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Defenders Magazine

Spring 2015

Volume 90, Issue 1


honeybee, © Dolores Rose

Gene Brandi raises thousands of honeybees 
in California’s Central Valley, the agricultural engine for much of the nation’s produce. Each February and March, his bees are among the 1.7 million rented colonies that swarm over the valley’s 850,000 acres of almond trees. They descend on the riot of pink blossoms, collecting pollen to provision their nests. In the process, they cross-pollinate the trees, enabling these farmers to grow 80 percent of the world’s almonds. As autumn wanes, some hives naturally go silent, empty, dying back in the chilling air and fading light. When Brandi launched his business in the 1970s, he rarely lost even 5 percent of his bees over the winter. But that changed a decade ago when colony collapse disorder arrived on the scene. One year, he lost almost half. Now he’s averaging 30 percent. It’s not just a California problem. Across the country and the world, many pollinators are in decline or at risk of extinction. It’s a serious issue because forests, prairies, meadows, wetlands, seashores and croplands all depend on a diverse and healthy pollinator community to thrive. Globally, nearly 85 percent of all flowering plants require help from animals to produce seeds and fruit. Without them, neither humans nor wildlife would have as much to eat and as a result the planet’s biodiversity would plummet.


Gunnison sage-grouse,  © Joel Sartore
Today fewer than 5,000 survive in seven scattered populations in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. But things are starting to look up.
Carpenter Bee,  © Helena Jacoba/Flickr
Want to help native pollinators? Here are some bee basics for your backyard.
Mexican Gray Wolf, © Joel Sartore/
New FWS rule fails to help Mexican gray wolves
There have been many victories under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) over the years. But quite a few did not come because our government did the right thing. They came because conservation groups like Defenders saw the government was failing to comply with the law and used the tool of last resort: the courts.