Greens Decry Limited Habitat for Rare Beetle

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to designate 1,110 acres of critical habitat for Nebraska’s endangered and extremely rare Salt Creek tiger beetle, according to a recent action. The designation was a mere fraction of what some environmental groups expected.
     Three environmental groups jointly filed suit over a larger 2010 critical habitat designation of 1,933 acres because it fell so far short of the “2005 recommendation by scientists that 36,000 acres of habitat needed to be protected to ensure the recovery of the beetle, considered one of the rarest insects in the world,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) press release. The team of agency and academic scientists that made that recommendation had been assembled by the USFWS, the group said.
     Rocky Mountain Wild and the Xerces Society joined the CBD in the lawsuit, and the revision of critical habitat is in response to a settlement with the groups, the CBD said.
     “This designation of 1,110 acres is smaller than the previous designation, but contains sufficient suitable habitat to support recovery of the species, and includes two additional stream corridors that were not previously included which could support Salt Creek tiger beetle populations in the future,” the USFWS countered in their statement.
     The agency acknowledged that “only a few hundred beetles remain in three small populations in Nebraska on less than 35 acres,” but maintains that the new designation will support at least six populations in the future, and will provide for the reintroduction of the beetles into stream corridors that supported the species less than 20 years ago.
     The Salt Creek tiger beetle was listed as endangered in 2005. It lives in a salt marsh habitat and spends most of its two-year life in a slow moving larval form in a burrow, where it preys on hapless insects that get too near. The adult stage lasts through the months of May, June and July, when it becomes a fast-moving half-inch long predatory beetle to accommodate foraging and egg-laying, then dies, according to the proposed rule.
     “To save the beetle, we need to protect its home. With just a few hundred Salt Creek tiger beetles remaining, it is essential that the Fish and Wildlife Service set aside sufficient habitat to actually allow this special species to recover,” Sarina Jepsen, Xerces Society’s endangered species program director was quoted as saying in the CBD statement. “Conservation groups will continue to act to get the beetle the habitat it needs to survive,” she said.
     Comments are due by Aug. 5, and written public hearing requests must be submitted by July 19.

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