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.