The United States is about to be stung by another environmental and economic crisis that could be averted, but is seemingly being systematically ignored and pushed aside.
The bumblebee is directly responsible for nearly $20 billion in pollinated crops across the U.S.. Almost 30 percent of our food relies on pollination from bees. And now, as one of the most common bumblebee species is at risk of extinction, the Trump administration is undercutting efforts to protect it.
Under a memo from the White House by President Donald Trump, the Fish and Wildlife Service was blocked from placing the rusty patched bumblebee on their endangered species list until March 21. This delay gives the new administration time to review and reconsider the effort made by the Obama administration to place protections on the bee.
This memo issued by Trump was something that affected many organizations, and in many cases was a very reasonable
request by the administration to review policies before they had their people in place, but Trump’s language speaking against climate change and other environmental policies has given me no confidence that this is merely a procedural delay.
The rusty patched bumblebee would be the first bumblebee placed on the endangered species list, mainly due to its substantial drop in population and range over the last 20 years. The Fish and Wildlife Service has found that the rusty patched bumble bee now inhabits only 13 percent of the area that it previous inhabited in the early 2000’s. The Fish and Wildlife Service identified global temperature rises and overuse of pesticides as factors in the decline.
Opponents of the expanded protections point out that there’s no conclusive explanation for the massive decline.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, a collection of agriculture specialists and farmers who aim to promote farming rights nationally, singles out several reports that seem to suggest that pesticides are not the only factor in a declining bee population. They contend that limiting the use of pesticides on their crops would make it harder to grow and farm the land.
Still, public comments on the Fish and Wildlife Services report made it clear that there is scientific consensus that pesticides and the over-farming of land are large causes for the bee population decline. The protection of bees is akin to protecting the environment against human-influenced global climate change.
The National Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, and stated that “the decision to freeze protections for the rusty patched bumblebee without public notice and comment violates the law.”
The lawsuit reflects the issue that this delay may be illegal, as it required no public comment period before
taking effect. On the official register report, it was noted that “seeking public comment on this delay is unnecessary and contrary to the public interest.” I disagree. Public comment periods on federal mandates are designed to help the government understand and get a guage on public opinion.
Under an endangered species designation, the Fish and Wildlife Services would immediately recommend regulating
and monitoring the amount of pesticides that could be released in rusty patched bumblebee areas. Because of this, the pesticides industry in the United States is also largely affected. The pesticides industry is a $2.6 billion industry that is primarily run by the chemical giant, Monsanto. The agriculture and agriculture-related industry as a whole is worth nearly $1 trillion, as of 2014, and accounts for nearly 10 percent of the country’s employment.
The rusty patched bumblebee may be the first bumblebee to need this designation, but if this trend continues,
it won’t be the last.
So far, there has been no evidence to suggest that the rusty patched bumblebee isn’t worthy of its endangered species listing. The move by President Trump to include this decision in his overreaching memo is deplorable at best, especially if the bee protection gets delayed even further. The bees certainly deserve our protection, not our ignorance.
Jager Robinson is an intern for Newsday’s editorial board.