Washington, D.C. – The rusty patched bumblebee is among the species most threatened by the Trump Administration’s efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, according to a report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, “Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration,” highlights impacts draft Department of Interior rules would have on ten critically endangered species that also include manatees and sea turtles.
“The Trump rollbacks would prevent many species like the rusty patched bumble bee from getting a shot at recovery,” said Daniel Raichel, Staff Attorney for the Pollinator Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Limiting them to just a tiny sliver of the habitat where they once thrived not only limits the likelihood that the bees persist, it also fails to live up to the obligations of the Endangered Species Act.”
In 2017, after a NRDC legal challenge to the Trump administration’s delay of its listing, the rusty patched bumble bee was added to the Endangered Species List—making it the first listed bumble bee. The Trump administration, however, continues to drag its feet on designating critical protected habitat for the bee as required by the Endangered Species Act. Worse yet, the administration’s proposed regulations would prioritize protections only for habitat currently occupied by the species, making it more difficult to protect unoccupied habitat crucial to the bee’s recovery. In the last two decades, the rusty patched bumble bee has disappeared from almost 90 percent of its historic range due to pressures from disease, climate change, habitat loss and the widespread overuse of bee-toxic pesticides.
The report’s list of most-impacted species includes the rusty patched bumble bee, named after the copper-colored hairs found on its back. The plump pollinator is a member of the bumble bee family, which play a critical role in the production of popular foods such as blueberries and cherries. The species can perform so-called “buzz pollination,” which makes them more effective than honey bees at pollinating certain crops.
The new report notes that climate change and habitat loss are two of the biggest drivers of the decline of species like the Pacific leatherback sea turtle, the Humboldt marten, and the western yellow-billed cuckoo that are also included in the report. In spite of that, the Trump administration proposed a series of regulations last summer that would weaken the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rules would:
- Make it much more difficult to protect species impacted by climate change
- Make it harder to list a new species and easier to remove those now on the list
- Make it harder to designate critical habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife
- Reduce protections for threatened species
“The Interior Department under President Trump has been especially cozy with the industries that are harming the very wildlife the Department is supposed to protect,” said Leda Huta, executive director for the Endangered Species Coalition, lead authors of the new report. “If the administration has its way, the new regulations will put these species on a fast track to extinction.”
Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration
- California condor
- Humboldt marten
- Sea turtles: leatherback and loggerhead
- Red wolf
- Rusty patched bumble bee
- San Bernardino kangaroo rat
- West Indian manatee
- Western yellow-billed cuckoo
Endangered Species Coalition’s member groups nominated species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations and decided which species should be included in the final report. The full report, along with photos and additional species information can be viewed and downloaded at http://endangered.org/extinction-plan.
Although the administration and some members of Congress have been seeking to weaken the Act, public opinion research indicates that the law continues to maintain broad, bipartisan, public support. A 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic lines support the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House, and signed by President Richard Nixon 45 years ago on December 28. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting the law has a 99 percent success rate, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, like the bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.
Scientific consensus indicates that we are in the sixth wave of extinction. The main tool in the United States to battle this human-caused crisis is the Endangered Species Act, which has been very effective in keeping species from sliding into extinction.
The Endangered Species Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC