The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered Rusty Patched Bumblebee

Illinois Highway Project Would Destroy Bee Habitat.


The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Federal Highway Administration and Illinois Department of Transportation for failing to prevent harm to the endangered rusty patched bumblebee.

In awarding Endangered Species Act protection to the bee in March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that all of the bee's remaining populations are important to its survival. The species has already declined by an estimated 91 percent, yet the agency recently signed off on a federal highway project in Illinois that will destroy bee habitat.

"Federal and state officials can't just walk away from their legal obligation to protect the rusty patched bumblebee," said Stephanie Parent, a senior attorney at the Center. "Like many Midwesterners, my childhood was filled with the buzzing of fuzzy bumblebees. It angers me that the agencies entrusted to protect this critically imperiled creature are refusing to do their jobs."

Rusty patched bumblebees are pollinators that are vital for healthy ecosystems and food security. They were once widely found across the upper Midwest and Northeast, but their numbers have plummeted dramatically since the 1990s, largely because of habitat destruction. They are the only mainland U.S. bee species to have obtained federal protection, and were sighted as recently as August in undeveloped land along the Fox River, slated to be bisected by the Longmeadow Parkway and toll bridge.

Rather than acknowledge the bee's presence and formally consult on the highway project's potential harm to the bee, as the law requires, the agencies conducted a cursory habitat survey only within the immediate footprint of the bridge that failed to fully assess threats to the bee.

"The Endangered Species Act is 99 percent effective at protecting our most imperiled wildlife, but it can only work when its mandates are followed," said Parent. "Since these agencies have ignored the bee's presence, we've got no choice but to take legal action to force officials to protect these important little animals."

If the agencies do not agree to enter into formal consultation within 60 days, the Center plans to sue them for violations of the Endangered Species Act.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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