On September 22, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) proposed the rusty patched bumble bee for listing as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).  This action results from a 2013 petition and subsequent lawsuit filed by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species.

Prior to the 1990s, the rusty patched bumble bee was widely distributed across 31 states and provinces, favoring native grasslands.  Since the late 1990s, however, the number of populations fell by 91 percent.  The species’ geographic distribution concurrently declined from 31 states and provinces to 13 states and provinces.  FWS attributes this attrition to several factors, including pathogens, pesticides, habitat loss and climate change.

Although the species’ geographic distribution diminished significantly relative to the early 1990s, populations still exist throughout the Northeast and upper Midwest.  States include Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina/Tennessee (single record on the border), Ontario (Canada), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.  Should FWS finalize this rule as proposed, it would extend the ESA’s protections to the rusty patched bumblebee (and its habitats).  In addition, the proposal triggers protections for the bee under Section 7 of the ESA, and the species will now need to be included in the scope of agency consultation to determine whether projects with a federal nexus will jeopardize the species.  As a result , survey work and development restrictions may be required in these areas.

The Federal Register notice is available here.  FWS will accept public comments until November 21, 2016.