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Casey's June beetle
The Press-Enterprise, July 13, 2009

Endangered designation sought for Casey's June beetle
By Matt Calkins

And the beetle goes on. At least that's the hope.

The Center for Biological Diversity, entomologist David Wright, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are proposing to list the Casey's June beetle as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The group is asking that 777 acres of the Palm Canyon area of Palm Springs -- the beetle's only known area of inhabitance -- be designated critical habitat for the insect.

It is estimated that urban development wipes out 3 percent of the beetle's environment annually, and that its habitat will be lost completely by 2020 if no action is taken.

The Casey's June beetle is less than an inch long and lives underground, although males emerge during mating season between late March and early June.

Federal agencies that fund, permit or carry out action on critical habitat must first consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure their actions don't adversely affect the designated land.

"Clearly, habitat protection is the most important conservation measure for the Casey's June beetle," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "(The announcement) recognizes the dire straits of this scarab beetle, which is found nowhere else in the world."

The Fish and Wildlife Service placed the beetle on the candidate list for endangered species in 2007, but contended that it didn't have the resources to protect the bug at the time due to higher priorities. Now, however, remaining habitat for the beetle has shrunk to just 800 acres.

The proposed rule, which was published in the Federal Register last Thursday, is currently in a 60-day open comment period in which independent experts can offer their thoughts as to what the appropriate action should be.

After all the comments have been reviewed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, a decision whether to list the Casey's June beetle as endangered will be made within 12 months of the proposal.

"We look at what species need the most immediate attention," Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Jane Hendron said. "But the ultimate goal of the Service is conservation."

© 2009 Press-Enterprise Company

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton