Is the American Bumble Bee Endangered or Threatened? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Plans to Find Out

On September 29, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published notice in the Federal Register that it has made an affirmative 90-Day Finding for the American bumble bee, along with four other species, based on an environmental group’s February 1, 2021 Petition to list the species under the Endangered Species Act. 

To be clear, a 90-Day Finding is not a proposal to list the species as threatened or endangered. It means the FWS found that the Petition presented substantial information indicating that listing the species may be warranted. Accordingly, FWS is initiating a species status assessment for the American bumble bee and is requesting all relevant scientific and commercial information from the public for that purpose. The species status assessment will evaluate potential threats to the American bumble bee and the expected response of the species. For example, FWS stated that it will fully evaluate the following alleged threats identified in the Petition: (1) habitat destruction from agricultural intensification, livestock grazing, and pesticide use; (2) loss of genetic diversity; (3) climate change; and (4) competition from nonnative honeybees. FWS will also consider all other potential impacts to the species and its habitat, including land disturbance associated with project development activities.

FWS will have its work cut out for it in light of the American bumble bee’s expansive range. Currently, the Service recognizes that the species range spans much of the Lower 48: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. 

Going Forward

FWS is currently seeking any new information concerning the status of and potential threats to the American bumble bee, but it has not yet set a deadline for submitting this information. The agency will consider any information it receives during its status review. 

Based on the information collected in the species status assessment, FWS will then make a 12-month finding in which FWS will either propose listing the species as threatened or endangered or determine that listing the species is not warranted at this time.

This means that FWS could propose listing the American bumble bee as a threatened or endangered species as soon as next Fall. If FWS lists this species, it could have significant implications for any entity developing projects within the species range.

This is a developing issue with potentially significant future implications, and B&D will continue to provide any updates of note as they occur.

Beveridge & Diamond’s Infrastructure and Project Development and Permitting practice group helps clients in numerous industries achieve compliance with the ever-changing regulatory landscape thereby reducing cost and risk to operations. Beveridge & Diamond’s Endangered Species and Wildlife Protection practice group provides strategic counseling and compliance advice to project proponents in all industries to minimize the impacts of threatened and endangered species listings and critical habitat designations on our clients’ activities. For more information on this development, please contact the authors.