Trump Administration Postpones Endangered Designation for Bees
Last month we shared some exciting news: The first endangered designation for a bee species in the continental U.S. was due to take place.
That would’ve been an important leap forward for bee conservation, because as they say, the first step is admitting we have a problem, which we most certainly do.
Unfortunately, just one day before it was to take effect, the Trump administration postponed the move. In other words, one step forward, 10 steps back.
As most people know by now, bees are pollinating insects that play an essential role in ecosystems. But sadly, bee populations worldwide are in decline due to a complex laundry list of reasons.
Recent preliminary results of an annual nationwide survey revealed that beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies from April 2015 to April 2016.
According to Greenpeace, a third of all our food depends on their pollination, so a world without pollinators would be devastating for food production, among other things. (For a taste of what makes bees so incredibly vital to a properly functioning ecology, check out these powerful images of what life without bees looks like in terms of the effects on food.)
It took a long time (and lots of effort by conservationists) to get the first bee species in the contiguous U.S. (the rusty patched bumble bee) to be declared endangered and protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The rusty patched bumble bee is a rare bee species facing extinction. So the move to provide this species endangered species protection was considered a big win for conservationists.
The listing was slated to officially go into effect on February 10, 2017. Instead, the day before, the Trump administration pulled the plug —at least temporarily.
Fish and Wildlife Assistant Director Gary Frazer seems to believe that the move is not expected to impact conservation efforts. Frazer said in a statement that the federal agency “is developing a recovery plan to guide efforts to bring this species back to a healthy and secure condition.”
Somehow I’m not convinced. Without the official designation as an endangered species, what assurances are there that this bee species will be protected from further harm and hopefully saved from extinction?
Official protection was imminent, but the Trump administration reneged. Now environmentalists are justifiably worried that bumblebee protection might be destined to fail. Rebecca Riley, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said:
“The Trump administration has put the rusty patched bumblebee back on the path to extinction. This bee is one of the most critically endangered species in the country and we can save it – but not if the White House stands in the way.”
Are there any other pending endangered-species listings to be affected by Trump’s freeze? Not according to Heather Swift, spokeswoman for the Department of Interior, which includes the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Still, with all of the federal regulation cuts Trump has warned us are coming, it’s natural to worry that this last minute postponement may be a harbinger of more conservation reversals to come.
Conservation organization Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation makes a good point: ESA protection alone will not be enough to save bumble bees.
Can WE save the rusty patched bumble bee? The Xerces Society thinks we can. “Ultimately it will take the help of all of us.”
Here is a list from Xerces Society of things you can do to help save bees:
- Create habitat – build it and they will come!
- Sign the pollinator protection pledge.
- Submit your sightings of bumble bees to Bumble Bee Watch.
My advice: Don’t let this latest reversal news get you down, because there’s work to be done, and each of us has the power to help save the rusty patched bumble bee.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia