For Immediate Release, March 13, 2023
Kevin Burls, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, (775)-273-8604, [email protected]
Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity, (775) 990-9332, [email protected]
Matthew Forister, University of Nevada, Reno, (775) 784-6770, [email protected]
RENO, Nev.— Nevada’s Assembly Natural Resources Committee will consider a bill today that would give the state’s Department of Wildlife authority to manage pollinators and other insects that need conservation.
Insects, including monarch butterflies and other pollinators, are not defined as wildlife under state law, which means the department has no authority to protect them. Assembly Bill 221 would change that by defining “non-pest invertebrate wildlife species of greatest conservation need” as wildlife.
“Nevada has an incredible diversity of bees and butterflies that are the engines powering the state’s beautiful desert ecosystems,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need the Department of Wildlife to have the tools to conserve these amazing creatures. We’re grateful this bill will get a hearing and look forward to it becoming law. And we urge all Nevadans to tell their legislators to protect our pollinators.”
The bill would help declining insect populations and the crops, rangeland and other plants and wildlife that depend on them. It would also allow Nevada to recover threatened plants and animals with less legislation.
Conservation actions by the Nevada Department of Wildlife can effectively recover vulnerable wildlife populations, circumventing the need to list species under the Endangered Species Act. Yet the agency lacks regulatory or management authority over bees, butterflies and other insects.
More than 140 scientists from across Nevada, the United States and the world have expressed support for Assembly Bill 221. Conservation groups supporting the bill include the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Nevada Bugs & Butterflies, Lahontan Audubon Society, and Friends of Nevada Wilderness.
“Over 140 of my scientist colleagues have signed on in support of this important legislation,” said Matt Forister, a professor of biology at University of Nevada, Reno and author of a recent study in the journal Science on butterfly decline in the West. “Work has shown that if we work together, we can protect and recover populations of pollinators and other insects with a proactive conservation approach. I and many other scientists and conservationists stand ready to help the Nevada Department of Wildlife if this bill passes.”
Insects like butterflies and bees are at the heart of a healthy environment. They pollinate most flowering plants, including many of the fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that humans and wildlife depend on. The vast majority of birds, bats and freshwater fish depend on invertebrates as food. Invertebrates clean streams and rivers by filtering water, help clean up plant, animal and human waste, and support food production by controlling pests. One study found that native insects are worth more than $70 billion a year to the United States economy.
“This legislation would help the animals that pollinate our crops, providing one in three bites of food we eat. They’re also food for our birds and fish, clean up waste in our lands and rivers, and help control pests,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “If you like to eat good food and if you like birds in your trees and fish in your streams, then Nevada Assembly Bill 221 is worth supporting.”
Many of these animals are in trouble. Western monarch butterflies have declined by more than 90% and many Nevada bumble bees are also imperiled. A study by University of Nevada, Reno researchers found that butterfly populations in Nevada and across the West are declining by approximately 25% every 20 years.
“Studies from the western states and around the world show that populations of insects are declining at an alarming rate,” said Kevin Burls, Ph.D., a Nevada-based conservation biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Unfortunately, we are seeing this downward trend in our butterflies and bees right here in Nevada.”
A survey by Colorado College found that 76% of Nevadans believe that the loss of pollinators such as bees and butterflies is a serious problem, with more than half ranking it as “extremely/very serious.”
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is a nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. Learn more at xerces.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.