Center for Biological Diversity

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

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Thursday, December 12, 2002

Citizens Move for Endangered Species Act Protection for
Endemic Algodones Dunes Beetle

Andrew’s dunes scarab beetle threatened by off-road vehicles, pesticides and Bush roll-backs

Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist 909.659.6053 x 306
More Information: Petition

WASHINGTON -- Today, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a scientific petition with Interior Secretary Gale Norton and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the Andrew’s dunes scarab beetle as an endangered species and designate critical habitat. The beetle (Pseudocotalpa andrewsi Hardy) is highly restricted in range, found only at the Algodones Dunes in the Sonoran Desert of Imperial County, SE California and NE Baja California, Mexico.

The beetle is endangered largely due to the historic, ongoing, and imminent increased destruction of its habitat by extensive off-road vehicle (ORV) use on the Algodones Dunes. The dune system will occasionally experience upwards of 240,000 ORV users on a single busy weekend, and a pending Bush administration decision would roll-back environmental protections on nearly 50,000 dunes acres, opening 85% of the beetle’s habitat to ORV damage.

Pesticide drift from Imperial Valley agricultural spraying is also likely harming beetles.

“The beetle’s decline mirrors the decline of natural values at the dunes,” said Monica Bond, CBD biologist. “The Bush roll-backs at the dunes make ESA protection essential now.”

ORVs at the Algodones Dunes use special tires that cut deeply into the sand, directly killing beetles and wrecking habitat. Beetles are most active February -- April, a biologically critical time that coincides with the season of heavy ORV use on the dunes.

The Andrew’s dune scarab beetle was first proposed for ESA protection by FWS in 1978. At that time, FWS noted “this action is being taken because of their decreased population levels and anticipated adverse modification of their habitat.” FWS stated in the proposed rules that “the continued disruption of dune troughs by off-road vehicles prevents the accumulation of dead organic matter upon which the immature stages of this beetle feed.” In October 1980, FWS issued a notice to withdraw the proposal because final rulemaking had not been completed within a then required 2-year deadline. ESA protection for P. andrewsi was therefore denied due to the failure of FWS to meet mandatory statutory deadlines rather than due to new scientific data indicating a listing was not warranted.

FWS’s failure to provide legal protection for the beetle resulted in 24 years of dunes management by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that failed to take into account the impacts of increasing ORV use on the beetle and the other rare and endangered fauna of the dunes. Currently, BLM is proposing a new management plan that not only fails to protect the beetle, but also eliminates ORV closures designed to protect a threatened plant found at the dunes, the Peirson’s milkvetch.

FWS routinely cites an inadequate budget and heavy work load as justification for listing delays. But it is a crisis of its own making. The agency’s budget is established by the Secretary of Interior in her budget request to Congress. Congress routinely grants near the requested amount. The inadequate budget, therefore, is not the fault of Congress but of Secretary Norton who purposefully squelches the listing budget to prevent species from being added the endangered species list.

FWS’s entire Endangered Species Act budget has increased over 500% since 1992. The listing budget is the only line item that decreased in real dollars over that period. Every other line item increased at least 300%. The budget freeze is clearly political, not economic.


more press releases. . .

Go back