is also used in agriculture in a wide variety of vegetable and fruit crops. EPA was forced to evaluate its effect on endangered species through litigation brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, which criticized EPA and FWS for not going far enough.

The final biological opinion from FWS “restricts some uses of malathion, in theory, but contains loopholes that render the restrictions meaningless in the real world,” the center said. “For example, mosquito spraying with malathion is restricted ‘where feasible.’ But what renders the restrictions unfeasible is undefined, effectively greenlighting virtually all spraying of the pesticide.”

The opinion, called a BiOp, “is the product of a collaborative interagency effort,” EPA said. “Working together, FWS, EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and pesticide registrants identified mitigation measures to protect listed species.” It’s the first nationwide final BiOp issued by FWS for a pesticide under registration review.

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