Interior Department Deprives Endangered Bee of Critical Habitat Needed to Survive

Decision Could Lead to Rusty Patched Bumble Bee’s Extinction

WASHINGTON – The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today decided not to designate critical habitat for the endangered rusty patched bumble bee. The federal agency claims the availability of habitat does not limit the conservation of the bee, despite its own findings noting habitat loss and degradation may have contributed to its decline. The decision threatens the bee’s survival and recovery, leaving its habitat vulnerable to destruction without consideration for the pollinator’s survival.

The following is a statement from Lucas Rhoads, Staff Attorney on the Pollinator Initiative at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
“The agency’s decision to deprive the rusty patched bumble bee of a home is unlawful and irresponsible. The decision rests on the Service’s incredible conclusion that habitat loss does not—and will never—threaten the survival and recovery of the bee. But history tells a different story: 99.9% of historical grassland habitat in the U.S., which the bee needs, is gone. The agency cannot continue sitting on their laurels as the bee and these grassland areas disappear. We will continue fighting to protect this beloved pollinator to guarantee it has a home in which to thrive.”

The rusty patched bumble bee was listed under the Endangered Species Act in January of 2017, after a lawsuit by NRDC. FWS then failed to designate critical habitat by the statutory deadline, prompting yet another lawsuit by NRDC in 2019. A legal settlement with NRDC required the agency to move forward with its determination by July 31st, 2020. Today marked the announcement of USFWS’s decision.

The rusty patched bumble bee was once common in the Midwest and northeastern United States but has disappeared from about 87% of its native range. The use of toxic pesticides, climate change, disease, and habitat loss have contributed significantly to its decline.

Additional Information
Fish and Wildlife Commits to Act on Long-Delayed Habitat Protections for Disappearing Bee
Protecting the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee: Round Three


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 and follow us on Twitter @NRDC


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