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Trump administration delays bumblebee protection

The Trump administration is delaying action that would give the rusty patched bumblebee official federal Endangered Species Act protection. The bee, native to Minnesota and Wisconsin, would have been the first domestic bee ever protected under fe...

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File Photo: A rusty patched bumble bee which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing for federal protection as an endangered species is pictured in Madison, Wis., U.S. Aug. 7, 2015. Photo courtesy of Rich Hatfield/Handout via REUTERS

The Trump administration is delaying action that would give the rusty patched bumblebee official federal Endangered Species Act protection.

The bee, native to Minnesota and Wisconsin, would have been the first domestic bee ever protected under federal law.

The Trump order was part of a broader freeze of Obama administration policies, especially on natural resources, environmental and public health.

The listing would have taken place on Feb. 10, 30 days after the final listing order was announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But the listing has been halted for at least one month. According to a posting in the Federal Register Thursday, the Fish and Wildlife Service is delaying the listing until at least March 21 due to a first-day Trump administration memorandum that placed a temporary freeze on any regulations that have been published but hadn’t yet taken effect. It wasn't clear until Thursday that the memorandum would impact the bee's listing.

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The chubby bee with a rusty patch on its back once thrived in 28 states across the Upper Midwest and East Coast as well as large parts of Canada. But in the past two decades the bee has disappeared from nearly 90 percent of its historic range - seen in the past 15 years in only 13 states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Ontario.

Most of the remaining populations are small and isolated, a problem that could speed the bee's demise.

β€œThe 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,” said Rebecca Riley, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, on Thursday.

Experts believe the bee is falling prey to habitat loss, climate change, diseases and, especially, neonicotinoid pesticides - some of the same problems believed to be hurting butterfly populations. Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides used widely on farms and in urban landscapes for flowers and gardens. They are absorbed by plants and can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to bees.

The decision to use the Endangered Species Act to try to recover the bee's population comes after years of calls from conservation groups and scientists to protect the native species. Bumblebees are important pollinators for berries, vegetables, clover and native flowering plants. The value of wild bee pollination is estimated at $3 billion annually across the U.S., officials say.

 

 

 

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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