Thu, 21 Sep 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A rare Pacific Northwest beetle may receive federal protection this summer due to a settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week.

The center announced brief details of the settlement on Thursday, stating that the service must now decide by August 2026 whether to protect the Siuslaw hairy-necked tiger beetle under the Endangered Species Act.

The Siuslaw hairy-necked tiger beetle is an insect species native to coastal beaches from Northern California to Washington state whose numbers have recently dipped, placing them at only 17 locations throughout Oregon.

Of the 17 Oregon locations where the tiger beetle is found, the center's 2022 lawsuit states that fewer than 50 individual beetles were counted at each location. Seven of those sites are concentrated along a 10.5-mile stretch along the Oregon coast, while the remaining spots occur in state parks and on the Siuslaw National Forest in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - a popular destination for off-road vehicle use.

According to the center's complaint, off-road vehicles are just one of the leading contributors to the tiger beetle's imperiled population. Other factors include habitat loss, beachgoers, invasive species and climate change.

"I'm glad these tiger beetles are getting a shot at protection, but it shouldn't take a lawsuit to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to do its job and protect a clearly endangered species," said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the center, in a statement. "Without the safeguards of the Endangered Species Act, these hairy predatory beetles and their dunes habitat won't have a fighting chance of survival."

The lawsuit against the service arose after the agency failed to respond to the center's three petitions to protect the tiger beetle alongside two freshwater mussel species - the Longsolid and Canoe Creek Clubshell and the Marron bacora, a tall flowering shrub first identified as needing protection back in 1975.

More specifically, the center claimed the service violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to issue final rules on its petitions to list the three other species and failing to make a required 12-month finding on its petition to list the tiger beetle. All four species, according to the center, received proposed rules or positive 90-day findings from the service indicating that listing the species Endangered Species Act may be warranted.

Finally, under the stipulated settlement agreement filed on May 15, the service will review the status of the tiger beetle and submit a determination to the Federal Register by Aug. 19, 2026, on whether federal protections are warranted.

"These beetles face so many threats and they're teetering on the brink of extinction," said Read. "The agencies that manage the few remaining populations must protect them for the sake of biodiversity and future generations."

Service actions for the other species petitioned were deemed moot after the service published final listing rules in 2022 and 2023, granting each species protection under the Endangered Species Act.

A representative from the service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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