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Daily News Blog

17
Jan

Interior Department Sued Over Failure to Protect Endangered Bumblebee

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2019) Although the rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the endangered species list in 2017, the Trump Administration has failed to put in place legally required safeguards for the species. As a result, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is suing the Administration’s Department of the Interior (DOI) for failing to designate locations where additional protections could help restore the endangered bumblebee’s population. Advocates say DOI’s failure to comply with requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is consistent with the Trump Administration’s continued disregard for ongoing pollinator declines and environmental protections in general.

Under ESA, DOI is required to determine “critical habitat” that contains physical and biological requirements a listed species needs in order to recover. That area must be designated within one year of placing a species on the endangered list, using best available scientific data. But the Trump Administration’s DOI, under both former Director Ryan Zinke and Acting Director David Bernhardt, has failed to do so, in violation of ESA. NRDC’s legal director Rebecca Riley notes that this lack of follow-through “leaves this highly endangered bee’s habitat at risk of destruction and decreases the species’ chance for survival.”

The rusty patched bumblebee has a historical range that included habitat throughout the Northeast and Midwest United States. The Washington Post notes that, “The rusty patched bumblebee was so prevalent 20 years ago that pedestrians in Midwestern cities had to shoo them away.” However, pesticide use, climate change, disease, and habitat loss led to significant declines over the last several decades. Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 percent.

The Trump Administration has dragged its feet on protecting the rusty patched bumblebee since the beginning of its term. The species was proposed for ESA listing under the Obama Administration in 2016, and finalized in 2017 only a week before the new Administration took power. However, on his first day in office, President Trump directed federal agencies to postpone the effective date of any regulations that had been published to the federal register, but not yet put into effect. This move effectively reversed the ESA listing of the rusty patched. However, NRDC quickly launched at lawsuit to reinstate the designation, arguing that the delay in rulemaking illegally denied the species essential protections under the law.

In March 2017, the species was finally placed onto the endangered list, leading to NRDC dropping its initial lawsuit. This new court case responds to a lack of action after the initial designation. “Limiting [the rusty patched bumblebee] to just a tiny sliver of the habitat where they once thrived not only limits the likelihood that the bees persist,” said Daniel Raichel, a staff attorney for the Pollinator Initiative at NRDC. “It also fails to live up to the obligations of the Endangered Species Act.”

Unfortunately the Trump Administration’s actions in this case are more of the norm rather than the exception. In August of last year, DOI reversed a long-standing policy that prohibited the use of systemic, bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides on National Wildlife Refuges. The Administration has also worked on the pesticide industry’s behalf to slow down the implementation of farmworker protections and continue the allowance of another highly toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos.

Take action today by urging DOI to reinstate its ban on the use of bee-toxic pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges.  For more information on what you can do to protect pollinators in your backyard and community, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

 

 

 

 

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