Was it because there were too few senior Trump Administration officials in place to catch and stop it? Or because Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was new on the job, and had so much on his plate, that this decision just slipped right past him?
Maybe it was because the new Administration faces so many battles with environmental activists already that it didn’t want another one? Or perhaps Interior was intimidated by environmentalist lawsuits challenging President Trump’s 60-day delay of newly-issued Obama Administration regulations?
Whatever the reason, Trump’s Interior Department opened a real can of worms when it let the Obama Administration’s last-minute endangered species designation for the rusty patched bumblebee (RPB) take effect March 21 – exactly 60 days after President Trump issued his regulatory Executive Order.
The designation has serious adverse implications for Mr. Trump’s ambitious plans for infrastructure improvements, economic growth, job creation, and reining in regulatory abuse and overreach.
Already, officials in the Minneapolis area have delayed a road construction project – purportedly near a patch of potential RPB habitat – while they look for signs that the bees are actually nesting there. Another Minnesota group is trying to use hypothetical threats to RPBs to delay construction of a wastewater treatment plant that would prevent pollution from reaching sensitive state waterways!
And this is just the beginning. It will happen again and again as anti-development agitators use this designation to theorize that construction projects and even farming operations could risk harming an “endangered” bee species or its possible habitats.
In issuing the “endangered” designation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) advised that “The rusty patched bumblebee is likely to be present in scattered locations that cover only 0.1% of the species’ historical range.” Thus, government agencies need only be consulted or issue a permit for developers to “take” (disturb, harm or kill) the bees in these limited areas.
However, 0.1% of the RPB’s historic range is still an area of roughly 6,000 square miles: 3.8 million acres – equivalent to all of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. And that’s just the beginning.
The real kicker is that no one knows where that 0.1% area might be, scattered in tiny bits and pieces all across the 13 Northeast and Midwest states where the rusty patched bumblebee has supposedly been observed (by amateur entomologists) since 2000. That’s 378 million acres: equal to the combined land area of Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana!