1.1 Million Acres in California Protected from Dangerous ‘Neonic' Insecticides

Regulations Prohibiting the Use of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on State Lands Managed By the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife Will Protect Birds, Bees, and Other Pollinators
Tricolored Blackbird. Photo by M.T. Khaled Mahmud/Shutterstock.

After years of advocacy, the California Fish and Game Commission has finalized a rule in its “Department Lands” regulation package that prohibits the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) from using neonicotinoid pesticides — often called “neonics” — on state wildlife refuges and other land under its jurisdiction. The regulation comes in response to a 2017 petition submitted by American Bird Conservancy (ABC), represented by Earthjustice, detailing the devastating impact of neonics on native bird species. The regulations apply to the over 1 million acres of fish and wildlife habitat, ecological reserves, and wildlife areas spanning every major ecosystem, managed by the CDFW across the state. The rule takes effect July 1, 2024.

Infamous for their role in causing colony collapse in honey bee colonies, neonics are water soluble, “systemic” insecticides that are absorbed into plants and render the entire plant toxic.  According to researchers, neonics are lethal to birds and dangerous to the aquatic systems on which they depend. A single seed coated with neonics is enough to kill a songbird, and exposure to far less of these insecticides during egg-laying season can impair reproduction. Neonics are also lethal to many terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates including butterflies, bees, earthworms, and mayflies, which provide critical food sources for birds and other wildlife.

“California is home to dozens of state and federally listed bird species including the Least Bell's Vireo, Western Snowy Plover, and Tricolored Blackbird, to say nothing of the millions of individual birds that migrate through and nest in the state. By prohibiting neonics on state lands, the Fish and Game Commission has made California a leader in habitat protection for all wildlife that serves as a model for the rest of the country,” said Hardy Kern, ABC's Director of Government Relations, Birds and Pesticides Campaign.

“Systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids have no place on public lands. They are harmful to a wide variety of species and the biodiversity throughout ecosystems. We thank the California Fish and Game Commission for adopting this new regulation that will help protect California's birds, bees, and beyond,” said Greg Loarie, Earthjustice attorney.


American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and X/Twitter (@ABCbirds).

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