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The rusty patched bumblebee was officially listed as an endangered species, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday. The listing marks the first bee species to receive the protection in the continental U.S.
The bee finally received its scheduled protection after a month-long delay in the listing caused by an executive order from President Donald Trump.
The rusty patched bumblebee was originally set to be designated as endangered on Feb. 10, following an announcement of the planned listing made by the Fish and Wildlife Service in January.
However, when President Trump took office, he signed an executive order that placed a freeze on all pending regulations not put into effect. Designed to give the new administration time to review the planned rules, the order effectively kept the rusty patched bumblebee off the endangered species list for an extra month.
The order is a relatively common following a change of administration, but wildlife experts warned any delay on protections for the species could result in damage to the already dwindling bee population.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Interior Department over the freeze in an attempt to push the order forward despite the executive order. In the suit, the NRDC called the delay "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion," and illegal.
In a statement Tuesday, NRDC senior attorney Rebecca Riley said, “The Trump administration reversed course and listed the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species just in the nick of time. Federal protections may be the only thing standing between the bumble bee and extinction.”
Found primarily in the midwest and on the east coast of the U.S., the rusty patched bumblebee plays a vital role in pollinating crops. Over the last 20 years, the species has disappeared from nearly 90 percent of its typical range.
Like many bee species, the rusty patched bumblebee has been adversely affected by a number of elements including 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.
Now that the rusty patched bumblebee joins seven other species of bees from Hawaii on the endangered species list, it will enjoy new protections that prevent the animal from being hunted and its natural habitat from behind modified in a way that may harm it. The federal government is now tasked with protecting the species and returning it to a healthy enough state to be removed from the list.