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Expert Contacts:

Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation;
971-244-3727  |  [email protected]

Victoria “Tori” Yundt, staff attorney, Center for Food Safety;
541-419-2344  |  [email protected]

Jake Bleich, communications associate, Defenders of Wildlife;
202-772-3208  |  [email protected]

SACRAMENTO, Calif.; February 8, 2021---Today, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Center for Food Safety, and Defenders of Wildlife, represented by Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, announced they are appealing a November 2020 decision by the Sacramento County Superior Court that determined that the California Fish and Game Commission lacks authority to list four threatened bumble bee species as candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The California Fish and Game Commission has also filed notice of intent to appeal, challenging the court's ruling.

“The California Endangered Species Act was enacted to protect the state’s biodiversity and should not exclude insects, which make up more than three quarters of all life on earth and play essential roles in maintaining native ecosystems and pollinating our crops,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director and petition coauthor at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “These four bumble bees are among many of California’s imperiled wild pollinators that urgently need the protection provided by this law.”

“We believe an appeal is warranted as the lower court discounted key provisions of the Fish and Game Code, CESA's legislative history, and the case law, which together show that CESA protects insects,” said Matthew Sanders of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, and lead counsel in the case.

“This case is critical to clarifying that insects such as bees qualify for protections under CESA, which are necessary to ensuring that populations of endangered species, including some bees which are essential to our food supply, survive and thrive,” said Victoria Yundt, staff attorney at Center for Food Safety and co-counsel in the case.

“California’s native bumble bees will continue their precipitous decline unless they receive proper protections,” said Pamela Flick, California program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “Bees are integral to healthy ecosystems and the pollination services they provide serve all of us, making this decision exponentially more consequential for the protection of California’s biodiversity. We’re hopeful the appellate court will overturn this deeply flawed decision.”

In 2018, Center for Food Safety, Defenders of Wildlife, and Xerces Society petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list four species of native bumble bees—western bumble bee, Franklin's bumble bee, Crotch's bumble bee, and the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee—as Endangered under CESA. As a result of the groups' petition, the Commission voted to begin the listing process in 2019, but was sued by California agricultural groups shortly after its decision. Center for Food Safety, Defenders of Wildlife, and Xerces Society intervened in the lawsuit (Almond Alliance v. California Fish and Game Commission) in January 2020.


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The Xerces Society and our conservation partners at Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Food Safety, represented by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, appealed a recent court decision that determined that the California Fish and Game Commission lacks authority to list four bumble bee species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The Fish and Game Commission also filed an appeal to challenge the court’s ruling.

This case follows a petition that Xerces and partners submitted in 2018 to protect the western, Crotch’s, Suckley cuckoo and Franklin’s bumble bees under CESA. These bumble bees are at risk of extinction in the state. When the Fish and Game Commission granted these four bumble bee species candidate status, several large agricultural groups in California sued and the Xerces Society intervened in the lawsuit to support the Commission. The language of the California Endangered Species Act clearly allows insects to be protected—but the bigger issue is that California cannot maintain its biodiversity without being able to protect three quarters of the species in the state. If this Superior Court ruling is upheld it will hurt both agriculture and the native ecosystems that make California unique.

Insects make up more than 75 percent of species on the planet and excluding them from protection under CESA will prevent California from sustaining its wildlife. In addition to providing pollination and pest control for important food crops, insects are vital for the functioning of California’s native ecosystems. They pollinate plants in wild areas, which in turn produce fruits and seeds eaten by birds, small mammals and other animals. Insects themselves are important food sources for many other animals—from fish to reptiles, amphibians to songbirds. Without protecting a diversity of native insects, we will not have healthy food to eat, songbirds in our yards, or fish in our streams.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation protects the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice and plays a leading role in protecting pollinators and many other invertebrates. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, plant ecology, education, pesticides, farming and conservation biology with a single passion: Protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more, visit or follow us @xercessociety on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Center for Food Safety's mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than 950,000 advocates across the country at Twitter: @CFSTrueFood, @CFS_Press

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.