EPA bans key herbicide in MN counties where endangered rattler may not exist

The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest overreach in enforcing the Endangered Species Act in six Minnesota counties “kinda makes you scratch your knot a little bit,” the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council’s David Kee says. The aggressive agency has prohibited soybean growers in some of the most productive regions of the state from using an herbicide that many rely on.

Moreover, the EPA declined to even identify the species that triggered the ban until the publication Agweek started asking questions.

When the EPA announced new restrictions on a herbicide in Minnesota in order to help protect an endangered species, it did not identify the species it is trying to protect.

It turns out, according to snake experts, it may be trying to protect a snake that has not lived in the state for at least 50 years.

The herbicide affected is Enlist Duo for use on Enlist soybeans.

But according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the endangered reptile — the eastern massasauga rattlesnake — exists in minute numbers, if that, on the other end of the state from the counties where the EPA banned the chemical (Clay, Marshall, Polk, Redwood, Renville, and Stearns counties).

For the eastern massasauga, “there is no evidence of established breeding populations on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi River,” the DNR says.

It can be found on the Wisconsin side of the river, and is native to several other states to the east and south of Minnesota.

Jeffrey Leclere with the Minnesota Herpetological Society said the massasauga “has never been documented in those counties,” and he said they don’t have the habitat the species would need.

The six somewhat scattered counties “are not even close to an area that used to have massagaugas.”

The EPA refuses to take into account the expertise of state environmental agencies on the ground in jurisdictions affected by its actions, relying solely on other federal agencies. Yet one of the EPA’s main sources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, apparently excludes Minnesota from the rattlers’ territory.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could not be reached for comment but a search of its website includes a 2021 article that says the snake is most common in Ontario, Canada, and in Michigan — not Minnesota.

The Fish and Wildlife Service interactive map for the snake’s range does not include Minnesota.

Nevertheless, the federal ban on the herbicide remains in effect, leaving soybean growers to find a work-around in another case of the feds evidently ignoring the science in favor of environmentalism.

[The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council’s David] Kee said herbicide dealers will play a key role in helping growers in the counties with the new restrictions. EPA referred growers to county Extension agents for advice.

Kee said any missteps by farmers could results in “poor efficacy or outright fines.”