The rusty patched bumble bee, a pollinator of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, plums, apples, onions, alfalfa and tomatoes in the midwest and northeast United States, has been moved onto the government's list of Endangered and Threatened Species.
"The listing helps mediate threats for this species and for all of those other animals out on the landscape that are suffering similar setbacks," Rich Hatfield, senior biologist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, told Raw Story. It was the Xerces Society that submitted the petition to reclassify the bee as endangered.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) writes that the primary threats to the rusty patched bumble bee include diseases from commercial bees, habitat loss as a result of human activity, pesticides, climate change and reduced genetic diversity.
In the last 20 years, the population has declined more than 90 percent. The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed safeguarding measures in September 2016, but they were delayed by the transition between White House administrations.
After some uproar from conservationists, including a lawsuit against the Trump administration from environmental advocacy group the Natural Resources Defense Council, the government lifted the hold.
The delay was standard procedure, said Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift in a statement. As the rusty patched bumble bee has an enormous range that spans 13 states, decisions regarding its threatened status must be made with the utmost caution, she said.
The Interior Department "will work with stakeholders to ensure collaborative conservation among landowners, farmers, industry, and developers in the areas where the species is native," she also said.
US Fish and Wildlife say that they are "developing a recovery plan to guide efforts to bring this species back to what they believe is a healthy and secure condition."
The Xerces Society celebrated the decision. "Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces," said Director of Endangered Species Sarina Jepson.
Bees are the pollinators for about one third of crops grown in the US according to the Xerces Society. They estimate that $9 billion worth of agriculture depends on pollinators like the rusty patched.