Franklin’s bumble bee – which has the smallest geographic range of any bumble bee species in North America – has been proposed by the USFWS for protection under the ESA. A proposal to list the tricolored blackbird under the ESA, however, was rejected by the agency.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced a proposal to list one local species under the Endangered Species Act, while denying protections for another. Franklin’s bumble bee – which has the smallest geographic range of any bumble bee species in North America ­­– has been proposed by the USFWS for protection under the ESA. A proposal to list the tricolored blackbird under the ESA, however, was rejected by the agency.

The proposed ESA protection for Franklin’s bumble bee comes with a 60 day public comment period, which allows the public to review and comment on the possible listing, and provide additional information. “We are seeking information about the distribution, status, population trends of this species or any other information that helps ensure we make an informed decision on the status of this species,” the USFWS noted. All relevant information received by October 15 will be considered.

A press release from USFWS states, “Historically, Franklin’s bumble bees have been found at elevations between 540 feet to more than 7,800 feet, located in a roughly 13,000-square-mile area in southwest Oregon and northern California. Their ability to survive in cold climates makes them the primary pollinators of alpine flowering plants. The bee needs abundant flowers throughout their May-September flight season and cavities – or holes – for breeding and sheltering.”

The uncommon species has witnessed a sharp decline since the 1990s, according to the USFWS website. Despite survey efforts, the site notes, Franklin’s bumble bees have not been seen in the wild since 2006 and are at high risk for extinction. The bee is likely impacted by a combination of factors including disease, small population size and neonicotinoid pesticides – which target insects’ nervous systems.

While the USFWS conceded that the tricolored blackbird is also facing many threats throughout its range, it identified multiple reasons not to list the species under the ESA.

The USFWS stated, “Still, more than 100,000 tricolored blackbirds were recorded in the most recent Statewide surveys, and individuals in the central portions of the species' range are well-connected, with birds frequently shifting their use of nesting sites and regions based on availability of suitable habitat.”

The agency also claims that the tricolored blackbird “has shown high nesting success in both small and large colonies, indicating that they may be adaptable to changing colony size as well as changing nesting habitat types.”

The USFWS alleges that the most likely future scenarios project that the tricolored blackbird will maintain its current resiliency and population, or undergo only a slight decrease in habitat and population in some regions in the foreseeable future. For those reasons and others, the agency concluded that listing the tricolored blackbird as endangered or threatened “is not warranted.”