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Hine's emerald dragonfly
Courier-Life, April 24, 2010

Feds enlarge protected zone for troubled dragonfly
By John Flesher, The Associated Press

Federal officials on Friday doubled the size of a protected zone in the Midwest for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, the only dragonfly on the U.S. endangered species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said 26,532 acres in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin are now designated as critical habitat for the insect, which is declining as the wetlands and sedge meadows on which it depends are drained for farming and other development.
"Thanks to the designation, Hine’s emerald dragonflies now have a chance to recover from the brink of extinction," said John Buse, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Although the dragonfly was declared endangered in 1995, no critical habitat was identified until 2007, after environmentalists filed a lawsuit accusing the government of dragging its feet.

The designation is important because it prohibits any federal agency from funding or issuing permits for activities in the area without checking with Fish and Wildlife Service biologists to make sure the dragonfly wouldn’t be harmed.

Originally, just 13,221 acres received the critical habitat label. Friday’s revised designation makes the protected area twice as large. It includes wet meadows and other places where the dragonfly breeds and forages.

The newly added acreage is within the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.

Once abundant in the Midwest and found as far south as Alabama, the Hine’s emerald dragonfly now lives only in the four states where habitat has been set aside.

The insect has bright emerald-green eyes and a metallic green thorax, with yellow stripes on its sides. Its body is about 2.5 inches long, its wingspan about 3.3 inches.

In addition to wetlands destruction, scientists say other factors in its drop-off include logging, pipeline and road construction and off-road vehicles.

Copyright © 2010 The Courier Life News.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton