Groups Challenge CEs for Apiaries

E&E News has an article this afternoon about a Center for Biological Diversity petition calling on the USFS to “stop granting streamlined permits to people who want to place honeybee hives in national forests.” Excerpt below. The agency has legal authority for using CEs to approve the use of apiaries. CBD’s petition states that “The science is clear that honey bees can present a serious threat to native bees, thus having significant environmental impacts. Therefore, requests to place honey bees on federal public lands cannot be categorically excluded from NEPA analysis.”

Anyone here have insights as to how much of a threat honeybees are? Do honeybees have beneficial effects and well as negative impacts?

From E&E:

An environmental group pressed the Forest Service today to scale back the placement of commercial honeybee hives on land it manages, calling the nonnative bees a potential harm to other pollinators.

In a formal petition to the agency, the Center for Biological Diversity said the Forest Service should stop granting streamlined permits to people who want to place honeybee hives in national forests.

“The science is clear that honeybees can present a serious threat to native bees, thus having significant environmental impacts,” the group, joined by three other organizations, said in the petition to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

The Forest Service allows the placement of apiaries on its lands through special use permits. Covered by categorical exclusions from the National Environmental Policy Act, the beekeeping permits don’t require an environmental impact statement, which might shed light on competition among species and potential diseases the European-derived bees could spread to native bees.

During the past decade, the agency has approved permits for about 900 hives. Officials are considering an application for as many as 4,900 hives on national forests in Utah, the petitioners said they learned through documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

7 thoughts on “Groups Challenge CEs for Apiaries”

  1. “Anyone here have insights as to how much of a threat honeybees are? Do honeybees have beneficial effects and well as negative impacts?”

    Yes, Steve, I literally took one minute to look at the link to CBD’s petition that you posted and quickly found some answers to your questions. See i, ii, and iii under Argument right here (most all of the information is fully cited):

    • Matthew, I don’t see anything in CBD’s petition that mentions potential beneficial effects. Are there any?

      Also, according to Statista,com, “In 2017, there were approximately 2.68 million honey bee colonies in the United States, decreasing from 2.78 in the previous year.”

      CBD mentions the potential of a few thousand apiaries on USFS ground in Utah. I haven’t found any info on the total number of apiaries on USFS ground.

  2. Anyone have any ideas where honeybees can be keep during the summer after the almond crop has been pollinated? I believe they are important.
    Two years ago we had a commercial outfit come through and put his bees on the private property of people who agreed to having them. The local honeybee keepers where not pleased. The outfit has not come back. I don’t know what the impact was.
    I don’t believe everything I read from the CBD. I had always heard that the wild pollinators were much harder workers then the domestic honeybees. Once again it would be good if we had strong populations of both. ( I haven’t seen a wild honeybee hive in the woods in decades.)


    Legal Petition Urges U.S. Forest Service to Protect Native Bees, Stop Rubber-stamping Commercial Beehives on Federal Lands

    More Than 900 Apiaries Housing Millions of Honeybees Have Been Approved on Colorado Plateau Since 2009

    WASHINGTON— Conservation groups filed a formal legal petition today urging the U.S. Forest Service to stop allowing the placement of hundreds of commercial honeybee hives on national forest lands without proper environmental review.

    Honeybees, which are not native to the United States, are important agricultural crop pollinators but have been shown to transmit diseases to native bees. They can also outcompete native bees for pollen and nectar, their only source of food.

    Yet, over the past decade, the Forest Service has approved permits for at least 900 hives, which could house up to 56 million honeybees on Forest Service lands on the Colorado Plateau alone. A request is pending for an additional 4,900 hives on just one national forest in Utah.

    Today’s administrative petition urges the Forest Service to end the practice of labeling the apiaries as minor special uses, which the agency can invoke to bypass the mandatory environmental review needed to properly consider the impacts of apiary permits.

    “Stress on native bees is inevitable when an apiary with dozens of hives, each hive housing 10,000 to 60,000 honeybees, is parked on a national forest,” said Mary O’Brien, Utah forest programs director and botanist with the Grand Canyon Trust. “Scientists have documented adverse outcomes for native bees over and over, but it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ to the Forest Service. This is how we lose species.”

    A single honeybee apiary of 40 hives consumes enough pollen in one month to feed more than 1.3 million native bees. Many beekeepers aim to have 80 or more hives in an apiary.

    Just last month scientists revealed that the western bumblebee has experienced a 93% decline in the past 20 years. Many of the approximately 3,600 species of native bees in the United States are in decline.

    Native bees are also important pollinators in agricultural areas and are essential in natural areas. With many native bee species already in decline, competition from commercial honeybees presents a significant threat. Native bees are also imperiled by climate change, pesticides, habitat loss and disease.

    “The Forest Service must stop recklessly commercializing public lands that provide essential habitat to thousands of rare native bee species, many of which live nowhere else on Earth,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program. “While I’m deeply sympathetic to the plight of honeybee keepers whose bees and livelihoods are imperiled by pesticides, we can’t let commercial honeybees threaten the continued existence of rare and imperiled native bees.”

    Honeybees were introduced to the United States from Europe centuries ago and are now ubiquitous in crop pollination and for honey production. However, due to heavy pesticide use and a lack of suitable food resources, beekeepers are increasingly seeking pesticide-free forage areas to place apiaries, including Forest Service lands.

    In addition to directly jeopardizing native pollinators, the presence of honeybees on national forests may also harm rare and threatened plants that depend on specialized native pollinators.

    “We have an incredible diversity of native plants that have evolved alongside their native pollinators and need their native pollinators to thrive and survive,” said Tony Frates, conservation co-chair of the Utah Native Plant Society. “Introducing vast numbers of honeybees on to our public lands can pose a grave threat to these plants, and their pollinators, and we hope the Forest Service will take this petition seriously so that these threats can be properly addressed.”

    Utah is a major biodiversity hotspot for native bees, hosting about a quarter of all species found in the United States. National forests on the Colorado Plateau serve as important refuges for them. As Forest Service lands in this region, and across the country, experience increased pressure to allow honeybees to pasture, concerns over impacts to native flora and fauna have increased.

    “This petition is asking for simple, common-sense protections for essential pollinators,” said Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist for the Xerces Society. “Allowing nonnative animals to forage broadly across the landscape without considering potential impacts to our native plants and animals is not sound land management given the existing evidence that shows the effects that honeybees can have on our native bees. Solutions that help beekeepers must not further endanger the already struggling native bees on which our national forests depend.”

    Native bee declines are part of a larger crisis faced by insect populations. Studies from all continents show declines in the diversity, abundance and biomass of insects.

  4. I guess I agree that more analysis should be done because of the scope of the new additions (if we believe what is said). However just because activities have an environmental impact does not necessarily mean that they should be excluded from federal lands. As in “the Forest Service must stop recklessly commercializing public lands” (of course, recklessly is in the eye of the beholder). What commercial or non-commercial activity does not have an environmental impact about which the term “significant” could be used?

  5. Here’s a standard from the newly revised Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Plan, which was taken from the grizzly bear conservation strategy for the northern continental divide ecosystem:

    “Special-use permits for apiaries (beehives) located on NFS lands shall incorporate measures including electric fencing to reduce the risk of grizzly bear-human conflicts, as specified in the food/wildlife attractant storage special order.”

    (I suppose these might be “extraordinary circumstances” precluding the use of a CE.)


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