News Release

Service Seeks Information on Proposal to Remove Endangered Species Act Protection for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (VELB)

October 1, 2012

Media Contacts:
Robert Moler, 916-414-6606; robert_moler@fws.gov;
Sarah Swenty, 916.414.6571, sarah_swenty@fws.gov

Sacramento -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife (Service) is proposing to remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) from its current status as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This announcement opens a 60-day public comment period on the proposal. This proposal does not remove the VELB from protected status.

“We encourage the public, government agencies, tribes, private industry and non-profit organizations to provide us with information on the status of the VELB,” said Susan K. Moore, Field Supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. “We want our decisions on the VELB’s status to be informed by the best available information.”

The Service will accept comments until December 3, 2012.  Comments can be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, (Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063) or by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:

Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

The Service requests comments concerning any location-specific information about the VELB or its habitat. All submitted comments will be posted online at http://www.regulations.gov.

The VELB is a medium-sized, red and dark green insect that is one-half to one-inch long with arching long antennae. The VELB is found only in California’s Central Valley and depends solely on elderberry shrubs (Sambucus) for food and shelter.

The VELB was listed as a threatened species under the ESA in 1980 due to inadequate regulatory protection and loss of its habitat from agricultural and urban development largely attributed to flood control activities. More than 90 percent of the Central Valley’s original riparian vegetation (of which elderberry is a component at some locations) had been lost. At the time of listing, the VELB was known from only 10 occurrences at three locations along the American River, Putah Creek, and the Merced River.

Since then, surveys have identified approximately 201 occurrences at 26 locations that support the beetle ranging from Shasta County to Kern County. The rate of riparian vegetation loss has been greatly reduced compared to the rate at the time of listing and records over the past 30 years establish that the VELB’s range is larger than originally known. Several recovery efforts have led to the protection and restoration of riparian vegetation and VELB habitat.

The largest effort to protect and restore VELB habitat, mainly through the planting of elderberry shrubs, is at the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The refuge was established in 1989 in part to restore floodplain habitats and riparian vegetation including elderberries specifically for VELB recovery efforts. Since then, the Service and partners have planted more than 100,000 elderberries along the Sacramento River between Red Bluff and Princeton.  Beetles have been found at most of the restored areas.

The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants.  This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.