An environmental group is suing U.S. President Donald Trump for the delay in an action that would protect the rusty patched bumblebee through an endangered species designation.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, filing the suit Tuesday, said the listing proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back in September has been delayed until March 21 as part of a bigger freeze imposed by the White House. The rule formalizing the listing was published in the Federal Register Jan. 11 and was supposed to take effect last Friday.

Delayed Endangered Species Listing

The rusty patched bumblebee is the first bee species to be classified as endangered in the continental United States. It once buzzed on the East Coast and a large portion of the Midwest, until the 1990s and today when only scattered groups are spotted in 13 states.

"The science is clear — this species is headed toward extinction, and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections," said the group’s senior attorney Rebecca Riley in a statement, as reported by Reuters.

According to the lawsuit filed in New York, the federal wildlife managers had violated the law when they abruptly suspended the bumblebee’s listing without notifying the public or seeking comment. Technically, the rule is already final given it was published in the Federal Register, it added.

The suit urged that a judge declare the USFWS’s delaying of the listing an unlawful one, as well as order the agency, which falls under the Interior Department, to rescind the said move.

Officials from the Interior Department and USFWS could not be reached for comment.

Bumblebees In The Environment

In declaring the bumblebee endangered last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harped on the species’ environmental importance, stressing that they contribute to food security and healthy ecosystem functioning as pollinators.

“Bumble bees are keystone species in most ecosystems, necessary not only for native wildflower reproduction, but also for creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife as diverse as songbirds and grizzly bears,” the agency’s website stated.

Featuring a striped black and yellow marking on its back as well as a long black tail, the rusty patched bumblebee has been historically found in 28 states in the East and upper Midwest, along with parts of Canada. Its crash took place so rapidly that few scientists took special notice, with the number and range of its colonies dropping by about 87 percent since the late ‘90s.

In fact, it disappeared from about 90 percent of its historical range in recent years, the lawsuit contended.

The plummeting numbers of the bee species has been linked to factors including loss of prairies and grasslands, increased pesticide exposure, and climate change.

It is among the 47 varieties of bumblebees native to the United States and Canada, and it’s not alone in this challenge: over a quarter of those species also face the threat of extinction, warned the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In related news, scientists in Japan have explored insect-sized drones, featuring horsehairs on their backs and a special gel for picking up and releasing pollen grains, as a potential aid of bees in pollination.

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