This 2016 file photo provided by The Xerces Society shows a rusty patched bumblebee in Minnesota, which was officially designated an endangered species March 21, 2017. (Sarah Foltz Jordan/The Xerces Society via AP, File/AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
Road work stopped by bumblebees
April 25, 2017
A highway construction project in suburban Chicago has been halted for a strange reason. It is the second Midwest road construction project delayed because of concerns about possible harm to an insect. It's a bumblebee. The bee was recently listed as an endangered species.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman halted the work. It is being done on the nearly 6-mile-long Longmeadow Parkway. It is in Kane County, Illinois. Work will be stopped until at least April 25. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported the judge's order was in response to a filing by project opponents. They said the roadway could affect the rusty patched bumblebee.
The bumblebee was found in the Brunner Family Forest Preserve. That is according to court documents. The area is along the planned route for the parkway. The story was reported by the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
The holdup could boost the project's costs by tens of thousands of dollars. That is according to Carl Schoedel. He is the county's transportation director.
"Every day that we're not working during the construction season is a potential delay to the project," Schoedel told the newspaper.
The rusty patched bumblebee became the first bee species added to the federal endangered list in March. It covers the continental U.S. It was once common in the Midwest. It was also common in parts of the East Coast. But it has disappeared from nearly 90 percent of its range. This has occurred in the past 20 years.
Along with other bees, it plays a crucial role as a pollinator of crops and wild plants.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deals with endangered species. It is not involved in the parkway dispute, said Louise Clemency. She is a supervisor in the agency's Chicago field office. But she said the planned route is within an area considered to have a "high potential" for the presence of the bees. They were spotted there as recently as 2012.
The federal agency is providing information to the Illinois Department of Transportation about surveying the planned route for signs of the bees. They will also seek ways to protect them. Those might include providing more habitat, Clemency said.
Even if the bees are found there again, it's "highly unlikely" they would stop the road from being built. But minor changes might be needed, she said.
Minnesota's Hennepin County delayed work in March on a 4-mile stretch of a road. It is called Flying Cloud Drive. That is because of concern about the endangered bees. Federal officials visited the area. They determined it was not within a high-potential zone for the bees, said Andrew Horton. He is a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The county plans to move forward with the project, spokesman Colin Cox said. It still needs federal permits. But those are for dealing with issues not related to the bees.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is the judge protecting the bees?
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