Settlement Requires Feds to Act on Habitat Protections for Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

WASHINGTON, DC – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) settled a lawsuit over the failure to protect habitat necessary for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee, as required under the Endangered Species Act. The bee was listed as endangered in 2017. The settlement will require USFWS to propose “critical habitat” by July 31, 2020, unless it makes a finding that habitat protections are not prudent. The Service must then finalize any habitat protections by July 31, 2021.

Following is a statement from Lucas Rhoads, Staff Attorney for the Pollinator Initiative at NRDC.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has violated federal law—again—by not designating critical habitat for the rusty patched bumble bee. This settlement is a step in the right direction to ensure the bee’s survival. The Service must now do their part to protect the bee’s habitat or they’ll find themselves in court once more.”

The Endangered Species Act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for endangered species within one year after a species is listed, if critical habitat is not determinable at the time of its listing. Designating critical habitat provides an ecosystem where endangered species can repopulate and avoid extinction. When the rusty patched bumble bee was listed as an endangered species in 2017, USFWS concluded critical habitat was not determinable. Nearly three years later, it has yet to designate its critical habitat.

The rusty patched bumble bee was once common throughout the Midwestern and northeastern United States. However, since the 1990’s, the rusty patched bumble bee has disappeared from almost 90% of the areas it once inhabited. Declines in the species are largely attributed to habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and disease, which threaten the bumble bee with extinction.


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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