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The Daily Inter Lake, April 5, 2011

Rare fly won’t get endangered listing

A rare stonefly found only at high-elevation locations in Glacier National Park is eligible for endangered-species listing — but the listing is precluded because the species is not a high priority.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that “the meltwater lednian stonefly warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but proposing the species for protection is precluded by the need to address other high priority species.”

The federal agency’s review determined that there is sufficient scientific data to warrant listing the stonefly.

“However, we are precluded from beginning work immediately on a listing proposal because our limited resources must be devoted to other higher priority actions,” the agency said in a press release.

The Fish and Wildlife Service made a similar “warranted by precluded” ruling on the wolverine in December 2010.

The meltwater Lednia stonefly, also known as the mist forestfly, depends on streams fed by Glacier Park’s glaciers.

The environmental group WildEarth Guardians had petitioned for protection for the stonefly based on the contention that climate change is causing glaciers to shrink and that would imperil the insect.

The federal wildlife agency determined that habitat loss and modification resulting from the melting of glaciers is the greatest threat to the stonefly.

“The shrinking of glaciers in Glacier National Park has been documented during the past 100 years, and nearly all glaciers are predicted to be gone from the Park by 2030,” the agency said.  

“Higher water temperatures, seasonal or permanent stream dewatering and changes in the timing and volume of snowmelt are likely to change the stonefly’s habitat such that it no longer satisfies the species’ needs,” the agency said.

 “However, existing regulatory mechanisms do not address environmental changes due to global climate change, which is the primary cause of the loss of glaciers and resulting threat of habitat loss and modification for the species.”

The meltwater Lednia stonefly is so obscure that two fisheries biologists at Glacier Park were unfamiliar with it, and there is scant information about the bug on a Web site that specializes in rare species called NatureServe Explorer.

The meltwater lednian stonefly will be added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list of candidate species and its status will be reviewed annually.

The Center for Biological Diversity on Tuesday criticized the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service.  

“The glaciers in Glacier National Park are expected to disappear by 2030. If the meltwater stonefly has to wait 20 years for protection like most candidates, its chance of survival is basically nil,” Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release. 

© Copyright 2011, Daily Inter Lake

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton