Rare beetle may get more land

By: Leslie Reed, World-Herald Bureau
June 8, 2011

salt creek tiger beetle

LINCOLN — Under a legal settlement announced Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take a second look at how much land the Salt Creek tiger beetle, an endangered species that lives only in Nebraska, needs to survive.

In spite of a 2005 finding by scientists that more than 36,000 acres of critical habitat would be necessary for the beetle to recover, the service in April 2010 designated 1,933 acres as critical habitat.

In February, three environmental organizations filed a federal court lawsuit in Colorado to challenge that finding. The lawsuit will be dismissed as a result of Tuesday’s settlement, said Megan Mueller, a senior conservation biologist for the Denver-based Center for Native Ecosystems, one of the three environmental groups. The others are the Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Ariz., and Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, based in Portland, Ore.

The Salt Creek tiger beetle is a half-inch, metallic brown and green insect currently known to live only in saline wetlands of the Salt Creek watershed in Lancaster County, Nebraska. In 2005, only three small populations, totaling 153 individuals, were known to exist.

The Fish and Wildlife Service had designated acres at three locations along the Little Salt Creek in Lancaster County, where the beetle is known to live, and Rock Creek in Saunders County, where it was believed the insect could be reintroduced.

Under the settlement, the Fish and Wildlife Services will review historical data about the location of salt flats in the Rock Creek and Salt Creek basins and take additional public comment to determine whether a larger area should be designated as critical habitat, said Ann Carlson, litigation coordinator for Region 6 of the Fish and Wildlife Service. The review should be completed by April 1, 2013.

Mueller and Carlson said designation as a critical habitat would not necessarily halt economic development in the designated areas, which include land on the edge of the city of Lincoln.

The designation itself would do little to halt development on privately owned land, unless federal funds or the federal government was somehow involved in the project, Carlson said. Then, a federal review would be required to determine how development would affect the insect and what mitigating steps would be needed to protect the insect.

However, the species’ designation as endangered prevents landowners from killing or harming the beetles.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9581 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 402-473-9581 end_of_the_skype_highlighting , leslie.reed@owh.com

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