Endangered Bees Halt Construction of Illinois Highway

CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge stopped construction on a tollway project in Illinois over concern the work will harm the endangered rusty-patched bumblebee.

The rusty-patched bumblebee, a common sight just 20 years ago, is the first-ever bumblebee to be listed as endangered in the contiguous 48 states.

Its population has plummeted since the 1990s, primarily due to the conversion of prairies and grassland to monoculture farms, as well as pesticide use and climate change. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the bee is only present in 0.1 percent of its historical range.

Opponents of the Longmeadow Parkway in Kane County, Ill., organized as the nonprofit Stop Longmeadow, filed suit to bar continued construction on the roadway as soon as the bumblebee’s endangered status became effective on March 21.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman granted a temporary restraining order against the highway project Monday, rejecting the federal government’s assertion that the nonprofit failed to comply with proper noticing requirements.

“The rusty patched bumble bee was placed on the endangered species list on March 21, 2017, and a press release issued on April 11, 2017, announcing commencement of work on the project. Thus, plaintiffs have not delayed in seeking this relief,” Coleman said.

According to Stop Longmeadow, the endangered bumblebee species has been found in the Brunner Forest Preserve, which abuts the tollway’s 5.6-mile route.

The judge’s one-page minute entry continues, “The balance of harms weighs in favor of the plaintiffs and against the public’s interest in reduced traffic congestion.”

Stop Longmeadow member Rose Zaffina applauded the ruling, telling the Chicago Tribune, “The county has downplayed the opposition all along. Today shows the county that they are accountable.”

Judge Coleman will hear arguments on whether a preliminary injunction is warranted on April 28.

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