Ban On Rat Poisons in State Parks Heads to Governor

Not in the State Parks, you don't. | Photo: Kai Schreiber/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A bill that would ban use of increasingly controversial rodent poisons in state parks and wildlife refuges is on its way to the Governor's desk after passing both houses of the California Legislature.

AB 2657, which passed a State Senate floor vote Tuesday and a final Assembly vote Thursday, would make it a misdemeanor to use any of four highly toxic anticoagulant rate poisons on parks or wildlife refuges managed by the state. The bill, authored by Assembly member Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, is expected to gain the governor's signature.

"We applaud Assembly Member Bloom for working to eliminate these super toxic poisons from our state parks and wildlife refuges," said Jonathan Evans, a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity who has been working to reduce the use of so-called "second-generation" anticoagulant rodent poisons. "Governor Brown should sign the bill immediately."

The bill would ban use of the anticoagulants brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone in state wildlife areas. These second-generation anticoagulants have come under increasing fire for their damage to non-target animal species, who either eat the poison directly or consume it along when they eat prey animals that have been poisoned. Wildlife ranging from birds of prey to bobcats and mountain lions to the imperiled Pacific fisher have been shown to suffer serious harm from ingesting anticoagulant rat poisons.

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"The recent finding that a resident mountain lion in Los Angeles was near death due to infections caused by second-generation rodenticides is just another example of the widespread damage these chemicals have on our wildlife," said Bloom of AB 2657 in April of this year. "The irony is that these chemicals used to control rodent populations are actually killing nature's best rodent control, our native wildlife."

Bloom's bill as passed is substantially less sweeping than it was when it was introduced. The original version would have extended the ban to a significant range of lands aside from state parks and state wildlife areas, including, to quote from the bill as introduced, "any wetlands, animal sanctuary, conservancy, state or national park, and any area or habitat that is protected for any endangered or threatened species, including animals, birds, fish, and insects."

That would have been a lot of land, especially if the language was interpreted to include critical habitat designated by the federal government under the Endangered Species Act. 1.5 million acres of the state is critical habitat for just one species, the red-legged frog. There are more than 120 other species that also have designated critical habitat in the state, much of it on private land.

The final version of the bill also dropped National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges from inclusion in the ban, in part because the state law would be pre-empted by federal law and policy. That exclusion allows a continuation of the controversial use of rodent poisons to protect seabird eggs from introduced rats in Channel Islands National Park and the Farallones off the coast of San Francisco, which are managed as a National Wildlife Refuge.

The bill as passed also exempts agricultural companies from the ban, though few such operate in State Parks or State Wildlife Refuges.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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