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After some bumbling, a bee buzzes onto the endangered species list

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The rusty patched bumblebee has lost 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years

USGS / Wikimedia Commons

Federal protections for the first bee species to be listed as “endangered” in the continental US are now in effect, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The news comes a little over a month after an executive order by President Donald Trump delayed the listing of the rusty patched bumblebee.

The Fish and Wildlife Service first announced that it was placing the bumblebee on the endangered species list in January. The bumblebee, which is native to the Midwest and East Coast, is key for pollinating crops, and it has lost 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years. Last year, the government agency also added seven other bee species, all from Hawaii, to the endangered species list.

When a species is listed as endangered, it means it’s at risk of becoming extinct through all or part of its natural range. Listing a species allows certain protections to be put into place: listed animals can’t be hunted, for example, or the most important places where they live can’t be degraded.

In February, the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a Federal Register notice that it was postponing the rusty patched bumblebee listing’s effective date to March 21st, effectively blocking those protections to go into place. That announcement prompted the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to file a lawsuit asking a federal court to stop the Fish and Wildlife Service — and the Interior Depart overseeing the agency — from violating the law. Now that the listing is into effect, the NRDS says it’s evaluating next steps.

“The Trump administration reversed course and listed the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species just in the nick of time,” Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the NRDC said in a statement. “Federal protections may be the only thing standing between the bumble bee and extinction.”