California’s endangered bumblebees sue for the first time

Bumblebees can be classified as ‘fish’ under California conservation law, court says

Beneath the surface of the Earth they seem like fish. They float with the currents on a river, looking for food. They can fly. They buzz and hover through the air as if they might do a somersault, swooping down for a sip of syrup from a berry.

They are, in other words, beautiful creatures, and they are endangered.

For the first time, bees are set to sue California, which has designated 15 species of bee — a stunningly diverse group — as endangered. They’re not protected in the state, but the Bumblebee Protection Act and the California Endangered Species Act allow some of the state’s 14 protected bird species to sue California — and have won some.

The law was written by then-Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, R-San Francisco, in 1999 for a bill named after a bee — the goldenrod bumblebee. It was supposed to be a little-noticed and low-profile conservation bill, but after California’s Legislature voted overwhelmingly to ban the sale of goldenrod bumblebees in 2004, lawmakers realized they had written something no one would consider. It was too broad, not a perfect enough protection. And lawmakers wanted to change it.

In a legal statement released Friday, attorneys for the endangered bumblebees said the goldenrod bill allowed “instrumental and significant” damage to the bees and their habitat.

“The Bumble bee Act is clearly unconstitutional and it is not only unconstitutional, but it is also in flagrant disregard of the laws of California,” the statement said. “As a result of this action, the California Legislature has been compelled to remove its unconstitutional Bumblebee Act from the books and prohibit its future use by California State of Affairs…. Although our client’s legal challenges have been largely unsuccessful to date, we feel compelled to take this action because doing so will afford us the protection we need to continue to protect our clients and the other species of native bees and to provide a fair, adequate

Leave a Comment