NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Thursday, December 12, 2002
Citizens Move for Endangered Species Act Protection for
Andrews dunes scarab beetle threatened by off-road vehicles, pesticides and Bush roll-backs
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 Andrews 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 beetles habitat to ORV damage.
Pesticide drift from Imperial Valley agricultural spraying is also likely harming beetles.
The beetles 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 Andrews 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 routinely cites an inadequate budget and heavy work load as justification for listing delays. But it is a crisis of its own making. The agencys 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.
FWSs 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.