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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Some Mountain West states don’t consider insects wildlife and have no authority to protect them

A Western monarch butterfly pollinates flowers at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in southern Nevada.
Patrick Donnelly
Center for Biological Diversity
A Western monarch butterfly pollinates flowers at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in southern Nevada.

Insects pollinate many plants, from the vegetables we eat to the flowering plants cleaning the air we breathe.

“If we don’t have insects, we’re toast,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

But conservation officials in Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah have little or no authority to protect them, as The New York Timesrecently reported. However, some of those Mountain West states are trying to change that.

In Colorado, a new state law calls for research on protecting native pollinators. Commissioned by the state’s department of natural resources, the study will be conducted by Colorado State University, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. State researchers, scientists and land managers will also be involved.

“We need to better understand the health and resilience of pollinators and their ecosystems,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a Feb. 23 press release. “This new study is a step our community is taking to strengthen Colorado’s pollinator ecosystems, ensure they are in a position to thrive, and help the rest of our natural world.”

In Nevada, a bill heard on March 13 by the state’s natural resources committee would allow for wildlife protections over non-pest insects in need of conservation, such as the Western bumblebee and Western monarch butterfly. Simply put, the law would give the Nevada Department of Wildlife authority to manage pollinators and other threatened insects.

Donnelly said these conservation actions are needed now more than ever.

“Insect diversity tends to be most abundant near water,” he said. “Certainly, water sources around Nevada have been altered by industry, by urbanization, by agriculture.”

Donnelly added that many insects are also threatened by the climate change-driven drought and extreme heat.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 KUNR Public Radio. To see more, visit KUNR Public Radio.

Kaleb Roedel