Rather than working on individual herbicides and species, the EPA said on Monday it would develop a multi-chemical, multi-species approach to meeting its obligations to protect threatened and endangered species from harmful chemicals.

The draft Herbicide Strategy, open for public comment until Sept. 20, focuses on agricultural use of weedkillers because it is the largest category of use for herbicides, and because the habitats of hundreds of threatened and endangered species are adjacent to farms and ranches, said the EPA.

“This strategy reflects one of our biggest steps to support farmers and other herbicide users with tools for managing weeds, while accelerating EPA’s ability to protect many endangered species that live near agricultural areas,” Jake Li, deputy assistant director of pesticide programs, said in a statement.

The EPA said its draft strategy proposes early mitigations for more than 900 species and critical habitats to reduce the potential impact of weedkillers while helping to keep them available to farmers. The agency said it expected the new approach to speed up its consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on whether herbicides are a danger to species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Under the draft strategy, the EPA could identify and begin mitigation of potential impacts before the consultations were complete.

“These early mitigations should expedite EPA’s ability to fully comply with the ESA by reducing impacts to listed species before EPA conducts most of its ESA analysis,” said the agency. “The strategy’s proposed mitigations reflect practices that can be readily implemented by growers and identified by pesticide applicators and that provide flexibility for growers to select the mitigations that work best for them.”

At present, the EPA has completed less than 5% of its required ESA consultations under its traditional approach of considering one chemical and one species at a time, according to the agency. It said the proposed Herbicide Strategy was one of its most significant proposals to meets those obligations.

To read EPA documents on its draft Herbicide Strategy, click here.

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