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USDA assesses treatments for possible grasshopper, cricket infestations near the Grand Canyon

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is assessing proposed actions for possible rangeland grasshopper and Mormon Cricket infestations, including pesticide use.

The assessment covers 1.8 million acres, including lands in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, and the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument.

The draft assessment says the actual acres treated would be far less than the total assessment area. The draft assessment cited that in 2020, only 2,229 acres were treated with pesticides.

According to the agency, high grasshopper populations can lead to a reduction in grass forage.

The document lists multiple potential actions the agency could take, such as using certain pesticides. It says APHIS could opt to take no action, but says other agencies could.

Taylor McKinnon, southwest director with the Center for Biological Diversity, says the pesticides under consideration could create broader damages to the ecosystem as a whole.

“It's a dangerously narrow view of an ecosystem to think that, well, we can just wipe out the grasshoppers or knock their populations back without having a whole cascading set of effects on the species for whom those grasshoppers are food," he said.

McKinnon says the proposal does not define "infestation" clearly.

"The fact that grasshopper populations, native grasshopper populations, fluctuate in native ecosystems isn't a problem," McKinnon said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify that while the proposal is calling for an assessment of pesticide use on the 1.8 million acres near the Grand Canyon, the area that would be treated with pesticides would be far less, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is also considering taking no action..

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Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.