Habitat Expansion Planned for Texas Beetles

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to expand the critical habitat for two previously listed endangered beetles and an amphipod in Texas, to include underground areas as part of a settlement with environmental groups, according to a proposed rule.
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     The Comal Springs riffle beetle, Comal Springs dryopid beetle and the Peck’s Cave amphipod, a crustacean, were listed as endangered in 1997 without critical habitat. The three tiny animals were given surface-only critical habitat in 2007 in response to a legal challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the rule said.
     “In response to a suit filed by the Center, critical habitat was protected for the invertebrates in 2007; but that designation was deemed insufficient by scientists because it included only surface water and not the underground recharge area crucial to the species’ survival,” the CDB noted in its statement.
     The CBD, Citizen’s Alliance for Smart Expansion, and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas filed a joint lawsuit to expand the habitat to include crucial underground areas in 2009, the rule noted.
     The 169 proposed acres of critical habitat include overlapping surface and sub-surface areas for the three species in Comal and Hayes Counties in Texas, according to the rule.
     The three habitat recipients are “all freshwater invertebrates found nowhere in the world except for four springs, where they are threatened by groundwater pumping from the Edwards Aquifer,” the CBD said.
     The agency requests public comments on the proposed rule by Dec. 18.

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