In an EMS screen for mutations disrupting tracheal development, we identified new alleles of the dalmation (dmt) gene, which had previously been shown to affect peripheral nervous system (PNS) development. Here, we demonstrate that dmt loss results in programmed cell death, disrupting PNS patterning and leading to large gaps in the salivary duct and trachea. Dmt loss results in increased expression of the proapoptotic regulator genes head involution defective (hid) and reaper (rpr), and deletion of these genes or tissue-specific expression of the baculoviral apoptotic inhibitor P35 rescues the dmt defects. dmt is also required to protect cells from irradiation induced expression of hid and rpr during the irradiation resistant stage, which begins as cells become irreversibly committed to their final fates. Thus, we propose that Dmt keeps cells alive by blocking activation of hid and rpr as cells become irreversibly committed.