Protecting the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee: Round Three

A foraging rusty patched bumble bee

© Clay Bolt/

Wild bees like the rusty patched bumble bee aren’t just beautiful creatures emblematic of summertime meadows; they’re central to the functioning of natural ecosystems and agricultural production. But to no one’s surprise, Trump’s Interior Department, now led by Acting Secretary David Bernhardt, refuses to take steps required by law to protect these disappearing species. That’s why we're suing, yet again.

The Fish and Wildlife Service—the agency entrusted with protecting terrestrial endangered species—concluded in 2016 that, without Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection, the rusty patched bumble bee would likely go extinct within 30 years. After NRDC sued to compel listing, the Service listed the once common and widespread pollinator as an endangered species. Following the presidential transition, however, the Trump administration sought to delay implementation of the listing. But NRDC sued for a second time, prompting the bee to receive the protection it deserved.

Upon listing the rusty patched bumble bee, the Service was required by the Endangered Species Act to designate “critical habitat,” or habitat that is central to the continued existence and recovery of the species. The Service invoked a narrow exception to that requirement, extending the deadline by one year. But now that second deadline has also come and gone, and the rusty patched bumble bee’s fragile grassland habitat continues to disappear. Our lawsuit will uphold the rule of law and make sure that the Service protects the bee’s habitat as required under the ESA.

Grasslands with diverse floral resources are vital to the bee's survival. These grassland habitats have declined by over 99% since European settlement.
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has sought to undermine the world’s toughest and most effective wildlife protection law—and it won’t be the last. In fact, Secretary Bernhardt, the ex-oil lobbyist now running the Interior Department, has proposed to amend the ESA regulations to weaken protections for listed species. But when Secretary Bernhardt panders to his friends in the oil and gas industry instead of protecting America’s wildlife, by either ignoring the requirements of the ESA or actively undermining its implementation, we’ll be there to fight him every step of the way.