Save the Federally Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee
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Endangered species aren’t just disappearing from distant rainforests anymore. They are literally disappearing from our own backyards. These are creatures, like the rusty patched bumble bee, that were incredibly common 20 years ago and have now declined 87%; they are present in only 0.1% of their original range(1).
In the past, our idea of endangered species were these rare, exotic animals, killed by poachers for their prized fur or ivory; human impact on species felt far removed, an act created by villainous poachers. Now, species as common as bumble bees are going extinct. This isn’t something we can blame on poachers anymore. All of us play a role in the extinction of species; and conversely, all of us can play a role in turning things around and saving them.
In 2017, there were only 191 expert-confirmed sightings of this endangered bee across the U.S. United States Fish and Wildlife Service projections indicated that the rusty patched bumble bee may become extinct in as soon as 5 years, if measures aren’t taken to protect it and its habitat(1). The rusty patched bumble bee is not alone; 1 in 3 bumble bee species are in trouble(1).
28% of mammal species are endangered and 50% are threatened at some level(2); 33% amphibians are endangered and 43% are declining(3).
“We are now at the point where we have lost half of the world’s forests, half of the world’s wetlands, half of the world’s grasslands. We are systematical eradicating many of the habitats that make up the world’s ecosystems, and that cannot be a good thing for the animals who live there, or for the people who depend on them.” –James Leape, World Wildlife Federation
An endangered species is like a canary in a mine(4). That is, it signals that there is a big problem with the surrounding ecosystem. Humans are part of an incredibly complex ecosystem, and if the ecosystem has a big problem, we have a big problem.
Why are pollinators so important? Pollinators are crucial to the survival of the human species; “they pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world(5).” Very simply speaking, pollinators ensure that the plants humans eat, and the plants animals eat, that we in turn eat, reproduce. If the plants humans and animals eat don’t reproduce, humans ultimately will have nothing to eat.
There are certain foods that require bumble bees for pollination. Bumble bees have a special ability that honey bees do not. That is, the ability to “buzz” pollinate plants; without bumble bees, we could lose certain foods altogether like cranberries, blueberries, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, zucchinis, pumpkins, and eggplants(6).
The rusty patched bumble bee needs a very diverse ecosystem to thrive: native prairie, marshlands and forest to forage; abandoned rodent burrows 1-4 feet underground for nesting; and shallow, undisturbed soil for queens to hibernate in winter. Its diverse habitat needs, and its interdependence on other species (e.g., rodents) make it incredibly sensitive to ecosystem disruption, caused by human interference(7).
According to the USFWS, “The single most important conservation measure for many threatened and endangered species is habitat conservation or restoration(8).”
The proposed Victoria 2040 development plan(9) threatens the endangered rusty patched bumble bee and one if its last remaining habitats, and appears to be in violation of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as well as Minnesota Statute 84.0895 Protection of Threatened and Endangered Species.
Instead of developing, why don't we protect that area? For example, why don't we turn that area into a restoration area for the endangered rusty patched bumble and other members of the ecosystem? Why don't we restore agricultural land to natural prairie, marshland and forest?
Accordingly, we propose the drafting of a new Victoria 2040 plan, in consultation with experts on the rusty patched bumble bee and its habitat, in which the area slated for the current Victoria 2040 plan be designated as a "critical habitat area" and be turned into a restoration area for the endangered rusty patched bumble (Endangered Species Act of 1973, Section 2, subsection (a) (4) and Section 3, subsection (3)).
A restoration area would involve but would not be limited to restoration of prairie, woodland, and marshes; specifically, conversion of agricultural land to prairie, marsh, and woodlands; conversion of any remaining agricultural land from chemically based agriculture to organic agriculture; planting of native prairie, rusty patched bumble bee friendly flowers, and trees wherever possible in public spaces, and encouragement to plant such prairie, flowers and trees in privately owned spaces. This plan would also involve investigation of and application for government and private funding sources to incentivize prairie, woodland, and marsh restoration, crop conversion, organic agriculture, as well as for planting native prairie, flowers, and trees in public and privately owned spaces.
“We have an opportunity for greatness which has never been offered to any civilization, any generation in human history, to act as a generation to do the right thing. If we fail to act on it, we will become the most vilified generation in human history.” –Dr. Roger Payne, President, Ocean Alliance
We have an opportunity for greatness here, to do the right thing and set an example for the rest of the world. Please, sign the petition to save the rusty patched bumble bee and its habitat.
1 Evans, E., Smith, T., Horton, A. (2017, 29 November). Minnesota Bumble Bees with a Focus on the Federally Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. Presented at the Minnesota Association of Environmental Professionals November Seminar, St. Paul, MN.
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