Shrinking Utah Monument May Harm Area Bees

Grosvenor Arch in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

(CN) – A year after President Trump signed a proclamation reducing the size of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly a million acres, scientists warn the reduction could have a serious impact on the area’s bee population.

Utah, known as the Beehive State, is home to one of every four bee species in the United States and 660 species of bees have been identified within the old boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But the smaller national monument area no longer includes territory of 84 bee species including some new, undescribed species, as well as ‘morphospecies’ which are unique individuals that don’t match known species.

While the previous monument boundaries had included sections of the Mojave Desert, which contains multiple species of bees known only to exist there, the smaller monument area excludes the Mojave and its resident pollinators.

USU-Tooele entomologist Joseph Wilson, associate professor of biology at Utah State University, scientist and USU alum Olivia Messinger Carril and New York-based freelance journalist Matt Kelly worked to examine how much of the national monument still contained previously identified bee populations.

The good news is that 87 percent of the 660 species identified by USU scientists are found within the reduced boundaries of the monument. But the 13 percent of the species no longer inhabiting protected land may be at risk.

How much the reduction of the monument will affect bees and pollinators remains to be seen.

“Will the reduction in monument size affect the pollinators? We don’t know. But if development is allowed in the unprotected areas, say, mining, road development, more recreational development than, yes, pollinator habitat could be lost,” Wilson said.

He noted President Bill Clinton specifically mentioned pollinators when he created the national monument in 1996.

“Bees need to be a part of the management decisions,” Wilson said. “People should be aware of their pivotal role in our ecosystems.”


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