The Endangered Species Act & Pollinators

Photo of rusty-patched bumblebee: Clay Bolt

Remember when seven of the 60+ known yellow-faced bee species in Hawaii were added to the Endangered Species list in 2016, and the once common rusty-patched bumblebee was listed in 2017?

​Yellow-faced bees are Hawaii’s only native bee species. As the primary pollinator of the naupaka, a beach shrub native to the islands, as they go, so goes the naupaka. 

​In both cases, arrows point to climate change, invasive plant species, habitat loss, diseases, parasites and pesticides as synergistic contributors to their demise. Nevertheless, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation biologists are hopeful that endangered status will strengthen plans to help the insects.

Recently we received promising news that rusty-patched bumblebees still inhabit the Eastern United States, at least in Virginia; and consequently, they could receive more protections in an effort to help the species rebound–IF the federal government continues to administer the Endangered Species Act.

According to Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist with the Xerces Society, “Since 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been at the forefront of species protection, placing the United States as a world leader in science-based conservation. The ESA is our nation’s most effective law for protecting animals and plants in danger of extinction, and has prevented 99 percent of listed species from going extinct. Despite how effective this law has been at its intended purpose, the current administration has its sights on weakening the ESA to the detriment of the species it was designed to protect.”

John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Which species is expendable?  While no one has the knowledge to answer that question, scientists consider biological diversity our best weapon again the impacts of climate change. Greater species numbers and larger population sizes give organisms more adaptability to survive.  

The comment period for the proposed changes to the ESA ends on September 24, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. You can let your federal legislators know that you support the Endangered Species Act.  Read Xerces blog on how here.

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