Trump Admin Delays Listing Rusty Patched Bumblebees as Endangered

Trump Admin Delays Listing Rusty Patched Bumblebees as Endangered

In January 2017, the rusty patched bumblebee was declared an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, the agency quietly announced later in a Federal Register notice that it had delayed adding the bees to the endangered species list following a January 20 memo by President Donald Trump that said all federal agencies must postpone for 60 days any regulations published in the Federal Register that have not yet taken effect. [1] [2]

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in January that over the past two decades, the rusty patched bumblebee’s population has declined 87% due to a combination of threats: climate change, pesticides, habitat loss, diseases, and parasites. The bumblebees are vital pollinators of cranberries, blueberries, and clover. They are also “almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes,” according to the agency’s rusty patched bumblebee profile. [1]

Rebecca Riley, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), says:

“The Trump administration has put the rusty patched bumblebee back on the path to extinction. 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.” [2]

The NRDC has teamed up with the nonprofit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to list the bees under the Endangered Species Act.

The Trump administration says it put a 60-day moratorium on new federal regulations to allow for “reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy [the regulations] raise.” The addition of the rusty patched bumblebee to the endangered species list had been scheduled for February 17. The moratorium has now pushed it back to March 21. [3]

Hopefully, the delay is nothing more than a temporary setback. But environmentalists and conservationists are concerned that the bees might never make the endangered species list, as Trump has vowed to cut back on federal regulations.

Says Riley:

“We can’t imagine any legitimate basis to roll this rule back. The decision to protect the bee was based on a comprehensive scientific analysis after full public participation. There’s no scientific basis to reverse that conclusion — it couldn’t be more clear that this bee is imperiled and we need to take urgent steps to ensure its survival.” [2]

In a statement, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation said:

“Delays to protecting this already vulnerable pollinator may prove catastrophic.” [4]

According to Heather Swift, spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior, which includes the Fish and Wildlife Service, no other pending endangered-species listings are affected by the President’s regulatory freeze.


On February 14, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Trump administration for suspending the rule to put the rusty patched bumblebee on the endangered species list. [5]

Riley said in a statement:

“The Trump administration broke the law by blocking the rusty patched bumblebee from the endangered species list. The science is clear – this species is headed toward extinction, and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections for this bee. Freezing protections for the rusty patched bumblebee without public notice and comment flies in the face of the democratic process.”

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in New York City, alleges the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service broke the law “by freezing the bumblebee’s endangered species listing without public notice or an opportunity for comment.” The NRDC asks the court to stop the agencies from implementing and enforcing the delay order.

Additionally, the NRDC contends that the agencies can’t delay the listing because the rule was final when published in the Federal Register.


[1] National Geographic

[2] NBC News

[3] CBS News

[4] Gizmodo

[5] Natural Resources Defense Council