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In a path breaking motion on Monday, May 1, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The U.S. federal agency for protection of flora and fauna had requested the Supreme Court to designate a major chunk of Arctic ice shelf (120 million acres) as critical polar bear habitat. The state of Alaska along with the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, other local governments, and native corporations filed a petition against the demands of the USFWS. However, the Supreme Court did not accept the lawsuits filed by the abovementioned corporations and governments, and chose to support the USFWS. The decision comes shortly after President Trump's latest executive order, which cracks down on new offshore oil drilling taking place in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The case challenging the USFWS — which the Supreme Court shot down — will now give the polar bears access to 187,000 square miles of clean and undisturbed barrier islands, sea ice, and coastal areas of Alaska to settle and breed. In 2010, the federal government designated the area a critical habitat. Initially, a district court turned down the polar bear habitat designation. However, the decision was later overturned thanks to an appeals court. The native groups appealing against the USFWS' critical habitat designation of 2010 stated that the federal organization misused its authority and overextended it in the name of conservation. They also stated that the designation of the area as a critical habitat had nothing to do with conservation, and would affect the economy of the country and the region significantly. Apart from the Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the state itself, other groups who protested against this habitat designation included the North Slope Borough, Arctic Slope Regional Corp., NANA Regional Corp. Inc., Calista Corp., Bering Straits Native Corp., Tikigaq Corp., Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp., Olgoonik Corp. Inc., Kuupik Corp., the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, and the Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. The above-mentioned groups petitioned to the Supreme Court that the agency was making "sweeping designations (in this case an area the size of California) that overlap with existing human development (including, even, industrial areas)" all thanks to the decision of the ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals The groups also complained that in the state of Alaska, the habitat designations also got in the way of tribal sovereignty and the current ongoing oil drilling operations of the region. The polar bears of the Arctic were listed under the "threatened" category in the Endangered Species Act in 2008. In early 2017, federal officials released a report stating that climate change is the gravest threat the animals face. The habitat designation for the polar bears in the Arctic are seen as a step to safeguard the animals' survival. "This victory helps ensure that polar bears keep the habitat protections they need for a shot at surviving our rapidly warming world," Kristen Monsell, attorney at Center for Biological Diversity remarked in support of the Supreme Court's decision. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: www.rdmag.com

Scientists have just discovered massive amounts of a rare metal called tellurium, a key element in cutting-edge solar technology. As a solar expert who specialises in exactly this, I should be delighted. But here’s the catch: the deposit is found at the bottom of the sea, in an undisturbed part of the ocean. People often have an idealised view of solar as the perfect clean energy source. Direct conversion of sunlight to electricity, no emissions, no oil spills or contamination, perfectly clean. This however overlooks the messy reality of how solar panels are produced. While the energy produced is indeed clean, some of the materials required to generate that power are toxic or rare. In the case of one particular technology, cadmium telluride-based solar cells, the cadmium is toxic and the telluride is hard to find. Cadmium telluride is one of the second generation “thin-film” solar cell technologies. It’s far better at absorbing light than silicon, on which most solar power is currently based, and as a result its absorbing layer doesn’t need to be as thick. A layer of cadmium telluride just one thousandth of a millimetre thick will absorb around 90% of the light that hits it. It’s cheap and quick to set up, compared to silicon, and uses less material. As a result, it’s the first thin-film technology to effectively make the leap from the research laboratory to mass production. Cadmium telluride solar modules now account for around 5% of global installations and, depending on how you do the sums, can produce lower cost power than silicon solar. Topaz Solar Farm in California is the world’s fourth largest. It uses cadmium telluride panels. Sarah Swenty/USFWS, CC BY But cadmium telluride’s Achilles heel is the tellurium itself, one of the rarest metals in the Earth’s crust. Serious questions must be asked about whether technology based on such a rare metal is worth pursuing on a massive scale. There has always been a divide in opinion about this. The abundancy data for tellurium suggests a real issue, but the counter argument is that no-one has been actively looking for new reserves of the material. After all, platinum and gold are similarly rare but demand for jewellery and catalytic converters (the primary use of platinum) means in practice we are able to find plenty. The discovery of a massive new tellurium deposit in an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean certainly supports the “it will turn up eventually” theory. And this is a particularly rich ore, according to the British scientists involved in the MarineE-Tech project which found it. While most tellurium is extracted as a by-product of copper mining and so is relatively low yield, their seabed samples contain concentrations 50,000 times higher than on land. The submerged mountain, ‘Tropic Seamount’, lies off the coast of north-west Africa. Google Earth Extracting any of this will be formidably hard and very risky for the environment. The top of the mountain where the tellurium has been discovered is still a kilometre below the waves, and the nearest land is hundreds of miles away. Even on dry land, mining is never a good thing for the environment. It can uproot communities, decimate forests and leave huge scars on the landscape. It often leads to groundwater contamination, despite whatever safeguards are put in place. And on the seabed? Given the technical challenges and the pristine ecosystems involved, I think most people can intuitively guess at the type of devastation that deep-sea mining could cause. No wonder it has yet to be implemented anywhere yet, despite plans off the coast of Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. Indeed, there’s no suggestion that tellurium mining is liable to occur at this latest site any time soon. However the mere presence of such resources, or the wind turbines or electric car batteries that rely on scarce materials or risky industrial processes, raises an interesting question. These are useful low-carbon technologies, but do they also have a requirement to be environmentally ethical? There is often the perception that everyone working in renewable energy is a lovely tree-hugging, sandal-wearing leftie, but this isn’t the case. After all, this is now a huge industry, one that is aiming to eventually supplant fossil fuels, and there are valid concerns over whether such expansion will be accompanied by a softening of regulations. We know that solar power is ultimately a good thing, but do the ends always justify the means? Or, to put it more starkly: could we tolerate mass production of solar panels if it necessitated mining and drilling on a similar scale to the fossil fuels industry, along with the associated pitfalls? Tolerable – as long as it’s for solar panels. Peter Gudella / shutterstock To my mind the answer is undoubtedly yes, we have little choice. After all, mass solar would still wipe out our carbon emissions, helping curb global warming and the associated apocalypse. What’s reassuring is that, even as solar becomes a truly mature industry, it has started from a more noble and environmentally sound place. Cadmium telluride modules for example include a cost to cover recycling, while scarce resources such as tellurium can be recovered from panels at the end of their 20-year or more lifespan (compare this with fossil fuels, where the materials that produce the power are irreparably lost in a bright flame and a cloud of carbon). The impact of mining for solar panels will likely be minimal in comparison to the oil or coal industries, but it will not be zero. As renewable technology becomes more crucial, we perhaps need to start calibrating our expectations to account for this. At some point mining operations in search of solar or wind materials will cause damage or else some industrial production process will go awry and cause contamination. This may be the Faustian pact we have to accept, as the established alternatives are far worse. Unfortunately nothing is perfect. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


News Article | April 23, 2017
Site: www.prnewswire.com

Via the live-streaming cameras on dceaglecam.org, it became apparent to worldwide viewers that DC4 was in trouble and distressed, and that a human-coordinated rescue could significantly decrease the chance of serious injury to the eaglet's leg. The non-profit American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and the U.S. National Arboretum immediately cooperated with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Ex-Cel Tree Experts to plan the removal of the eaglet from the nest. "Typically when something goes awry in a wild eagle nest, we don't even know about it and nature simply takes its course," says AEF President Al Cecere. "In this case, however, we could all clearly see how much the eaglet was struggling and how human intervention might make the difference between life and death. We had the power in our hands to help, so that's what we did." After being retrieved and lowered from the tree by professional arborists Matt Morrison & Marty Levine, the eaglet was initially assessed on the ground by US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Craig Koppie (also an experienced tree climber). It then received further examination by veterinarian Samantha Sander at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, who truly gave the eaglet the "presidential treatment!" A physical check-up and radiograph revealed no permanent damage to DC4's leg, with the only visible signs being a slight abrasion and swelling. Overall, the eaglet received an acceptable health report and was approved by the veterinarian to be placed back into its nest. DC4 was successfully returned to its nest at the Arboretum on April 21st at around 5pm EDT. Mr. President, The First Lady, and DC5 welcomed DC4 back home, safe and sound! The entire process of freeing the eaglet's lodged/stuck leg, getting it checked out/radiographed, and then returning it to the nest took less than 24 hours. Sue Greeley with USNA helped facilitate the entire process at the Arboretum, while AEF President Al Cecere guided and monitored the effort virtually by phone and internet from Tennessee. The nest cam footage of these events can be seen on the AEF's Facebook & Youtube pages. "We are extremely grateful for all USFWS, AEF, USNA, Ex-Cel, & Maryland Zoo staff and volunteers who readily responded to this emergency situation and helped make this a quick, safe and successful rescue effort," says Cecere. In 2015, the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) staff traveled to D.C. to install state-of-the-art cameras, infrared lighting, and other related equipment in-and-around the nest tree with the help of volunteers and experienced tree arborists and climbers. This past year, the AEF added microphones near the nest to further enhance the viewing experience, and a team of arborists and eagle experts affixed natural tree limbs beneath the nest to provide added support. The USDA's U.S. National Arboretum ran a half-mile of fiber optic cable to the cameras' ground control station, which connects the cameras and microphones to the Internet. The entire system is powered by a large mobile solar array (containing several deep cycle batteries) that was designed and built by students and staff from Alfred State College, SUNY College of Technology and was partially funded by the Department of Energy and Environment. USNA has implemented a backup generator that will kick-on if prolonged inclement weather causes the solar array to provide insufficient power to the system. In 2016, APEX Electric Inc. (Kenmore, Washington) traveled to D.C. to assist the AEF in successfully installing audio equipment in and around the tree. The AEF uses Piksel to stream the video images to viewers around the world, and AEF volunteers are trained and coordinated to pan, tilt and zoom the cams, as well as educate the public via LIVE chats while viewers watch the eagles via the cams on the Internet. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rescued-eaglet-returned-to-national-arboretum-nest-in-washington-dc-300443927.html


-- "Helping Birds Along the Way" is the theme for this year's International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), the only international education program that celebrates the migration of nearly 350 bird species between their nesting habitats in North America and wintering grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.This year IMBD will celebrate the importance of stopover sites, crucial refuges where migratory birds rest and refuel before continuing their remarkable journeys. Because these flights can stretch thousands of kilometers across continents and oceans, the birds depend upon a handful of resource-rich and strategically located habitats to acquire the energy-rich fat stores they need to survive.From coastal estuaries and marshes to forests and grasslands, stopover sites support millions of migratory shorebirds, waterfowl, and songbirds. "Stopover habitats are critical to the survival of birds that travel long distances," says Greg Butcher, Migratory Bird Program Coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service's Office of International Programs. "Providing healthy habitats during migration is essential to migratory birds."Now in its 24year, IMBD has grown from a one-day event into a framework underpinning hundreds of projects and programs year-round. IMBD (http://www.migratorybirdday.org)is coordinated by Environment for the Americas ( http://www.environmentamericas.org/ ), a Colorado-based organization which provides bilingual educational materials and information about birds and bird conservation throughout the Americas. Their programs inspire children and adults to get outdoors, learn about birds, and participate in their conservation.Each year IMBD explores a different aspect of migratory birds. In 2017, participants at more than 700 locations from Argentina to Canada will learn how protecting and restoring stopover sites can benefit migratory birds, the symbolic harbingers of the seasons. Because habitat loss is considered the largest threat to these birds, IMBD events will include restoration activities like clean-ups and planting native species, as well as educational presentations, bird walks, and creative art projects."Through International Migratory Bird Day, we work to engage people of all ages to make their homes and communities safe places for birds," says Susan Bonfield, Executive Director of Environment for the Americas. "There are many small actions that people can take to help protect migratory birds." One way that people can help birds along their way, says Bonfield, is to transform their backyards into safe stopover sites by planting native vegetation, providing fresh water, and keeping cats indoors.Although IMBD is traditionally celebrated in Canada and the U.S. on the second Saturday in May, in reality every day is bird day, and programs, festivals, and other events occur throughout the year, whenever it works best for organizers—and the birds."Ultimately, the goal of IMBD is to connect people to nature through birds," says Laura Koloski, Program Coordinator for Environment for the Americas.To learn more about migratory bird habitats, download IMBD educational and promotional materials in Spanish and English, and search for activities planned in your area, visit http://www.migratorybirdday.org/ Susan Bonfield, Executive Director, Environment for the Americas, Boulder, CO, USA. Email: sbonfield@environmentamericas.org;Tel: 970-393-1183Laura Koloski, Program Coordinator, Environment for the Americas, Boulder, CO, USA. Email: lkoloski@environmentamericas.org;Tel: 303-499-19501.is the Executive Director for Environment for the Americas. After studying Black-legged Kittiwakes in Alaska, she returned to the Lower 48 where she has since gained over 17 years of experience in bird research and education. She has created education programs in the U.S. and Mexico, assisted with workshops on bird monitoring and conservation in both countries, taught basic identification courses, and led a course for the USFWS National Conservation Training Center. Susan has a B.S. in Biology from Randolph-Macon Woman's College, an M.S. in Ecology, Fisheries, and Wildlife from University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University.


News Article | March 23, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered, the first and foremost local bee to be included in the list of endangered species. The USFWS presented a regulation on Jan. 11 to add the rusty patched bumblebee to the list of endangered species. The officials of USFWS said that they are unsure about the reasons behind the reduction of these bees, but the species is facing potential threat. Serina Jepson, director at the Xerces Society, stated that several possible reasons could exist behind the disappearance of the bees. "Disease and pesticides are the two biggest threats to the existence of the rusty patched bumblebee, compounded by loss of habitat," said Jepson. She also added that the most concerning matter is the constant usage of strong, enduring, and extremely poisonous pesticides in areas inhabited by the bees. This is a powerful and long-lasting risk to their existence. Many settlements of the rusty patched bumblebee have dropped significantly by 87 percent since the 1990s. Development of human society over the habitats of the bees may be a cause for their disappearance, along with climate change. In the past, the upper part of the Midwest and 31 states across the United States had a thriving population of these bees. Bee colonies used to exist in some parts of Southern Canada as well. Presently, the population of bees could be found only in 13 states. These states include Indiana, Maryland, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Ohio, Minnesota, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia. A part of Canada also has some remaining colonies of the bees. "Bumblebees are among the most widely recognized and well-understood group of native pollinators in North America," said Eric Lee-Mäder, co-director of the pollinator program at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. He also added that bees contribute greatly in the pollination process of several fruits and vegetables, including melon, cranberry, blueberry, squash, clover, greenhouse tomato, and pepper along with several wildflowers. Lee-Mäder thinks that the extinction of the bees could impact the pollination of crops, which would be a massive financial blow. There are native pollinators available in the United States, but their annual cost will be $9 billion or even more. Several plans and efforts have been made to save the endangered bees. According to the USFWS, the plan is in a good condition. Several agricultural communities all over the country have come forward to help the bees survive against the odds. The communities are protecting as well as restoring thousands of acres of habitat for the bees to thrive. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

Marstel-Day, LLC has received two awards from the Environmental Business Journal (EBJ) for its social contributions and natural resource management achievements. These awards recognize the company's "Stand With Wildlife" campaign as well as its support of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial. The Stand With Wildlife campaign helped shine a light on major wildlife conservation issues of our time, accompanied by a call to action for individuals and businesses to take a stand to support wildlife and biodiversity. Throughout the campaign, Marstel-Day partnered with organizations such asthe National Conservation Leadership Institute (NCLI); One More Generation; Soul River; the Jane Goodall Institute; Five Gyres; the Oakland Zoo; the Wildlife Center of Virginia; the Consortium for Ocean Leadership; the Earth Journalism Network; Discover Nature Apps; the US Fish and Wildlife Service and more. These partnerships focused on identifying and developing strategies to protect, restore and enhance the world's diverse wildlife and their habitats and on presenting ways in which individuals and businesses can help make that happen. Marstel-Day was also recognized for providing support to and coordination of a campaign marking the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty between Canada and the United States. Signed in 1916 between the US and Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada), the Migratory Bird Treaty is the first major US legislation that protects birds migrating across international borders. The two countries agreed to stop hunting all insectivorous birds, and to establish specific hunting seasons for game birds. While the treaty has been very successful, migratory birds still face a number of challenges to survival such as the rate of avian deaths from wind turbines, loss of critical habitat, and the use of pesticides, which continues to grow. The 2016 EBJ awards will be presented at a special ceremony at the Environmental Industry Summit XV in San Diego, Calif. on March 22, 2017. Environmental Business Journal provides strategic information and market forecasts for executives involved in 14 business segments, including environmental remediation, water & wastewater, air pollution control, environmental consulting & engineering, hazardous waste, instrumentation, pollution control equipment, waste management, resource recovery, and solid waste management. About Marstel-Day, LLC: Marstel-Day, LLC is a certified woman-owned environmental consultancy operating to support clients with interest in natural resource protections. The company is headquartered in Fredericksburg, VA and has additional offices in Alexandria and Richmond, VA; Annapolis, MD; Stennis Space Center, MS; San Antonio TX and Oceanside, CA. The company has received numerous awards for its "green" approach to environmental services. About the EBJ Business Achievement Awards: In October-December 2013, Climate Change Business Journal solicited nominations for the EBJ Business Achievement Awards. Nominations were accepted in 200-word essays in either specific or unspecified categories. Final awards were determined by a committee of EBJ staff and EBJ editorial advisory board members. (Disclaimer: company audits were not conducted to verify information or claims submitted with nominations.) About EBI: Founded in 1988, Environmental Business International Inc. (EBI, San Diego, Calif.) is a research, publishing and consulting company that specializes in defining emerging markets and generating strategic market intelligence for companies, investors and policymakers. EBI publishes Environmental Business Journal®, the leading provider of strategic information for the environmental industry, and Climate Change Business Journal®, which covers nine segments of the Climate Change Industry. EBI also performs contract research for the government and private sector and founded the Environmental Industry Summit, an annual three-day event for executives in the environmental industry.


News Article | February 18, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

If Congressional Republicans get their way, it could once again be legal to kill wolves and bears in Alaska's wildlife refuges. The latest casualty of the Congressional Review Act could be a US Fish and Wildlife Service rule that prohibits the wholesale killing of predators on wildlife refuges in Alaska. Already, the CRA has been used to overturn stream protections and fossil fuel industry transparency. Until September of last year, it was entirely legal for hunters to bait bears and wolves, to poison them, to shoot them from helicopters, and even to gas dens full of cubs—all an attempt to inflate moose and caribou populations, which are prized game for trophy hunters. Then, amid growing public concern, the USFWS finalized a rule prohibiting the Alaska Board of Game's "intensive predator management" practices, as they were called, from being used on national wildlife refuges—public lands in the US set aside to conserve plants and wildlife. The USFWS, tasked with taking care of these federally owned wildlife refuges, argued that their job is to maintain the natural diversity of these lands and that doing so means supporting viable populations of apex predators—key components of a healthy ecosystem. "People say, 'Oh we have to protect the wolf puppies.' That's not what it's about." "Intensive predator management," said then-USFWS Director Dan Ashe in a Huffington Post op-ed, "is purportedly aimed at increasing populations of caribou and moose but defies modern science of predator-prey relationships." Congressional Republicans, led by Don Young from Alaska, assert that the rule is a power grab by the federal government and it takes away the state's right to manage game within its borders. In a hearing this week, Young spoke animatedly about what he saw as government overreach and liberal hooplah. "There have been a lot of interest groups that have been spreading falsehoods and dishonesty about this," he said. "They talk about killing puppies and grizzly bears. That doesn't happen." "People say, 'Oh we have to protect the wolf puppies'," Young continued. "That's not what it's about. It's about the law." Young and other Republicans say that the rule is illegal because it violates the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act, which allows rural Alaskans to continue commercial and subsistence hunting on the approximately 76 million acres of wildlife refuges within its borders. Conservationists, Democrats, and the USFWS counter that ANILCA is exactly why the rule must stay in effect. The first purpose for all refuges under ANILCA, argued the federal agency, is to "conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity." Read More: Republicans Are Trying to Run a Long Con on Public Lands "We saw when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park that they kept elk herds under control and on the run, allowing river corridors to recover from decades of being trampled and overgrazed," Democratic Representative from Arizona and ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Raúl M. Grijalva, told Motherboard. In the hearing, representatives in favor of the rule pointed out that healthy predators not only make healthy ecosystems, but also bring in large sums from wildlife viewing. "Alaska gains $2 billion for wildlife viewing—which is five times what it gets from hunting," said Democratic Representative Don Beyer from Virginia. With a swipe of the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to void a rule within 60 congressional days of its implementation, the rule protecting predators on wildlife refuges in Alaska could be overturned. Once that happens, a law like it cannot be brought forth by the USFWS ever again. Whether the Senate has the stomach to take up this vote remains to be seen. "The idea that a state should be able to veto federal rules on US public lands owned by all Americans is patently absurd," said Rep. Grijalva, warning, "If we let this happen in Alaska, people living in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and other states that value public lands should be very afraid." Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

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. 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. 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. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a non-profit conservation advocacy group, is suing the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Interior Department, and the directors of both agencies over one of President Trump's executive orders, which has delayed the first bee from being put on the Endangered Species List. The NRDC filed the lawsuit today in New York saying the delay is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion" and illegal, and that the bee should be listed as originally planned. President Trump originally signed the order on January 24, directing government agencies to freeze and review a broad array of environmental and health rules previously issued by the Obama Administration, for the following 60 days or longer. Trump's order prevented the USFWS from following through with its plans to put the rusty patched bumble bee, a once abundant and critical pollinator of the US, on the list on February 10. Once a species is added to the Endangered Species List, the federal government becomes immediately responsible not only for the protection of that species and its habitat, but for restoring its populations to healthy and vital levels so that it can eventually be removed from the list. For the rusty patched bumble bee, this means creating more patches of the prairie habitat it needs to forage, as well as putting out nest boxes on the edges of woodlots and hedgerows to promote hive growth. In explaining the delay, USFWS posted a rule change to the US Federal Register, the daily public-facing journal for federal agencies, saying that it would place the bee on the list on March 21st, when Trump's freeze lifts. But conservation groups are not convinced this will happen based upon this administration's apparent disdain for environmental legislation of all kinds, and Republicans' historic desire to want to roll back the Endangered Species Act. "[It] is an opportunity for the Administration to reconsider and perhaps revoke the rule entirely. So we're concerned." "We don't know if this is just a freeze," Rebecca Riley, Senior Attorney for NRDC, told Motherboard in a phone call before the lawsuit was filed. "What it is, is an opportunity for the Administration to reconsider and perhaps revoke the rule entirely. So we're concerned." Rusty patched bumble bees are yellow with black-tailed abdomens and a little "rusty patch" on the back of their middle abdominal segment, earning them their name. They'recritical pollinators of wildflowers as well as important crops like tomatoes, cranberries, apples, and plums. Once so common in the Eastern and Midwestern United States that they were nearly considered a nuisance, the bumble bee's population has now plummeted nearly 90 percent in the last 20 years. Heavy use of pesticides, wholesale clearing of their habitat, and the spread of disease from non-native, commercial bees, have contributed to their precipitous decline. Conservation biologist Rich Hatfield, of the Xerces Society, a nonprofit dedicated to invertebrate conservation, underlined the significance of this drop to Motherboard: "This was a once really common animal that was distributed across 28 states in the US and it's begun to disappear. So it's not like it this is a small, obscure insect that only lives in one place." Last October, The Washington Post published an article that claimed that "the bees you're more familiar with," the "ones around your yard making honey and pollinating crops," are, in fact, "doing just fine." While that might be a comforting thought, the problem with this is that they were referring to commercial honeybees, which are not native to North America, and do not prop up the continent's native ecosystems. "Our native bees are what provide pollination everywhere else," said Riley. It's also wishful thinking. Honeybees are, in fact, struggling under the pressure of many of the same problems afflicting wild species. "All the evidence out there is that this administration is unabashedly in support of industry at the expense of natural resources." Plus, Hatfield explained that having a wide array of pollinators is critical for a resilient, healthy ecosystem and food security. The more kinds of pollinators you have, the less of an impact things like disease have on the process. "Diversity is a good thing," he told Motherboard on the phone. "We have a wide range of agricultural crops, that are dependent on pollinators—which provide one out of every three bites of our food." The White House's freeze on pending regulations is actually fairly common practice for an incoming administration. But, according to Riley, "this isn't just any administration." "All the evidence out there is that this administration is unabashedly in support of industry at the expense of natural resources," Hatfield said. Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .


The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is suing the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Interior Department for delaying placing the rusty patched bumblebee on the Endangered Species List. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is suing the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Interior Department for delaying placing a bee on the Endangered Species List. The suit, filed in the southern district of New York on Tuesday, takes issue with the decision of the Trump administration for an executive order that effectively delayed the listing of the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species. The delay was the result of an memorandum issued by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus that placed a temporary freeze on any regulations passed by the previous administration that have not yet taken effect. Of the regulations passed by the Obama White House that were halted for review was the decision to classify the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered. The listing was supposed to go into effect on Feb. 10, but the move was pushed back until March 21 by the USFWS, according to a Federal Register notice. The NDRC called the delay "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion," and illegal. The non-profit conservation advocacy group is seeking an order vacating the delay in order to finally update the status of the bee. The classification as endangered may be vital to the survival of the bee species. Once listed, animals considered to be endangered can’t be hunted and their natural habitats cannot be modified in a way that would harm the animal. The federal government is tasked with protecting the species and helping it return to a healthy enough level that it may be taken off the list. The rusty patched bumblebee, which is found primarily in the midwest and on the east coast of the U.S., plays a vital role in pollinating crops. Over the last 20 years, the species has disappeared from 87 percent of its typical range. Like many bee species, the rusty patched bumblebee has been harmed by pesticides and climate change, which many scientists believe is responsible for the unprecedented rate of death for bees. A study conducted in part by the Department of Agriculture found 44.1 percent of all honeybee colonies were lost in 2015. Similar levels of loss were had for several years prior. Being listed as endangered may not be enough to save the rusty patched bumblebee. A bill proposed by congressional Republicans last month would effectively gut the protections of the Endangered Species Act by requiring government agencies to consider the economic costs related to listing a species as threatened. Additionally, a recent bill proposed in Congress would terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

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