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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 

 October 6, 2005

Seth Willey (303) 236-4257
Barb Perkins (303) 236-4588

 SERVICE LISTS SALT CREEK TIGER BEETLE AS ENDANGERED

 Considered one of the rarest insects in the United States, the Salt Creek tiger beetle is being listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today.  Only three populations of Salt Creek tiger beetles are known to exist in saline wetlands in Lancaster County, Nebraska. 

The final rule to list the Salt Creek tiger beetle as endangered was published in today’s Federal Register.

According to the most recent research, there have been declines in population size and distribution between 1991 and 2005.  The surveys indicate that the number of remaining Salt Creek tiger beetle populations has fallen by half – from six to three populations – since 1991. The 2005 surveys revealed that the Salt Creek tiger beetle numbers about 150 individuals.

            The remaining populations of Salt Creek tiger beetles are believed to be threatened by:

·        habitat loss and degradation due to development in northern Lancaster County and Lincoln, Nebraska,

·        increased freshwater runoff and sediment from urban areas – which lowers the salt content in the water and encourages vegetative encroachment,

·        bank sloughing from incised streams that were channelized,

·        the effects of bank stabilization projects,

·        pollution,

·        pesticide application or runoff, and

·        habitat loss and degradation due to grazing and cultivation. 

Habitats now occupied by the tiger beetle are small and in close proximity to each other, making it difficult to re-colonize areas that were previously occupied. The beetle is also more prone to extinction from catastrophic environmental events such as floods and drought, predation and parasites.

Extensive wetland losses have occurred in and around the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, due to urban expansion, agricultural activities, and channelization of Salt Creek. As a result, a large percentage of the Salt Creek tiger beetle’s habitat has been lost. Most of the remaining saline wetlands are degraded. Only 122 acres of the barren salt flat and saline stream edge habitat of the Salt Creek tiger beetle remain in the eastern Nebraska Saline Wetland Complex, of which 15 acres can be considered “not highly degraded.” These remaining 15 acres are believed to provide suitable habitat for the three remaining populations of Salt Creek tiger beetles.

The Salt Creek tiger beetle is considered a “bio-indicator” species.  Its presence signals the existence of a healthy saline wetland, and it serves as an important link in a complex food chain of the saline wetland ecosystem. A healthy saline wetland provides numerous benefits for people as well, including water purification and flood control.

            The Salt Creek tiger beetle is a metallic brown to dark-olive green beetle with a metallic dark green underside.  It measures about 0.5-inch in total length, and is native to eastern Nebraska’s saline wetlands and the associated streams in the northern third of Lancaster and south-central edge of Saunders counties. It occurs in exposed mud flats of saline wetlands and along mud banks of streams and seeps.

            Tiger beetles are active, ground‑dwelling, predatory insects that capture smaller or similar-sized arthropods in a “tiger‑like” manner. They do this by grasping prey with their “mandibles” or mouthparts. Because of their interesting behavior and variety of forms and habitats, tiger beetles as a group have been extensively studied.

            The Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have funded a two‑year study with the University of Nebraska to acquire more information and expand the level of knowledge about the biology of the Salt Creek tiger beetle and its habitat requirements. The Service also has participated in several local conservation planning efforts designed to protect the beetle and its habitat. In addition, the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lower Platte South Natural Resources District and The Nature Conservancy have formed the Saline Wetland Conservation Partnership (SWCP).  The SWCP has developed a plan that focuses on the conservation of saline wetlands in Lancaster and Saunders Counties.  Although not specifically focused on the protection and management of the Salt Creek tiger beetle, the SWCP’s efforts will benefit the species.  To date, the SWCP, including Federal funds from section 6 of the Act, has acquired five parcels of land containing saline wetlands.

            The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. 

 - FWS - 

 For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
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 COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
ABOUT THE SALT CREEK TIGER BEETLE
 

What does the Salt Creek tiger beetle look like?  The Salt Creek tiger beetle (Cicindela nevadica lincolniana) is metallic brown to dark olive-green above with a metallic, dark-green underside. This insect measures about 0.5 inch in total length.  It is distinguished from other tiger beetles by its distinctive form and the color pattern on its top and bottom.

 Where does it live?  The Salt Creek tiger beetle is confined to eastern Nebraska saline wetlands and associated streams and tributaries of Salt Creek in the northern third of Lancaster County.  The insect is believed to have disappeared from the southern margin of Saunders County.  It is found along mud banks of streams and seeps, and in association with saline wetlands and exposed mud flats of saline wetlands. 

Why does the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believe it needs to list this beetle as endangered?  The Salt Creek tiger beetle occurs in only a small area in eastern Nebraska and is considered the rarest insect in Nebraska.  Intensive surveys for the Salt Creek tiger beetle document the loss of half of the remaining populations, from six to three populations, since 1991.  The remaining populations of Salt Creek tiger beetles are under imminent threat of extinction from the destruction of its remaining habitat caused by past and ongoing residential, commercial, and industrial development and infrastructure in northern Lancaster County and Lincoln, Nebraska; increased freshwater runoff and sediment deposition from developed areas resulting in the reduction of salt concentrations and vegetative encroachment; bank sloughing from incised streams that were channelized; unregulated bank stabilization projects; pollution; pesticide application or runoff; cattle grazing and cultivation; artificial lighting, and inadequate regulatory mechanisms and reduced regulatory jurisdiction.  Occupied barren salt flats and saline stream edge habitats of the two largest Salt Creek tiger beetle populations are small in size and in close proximity to each other, making the subspecies prone to chance extinction from catastrophic environmental events, floods, drought, predation and parasites, and less able to colonize areas previously occupied.  

What kind of beetle is the Salt Creek tiger beetle?  The Salt Creek tiger beetle is an active, ground‑dwelling, predatory insect that captures smaller or similar-sized arthropods in a “tiger‑like” manner by grasping its prey with its mandibles (mouthparts). 

Where does the Salt Creek tiger beetle live in eastern Nebraska?  Salt Creek tiger beetle larvae live in permanent burrows in the ground and are voracious predators, fastening themselves by means of abdominal hooks near the tops of their burrows and rapidly extending from them to seize passing invertebrate prey. The adult Salt Creek tiger beetle has a two‑year life cycle and spends 11 months of the year underground, surfacing for only about six weeks, from around mid‑June through July. Adults are found in the moist, muddy areas within just a few yards of wetland and stream edges. They have adapted to brief periods of high water inundation and highly saline conditions. 

Is habitat a factor in the beetle’s decline?

Yes. Since the late 1800s, more than 90 percent of these wetlands have been destroyed or severely degraded through commercial, residential, industrial and agricultural development and transportation projects. Only 122 acres of barren salt flat and saline stream edge habitat of the Salt Creek tiger beetle remain in the eastern Nebraska Saline Wetland Complex, of which merely 15 acres can be considered “not highly degraded.” It is these remaining 15 acres of “not highly degraded” barren salt flats and saline stream edges that are believed to provide suitable habitat for the three remaining population of Salt Creek tiger beetles. Eastern Nebraska saline wetlands are considered critically imperiled in Nebraska. 

Do other species inhabit the saline wetlands in Nebraska?  Throughout the past century, more than 230 species of birds, especially migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, have been reported using eastern Nebraska saline wetlands. These birds include the listed least tern and piping plover and the peregrine falcon, which used to be federally listed. Eastern saline wetlands are home to several saline plants that are found nowhere else in Nebraska, including saltwort, a plant that grows in extremely aquatic saline habitats and is listed as endangered under the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act.  The vegetative community of the eastern Nebraska saline wetlands is considered to be some of the most limited and endangered in the State. 

How many Salt Creek tiger beetles are there?  Intensive visual surveys conducted from 1991 through 2005 found six populations of Salt Creek tiger beetle. Today, only three of these six populations are thought to still exist.  The 2005 surveys revealed that the Salt Creek tiger beetle numbers about 150 individuals. 

How does the number of Salt Creek tiger beetles compare with other tiger beetle species?  Most healthy, viable populations of tiger beetles number in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. The northeastern beach tiger beetle (C. dorsalis dorsalis) and puritan tiger beetle (C. puritana) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Between 1989 and 1992, the northeastern beach tiger beetle Cicindela was found at 65 sites in Maryland and Virginia. Population estimates ranged from 9,846 to 17,480 beetles annually. Throughout Maryland, there was an average of 6,389 puritan tiger beetles found annually during surveys conducted in 1989, 1991, 1992, and 1993. 

Is the Salt Creek tiger beetle already protected?  The Salt Creek tiger beetle is listed as endangered under Nebraska’s endangered species act. Under this law, State agencies must ensure that the actions they authorize, fund, or carry out do not jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened species.  

In 2000, the Service designated the Salt Creek tiger beetle as a candidate species. However, a candidate species does not receive any Federal protection. Candidate status merely indicates that the species is in some trouble and its status needs to be evaluated periodically. As threats to this beetle now appear to be substantial and immediate, the Service believes it needs to immediately place the species on the Federal list of endangered species. 

How will listing the Salt Creek tiger beetle as endangered affect the community?  Proposed projects and activities that occur on private lands and do not require any Federal action (e.g., permits, funds, authorization, etc.) will not be affected by this Federal listing activity.  However, ongoing and future projects involving any Federal action that may either directly or indirectly impact the Salt Creek tiger beetle or its habitat would require consultation with the Service pursuant to section 7 of the Federal Endangered Species Act to evaluate the potential impact to the beetle and the need for possible alternatives to prevent any adverse impacts. In addition, if any activity or proposed project would result in “take” of the Salt Creek tiger beetle or the destruction or adverse modification of habitat occupied by the beetle, provisions under section 9 of the Federal Endangered Species Act would be triggered. The definition of take under the Act is to “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.” 

What is presently being done to conserve the Salt Creek tiger beetle?  The Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have funded a two‑year study with the University of Nebraska to acquire more information and expand the level of knowledge about the biology of the Salt Creek tiger beetle and its habitat requirements. The Service also has participated in several local conservation planning efforts designed to protect the beetle and its habitat. In addition, the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lower Platte South Natural Resources District and The Nature Conservancy have formed the Saline Wetland Conservation Partnership (SWCP).  The SWCP has developed a plan that focuses on the conservation of saline wetlands in Lancaster and Saunders Counties.  Although not specifically focused on the protection and management of the Salt Creek tiger beetle, the SWCP’s efforts will benefit the species.  To date, the SWCP, including Federal funds from section 6 of the Act, has acquired five parcels of land containing saline wetlands. 

How does the Service determine whether a species needs to be listed under the Federal Endangered Species?  Under section 4 of the Federal Endangered Species Act, species are determined to be threatened or endangered because of one or more of the following five factors: (1) present or threatened destruction of habitat; (2) over utilization; (3) disease or predation; (4) inadequacy of existing regulations for protection; and (5) other natural or human-made factors (e.g., catastrophic environmental events such as floods and drought, electric light insect traps, pesticides. The Salt Creek tiger beetle is threatened by habitat destruction, inadequate protection from other Federal, State or local laws, and other natural or human-made factors.  

 


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