Federal protections for the first bee species to be listed as “endangered” in the continental US have been blocked, one day before they were due to go into effect. The freeze is a result of an executive order by President Donald Trump, which temporarily halts any regulations passed under President Barack Obama that haven't yet taken effect.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced in January that it was placing the rusty patched bumblebee on the endangered species list. The bumblebee, which is native to the Midwest and East Coast and is key for pollinating crops, has lost 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years. Last year, the government agency had added seven other bee species, all from Hawaii, to the endangered species list.
An endangered species listing means certain protections are applied: listed animals can’t be hunted, for example, or their critical habitats can’t be degraded. The rusty patched bumblebee is now in limbo, though it may not remain there long. The Fish and Wildlife Service said in a Federal Register notice that it was postponing the listing’s effective date to March 21st, according to the Associated Press. The Natural Resources Defense Council is “exploring all options, including litigation,” Rebecca Riley, senior attorney at the NRDC, tells The Verge.
“This bee is critically endangered, it’s one of the most critically endangered species in the United States,” Riley says. “The bee can’t wait. It needs the protections of the Endangered Species Act and it needs them now.”
The move to freeze the bumblebee’s listing is just the latest attack on endangered species in the US. Last month, some Republicans introduced a bill in the House to change the Endangered Species Act in a way that would undermine the law, and the protections it grants to species at risk of extinction.