The Natural Resources Defense Council has sued the Trump administration for delaying action that would protect an endangered bumble bee species with an integral role in the food chain.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January made the rusty patched bumble bee the first type of bee to be classified as endangered in the continental United States, but the agency and the Department of the Interior delayed the listing from taking effect until March 21.
That’s an illegal holdup for “a species currently facing an imminent risk of extinction,” according to the lawsuit the environmental group filed Tuesday in federal court in New York.
Plans to protect the bee would have taken effect on Friday, but a sweeping executive order by President Donald Trump that imposed a 60-day waiting period on new regulations kept the conservation measures from taking effect. The NRDC argued that the Administrative Procedure Act required wildlife officials to give public notice and an opportunity to hear comments before delaying actions to protect the bee.
“[W]ithout valid explanation, opportunity for public input, or other legally required process,” the Fish and Wildlife Service is “denying the bee the essential protections of the law,” the complaint said.
In declaring the bee endangered last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explained the species’ ecological importance.
“As pollinators, rusty patched bumble bees contribute to our food security and the healthy functioning of our ecosystems,” the group’s website said. “Bumble bees are keystone species in most ecosystems, necessary not only for native wildflower reproduction, but also for creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife as diverse as songbirds and grizzly bears.”
Crops like blueberries, cranberries and tomatoes thrive from the activity of pollinators like the rusty patched bumble bee.
The insect has historically been found in 28 states in the East and upper Midwest, as well as parts of Canada. Its numbers have plummeted due to the loss of grasslands and prairies, increased exposure to pesticides and climate change, according to FWS.
“In recent years, however, the species has undergone a dramatic contraction, disappearing from approximately ninety percent of its historical range,” the lawsuit said.
The Huffington Post could not immediately reach officials from the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of the Interior for comment.
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