Feds delay endangered bumblebee's protection

The rusty patched bumblebee would've been the first endangered bumblebee species.

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USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab/Wikimedia
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab/Wikimedia

The rusty patched bumblebee was supposed to be officially added to the endangered species list on February 10th. Unfortunately, the insect's fate is now uncertain: a Federal Register notice filed on January 20th says the Trump administration has put its designation on hold until March 21st. It was one of the things affected by an executive order the president signed last month, which imposes a 60-day freeze on regulations that aren't in effect yet. Authorities say they plan to use that time to review "questions of fact, law and policy they raise."

Bombus affinis was going to be the first bumblebee species in the list. It used to be common along the East Coast and in some parts of Canada, but then its numbers fell by 87 percent over the past two decades or so. The designation would have required the US Fish and Wildlife Service to conjure up a plan to protect its habitat and help its population recover.

As you know, bees are vital to the pollination of both food crops and wild plants. Since their extinction could devastate our ecosystem, a lot of companies and research organizations are pitching in to look into colony collapse disorder and even to create drones that can pollinate like they do.

While the government is officially only "temporarily postponing" the designation, environmentalists are worried the insect could lose the protection the wildlife agency promised. Rebecca Riley, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement:

"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."

On the other hand, the designation's critics like the American Farm Bureau Federation are relieved that the administration is taking a second look at it. After all, protecting the bumblebee could limit farmers' land and chemical use.

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