Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.


NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Conservationists File Lawsuit for Wetlands Dragonfly Critical Habitat Designation
Bush admin. won’t map habitat in IL, MI, MO & WI — despite mandate & proof of effectiveness

Contact: Jerry Viste, DCEC 920.743.6003; Brent Plater, Attorney, CBD 510.663.0616 x4; Doug Cornett, NWR 906.226.6649; Daniel R. Patterson, CBD 520.623.5252 x306; Dave Zaber, HEC 608.226.8841; Jeremy Emmi, MNA 517.655.5655
More Information: Emerald Dragonfly Web, the ESA and Critical Habitat, Great Lakes Region Critical Habitat Map, and Graph Showing Listings vs. CH Designations, Myths and Facts about Critical Habitat

WASHINGTON DC -- National and regional environmental groups filed an important lawsuit today asking a federal court to order the Bush administration to designate critical habitat for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, a wetlands-dependent endangered species found in small areas of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. The species is likely already gone in Ohio, Indiana and Alabama due to habitat loss.

© photo by Paul Burton

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records show that species with critical habitat are less likely to decline and twice as likely to be recovering as those without,” said Daniel R. Patterson, a Michigan-native and ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration ignored lawsuit notices for 11 months, so we must seek a court order for critical habitat to protect dragonfly habitat. As goes the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, so goes human quality-of-life."

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana) was listed as an endangered species in 1995. It has brilliant green eyes, and is distinguished from all other species of Somatochlora by its dark metallic green thorax with two distinct creamy-yellow lateral lines. The dragonfly is endangered by urban sprawl, agricultural development, toxic pollution, logging, water diversions, off-road vehicles, vacation home development and road & pipeline construction.

Critical habitat designation is required by law under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), and it is extremely important for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly because habitat loss is the species’ primary threat. Critical habitat designation provides protection against " adverse modification" of habitat, and map-based guidelines for landowners and managers to allow the dragonfly to survive and recover.

“Our family is committed to protecting habitat for endangered species on our northern Michigan property as well as adjoining shoreline areas and public land,” said Bob Preston, a private landowner near Misery Bay, Alpena County, Michigan. “We want the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat so we can help ensure that the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and other sensitive species can recover.”

The dragonfly’s habitats have big economic benefits for the region, and the destruction of these habitats is drastically affecting human quality of life. The dragonfly is a wetland dependant species, and wetlands provide human benefits in terms of waterfowl production, recreation, drinking water and Great Lakes water quality. The destruction of these habitats through urban sprawl creates additional congestion on our roads, destroys the rural and wild character of the Midwest and Great Lakes, and destroys the vitality of cities and towns. As the dragonfly goes, so goes human quality of life. The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is still found in Mackinac, Presque Isle and Alpena Counties, Michigan; Door, Kewaunee and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin; Cook, DuPage and Will Counties, Illinois; and Iron and Reynolds Counties, Missouri. It is suspected that it has been lost in Ohio, Indiana and Alabama.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized that habitat loss is the primary reason for this species decline, and that a critical habitat designation would help save this unique wetlands dragonfly from extinction — and yet, has not proposed habitat protection,” said Dave Zaber, an ecologist and board member of Habitat Education Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Great Lakes Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has established a disturbing pattern and practice of failing to protect habitat for listed species within the region. Of the 68 species listed as threatened or endangered in the region, only 4 have critical habitat designated. Of those 4, two were forced by citizen lawsuits or petition; the other two occurred in the late 1970s. The region has not designated critical habitat on its own initiative, as the law requires, for any species within the region in nearly 25 years.

"Although habitat loss is a primary factor in the decline of the dragonfly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to designate and protect the critical habitat needed to help save this endangered wetlands species,” said Doug Cornett, Executive Director of Northwoods Wilderness Recovery in Marquette, Mich.

The case of the Hine’s emerald dragonfly shows that the administration’s political excuses for not implementing the ESA are false. Critical habitat could be designated relatively fast and easily for a large number of species that already have recovery plans. Critical habitat is the best way to counter habitat loss — the primary threat to the dragonfly and most endangered species. There is a body of science — including several FWS biological opinions and a recovery plan — indicating the habitat necessary to protect the species. FWS is not being otherwise held up by court-ordered actions; and many private landowners are supportive of the designation.

"We are interested in having our wetlands designated critical habitat for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly,” said Carol and Paul Sills of Bailey’s Harbor, Wisconsin. “We’ve admired the swarming activity of the dragonfly near our land in Liberty Grove.”

“As a landowner, the Michigan Nature Association wants its land to be designated as critical habitat,” said Jeremy Emmi, Executive Director in Williamston, Michigan. “MNA has worked for years to acquire such habitat, and FWS should obey its mandate to protect this habitat.”

"My brother and I each own property near Mud Lake, Wisconsin, just a short distance from occupied Hine’s emerald dragonfly habitat. We look forward to the day that the FWS designates critical habitat for the Hine’s,and we welcome designation of our lands to help the dragonfly to prosper,” said Nick Wilson, private landowner in Door County. “We know Hine’s emerald dragonflies and the landscapes they call home are of great benefit to the people of Door County and America, and we will doeverything in our power as private property owners to insure that endangered species survive on our lands.”

"In the summer,we see Hine’s emerald dragonflies on our Door County property and do everything we can to help them thrive,” said John and Janice Stiefel of Bailey’s Harbor, Wisconsin. “Wetland habitat is important to our ecosystem as a whole, as well as the many creatures that inhabit these areas.”

FWS has fallen behind in listings and critical habitat designations, and the Bush administration has deliberately underfunded these programs in an anti-environmental political attempt to undermine the ESA. The administration has claimed that they do not have the funding to designate critical habitat for endangered species, and have attempted to use that as an excuse to avoid court-ordered designations. In fact, FWS stated in 2003 that they would need $153 million to address the backlog, but the Bush Administration instead requested only $12.3 million, despite the fact that Congress expressed that they were willing to provide more funding. This year, the administration has requested only $5 million more for critical habitat and listings, but wants to slash the overall budget for endangered species recovery by 14%, a nearly $10 million cut in ESA programs. more on this topic...


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