Bees Are First But They Won't Be Last

With Trump now in office, what is the future of our endangered bees? Two months in, and things don’t look so promising. The Trump administration recently suspended the rule to put the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) on the endangered species list. Now, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a lawsuit against what they claim was an illegal move. In the case filed in the U.S. District Court in New York City, the organization asked the court to stop the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from implementing and enforcing the bumble bee delay order. The listing would have represented the first endangered designation for a bee species across the continental U.S. “The science is clear — this species is headed toward extinction, and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections,” says NRDC senior attorney Rebecca Riley. “This bee is one of the most critically endangered species in the country and we can save it – but not if the White House stands in the way.” Representatives at FWS could not comment on pending litigation, however they claim that the delay is, basically, nothing to be concerned about. “The change in the effective date from Feb. 10 to March 21, 2017, is not expected to have an impact on the conservation of the species, Gary Frazer, FWS assistant director for Endangered Species stated in a press release. FWS published the notice of delay one day before it was supposed to go into effect. Yet they state that they’re still developing “a recovery plan to guide efforts to bring this species back to a healthy and secure condition.” Regardless, in its complaint, NRDC contends he cannot legally suspend the listing because the rule was final when published in the Federal Register. The disturbing part is how the White House is carrying out monumental decisions furtively. The suit claims the agencies froze the bumble bee’s endangered species listing without public notice or an opportunity for comment. The White House has in fact instructed agencies to withdraw or freeze an array of rules that were intended by the Obama administration to protect public health and the environment. The delay is part of a broader January-issued executive order issued by chief of staff Reince Priebus. The 60-day regulatory freeze was implemented across acting heads of executive department and agencies on all pending regulations. The purpose, according to the White House, is for the purpose of “reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy they raise.” “What we are concerned with is that the regulatory freeze is an opportunity to revoke and reverse the environmental-related work already completed,” added Riley. Protecting insects is perceived bad for business. The American Farm Bureau Federation, along with oil and gas firms, for instance, opposed the endangered bees designation on the grounds that it could interfere with their industries’ operations. Other administrations in the past have enacted freezes, however they have allowed many of those measures to go through without delay, writes The Washington Post. When I asked Georgia Parham of FWS why they changed the effective ruling, she expressed that she wasn’t comfortable discussing the matter and encouraged me to reach out to the Department of the Interior, which oversees FWS. They have not returned calls or email. When speaking to a few government employees, I got the sense people are torn as to how to respond to the actions of Trump and his drones, who are behaving in ways far beyond the norm. On one hand they want to express their frustration, and yet they’re towing the party line to preserve their jobs. The NRDC is currently awaiting a court date.

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Endangered Bees, Bats, Birds, Systemic Pesticides, Oh My  

The rusty patched bumble bee is one of 47 species found in North America, more than a quarter of which face the risk of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. “[It’s] not just a lovely little bee; it is a pollinator of wildflowers, fruits, and other crops,” states Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “If the Trump administration can’t make room for a bumblebee that directly benefits humans, we are very concerned about what that means both for the bee and for all endangered species.” Before the mid-to-late-1990s, the bumble bee was considered abundant and widespread across a broad geographic radius. But now the population and range have declined by more than 90 percent. In September 2016, seven species of yellow-faced bees were listed as endangered. These were the first endangered bees in the United States listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, they are only found in Hawaii and they’re not bumble bees. While climate change, disease, and loss of habitat are most certainly factors in their demise, many environmentalists and scientists believe the root behind the declines are the incredible amounts of poisons in our environment, more specifically systemic pesticides known as neonicotinoids . When we released Vanishing of the Bees in 2010, people questioned our theory behind Colony Collapse Disorder, but today there are more than 800 peer reviewed reports, illustrating how harmful these poisons are. Nicotine-based chemicals are mostly coated on seeds or entrenched in the soil, whereupon the plant takes up the chemical and incorporates it throughout, including in leaf tissue, nectar, and pollen. Systemics today, which are being likened to DDT, generate upward of $2.9 billion for our friends at Bayer and Syngenta, and are the most commonly used in the world. They also harm hummingbirds, butterflies, bats, earthworms, and now marine life off the Central American Barrier Reef. These poisons are being found in our rivers, soil, and even our brains. “Bees and other pollinators have already waited long enough for strong federal protections,” says Larissa Walker Center For Food Safety’s Pollinator Program Director. “Postponing or even canceling critical research that informs government agencies about the types of protections needed is only going to make matters worse.” This is the third lawsuit that the organization has filed against the Trump administration for its attacks on regulation. HoneyColony cofounder discusses the latest buzz regarding our bees and endangered bees:

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