Tiny beetle subject of big dispute

By The Denver Post
February 24, 2011

A half-inch long beetle called one of the rarest insects in the world is at the center of a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Denver.

Three environmental groups sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting director Rowan Gould, saying the officials did not set aside enough habitat to preserve the Salt Creek tiger beetle. The beetle lives only in salty wetlands in eastern Nebraska, and only 165 adult beetles were found during a 2008 survey — all living on the outskirts of Lincoln, Neb., according to the lawsuit.

The beetle was designated an endangered species in 2005. More than 90 percent of its native habitat has been destroyed, the environmental groups argue in the suit.

In 2005, a coalition of biologists determined that protecting 37,000 acres would be necessary for the beetle’s recovery, according to the lawsuit. After a series of downward revisions, the federal government designated only 2,000 acres as critical habitat, the lawsuit claims.

The suit — filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Xerces Society and the Denver-based Center for Native Ecosystems — seeks an order for the government to reconsider the habitat designation.