The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Science Trumps Politics: Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Officially an Endangered Species
By Daniel Raichel
There are times—even today—when law and science triumph over politics.
The rusty patched bumble bee is the first bumble bee to receive endangered species protections and for good reason. Although common across the Midwest and the East Coast as recently as the mid-90s, since then, the bee's population has plummeted by about 90 percent.
After studying the bee for years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came out with a report last summer, finding it was likely to disappear from most of its remaining habitat within five years and go completely extinct within 30 years. Recognizing there was no time to waste, the agency finalized a rule to list the bee as an endangered species in January. The rule was set to take effect in 30 days, but then Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the U.S.
On day one, the Trump administration issued an order to "freeze" or delay the effective dates of all final rules, including the rusty patched bumble bee listing. The Fish and Wildlife Service then issued a notice—just one day before the bee was scheduled to be added to the list—claiming to delay the effective date of the listing until March 21.
That's when we sued. Because as any good government attorney knows, agencies can't simply discard or delay final rules years in the making at the whim of the president. They must instead follow the procedure required by law, which includes fair warning of a change in policy and an opportunity for interested members of the public to weigh in. The process can sometimes be slow, but it's designed to stop rash, baseless or purely political decision making—like, say, suddenly stopping the listing of a critically imperiled species supported by years of scientific study and review.
Given the Trump administration's questionable track record on appropriate legal process, we had anticipated a fight. But then, something incredible happened—the administration backed down and allowed the rusty patched bumble bee to get the federal endangered species protection it so desperately needs.
While it's hard to know whether this victory for common sense will be repeated elsewhere, it's unquestionably a win for bees everywhere—especially for the 4,000 species of native bees here in the U.S. While native bees like the rusty patched don't always get the same attention as honey bees, they are just as important to our food and our environment and many are just as in trouble. That's why we're hopeful that the protections the rusty patched bumble bee now enjoys will begin to help other bees too, chipping away at the larger bee crisis before it's too late.
The devil, of course, is always in the details, so we'll be watching closely as the Trump administration starts to implement those protections. Whatever happens, one thing's for sure—if they step out of line again, we'll "bee" there.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."
By Grace Francese
Outbreaks of potentially toxic algae are fouling lakes, rivers and other bodies of water across the U.S. Nationally, news reports of algae outbreaks have been on the rise since 2010.