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Conservationists and California Fish and Game Commission Pursue Appeal to Ensure Legal Protections for Imperiled Bumble Bees

February 08, 2021
Center for Food Safety

Conservationists and California Fish and Game Commission Pursue Appeal to Ensure Legal Protections for Imperiled Bumble Bees

 (Sacramento, Calif.) -- Today, Center for Food Safety, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Xerces Society, represented by Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, announced they are appealing a November 2020 decision by the Sacramento County Superior Court that determined that the California Fish and Game Commission lacks authority to list four threatened bumble bee species as candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The California Fish and Game Commission has also filed an appeal to challenge the court's ruling.

"We believe an appeal is warranted as the lower court discounted key provisions of the Fish and Game Code, CESA's legislative history, and the case law, which together show that CESA protects insects," said Matthew Sanders of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, and lead counsel in the case.

"This case is critical to clarifying that insects such as bees qualify for protections under CESA, which are necessary to ensuring that populations of endangered species, including some bees which are essential to our food supply, survive and thrive," said Victoria Yundt, staff attorney at Center for Food Safety and co-counsel in the case.

"California's native bumble bees will continue their precipitous decline unless they receive proper protections," said Pamela Flick, California program director at Defenders of Wildlife. "Bees are integral to healthy ecosystems and the pollination services they provide serve all of us, making this decision exponentially more consequential for the protection of California's biodiversity. We're hopeful the appellate court will overturn this deeply flawed decision."

"The California Endangered Species Act was enacted to protect the state's biodiversity and should not exclude insects, which make up more than three quarters of all life on earth and play essential roles in maintaining native ecosystems and pollinating our crops," said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director and petition coauthor at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. "These four bumble bees are among many of California's imperiled wild pollinators that urgently need the protection provided by this law."

In 2018, Center for Food Safety, Defenders of Wildlife, and Xerces Society petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list four species of native bumble bees—western bumble bee, Franklin's bumble bee, Crotch's bumble bee, and the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee—as Endangered under CESA. As a result of the groups' petition, the Commission voted to begin the listing process in 2019, but was sued by California agricultural groups shortly after its decision. Center for Food Safety, Defenders of Wildlife, and Xerces Society intervened in the lawsuit (Almond Alliance v. California Fish and Game Commission) in January 2020.

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