Bumblebees can be classified as ‘fish’ under California conservation law, court says
Under the California Wildlife Caretaker Act, the agency maintains that the species needs protection. “If a species doesn’t need to be protected, it doesn’t need to be protected,” said Janice Anderson, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.
SAN FRANCISCO – Bumblebees that have been reclassified as a state threatened or endangered species don’t need a federal say to protect them, a federal appeals court ruled Saturday.
California’s Attorney General’s Office, in a 7-1 decision, said the state is entitled to claim the right to protect the state’s bumblebee under the California Wildlife Caretaker Act, which says the state will “regulate, control or take possession of wildlife so as to prevent the taking or removal of wildlife on behalf of private landowners.”
The law also says that if a bird or animal is “protected under state or federal law,” the state is “free to” act on it.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the state must petition the federal government for protection and that doing so is “not an act of state law.”
The decision, by Judge Susan L. Carney of the Federal Circuit in Manhattan, is likely to embolden environmental groups and others who have called for federal protection for the bumblebee.
“The decision upholds the longstanding position taken by government attorneys and biologists across the country that the federal government has no authority to protect or manage the iconic bumblebee,” said James R. Wicks, an attorney representing the National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society in California.
The case, Bumblebees v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, had been on hold for more than a year after a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. ordered the federal government to take up the issue. In a 2-to-1 decision, the appeals court said it could not issue a decision in the matter because the parties had not yet submitted their briefs. But the appeals court said in a brief order that it would consider the brief submitted on their behalf. The brief was filed with the brief to the appeals court.
Bees, which have a relatively short life span, have been at the center of a number of legal battles over the past year. The groups that asked the courts for protection of the species say the