The Xerces Society and Center for Biological Diversity sued the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Tuesday over its program allowing insecticide spraying on millions of acres in 17 western states. The groups charge that federal regulators failed to properly assess the broad environmental impacts of the spraying, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

More than 230 species protected by the Endangered Species Act may inhabit the areas where spraying is authorized under the APHIS program, and humans who use public lands may be impacted as well, the groups say in a release.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Portland, Oregon, follows a 60-day notice of intent filed by the groups last week to sue APHIS for failing to properly consider harms to endangered species caused by the insecticide spraying. After the 60-day period, the lawsuit will be amended to include the group’s claims regarding the failure to fully assess the spraying program's impact on protected species. The main insecticide sprayed is diflubenzuron.

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Agri-Pulse reported on the large grasshopper infestations destroying Western rangelands last year. As of mid-July 2021:

“Officials with [APHIS] and local extension agencies have counted more than 15 grasshoppers per square yard in areas across 34.8 million acres of land in the West, including large swathes of Montana and Oregon as well as small parts of Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Arizona. These states — and to a lesser degree, Utah, California, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska — are all experiencing the second-largest grasshopper outbreak that the U.S. has seen in 35 years, according to Bill Wesela, a national policy manager at APHIS.”

Many of those same states are still suffering from extremely dry conditions where large grasshopper populations could emerge again.

Agri-Pulse asked the agency to respond, but an agency spokesperson said APHIS does not comment on pending lawsuits.

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