Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 17, 2008

Contacts:   Robert Harms 308-382-6468, ext.17

                  Barb Perkins 303-236-4588

 

PUBLIC HEARING SCHEDULED ON PROPOSED CRITICAL HABITAT FOR SALT CREEK TIGER BEETLE

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will host a public hearing on Tuesday,

July 1, in Lincoln, Nebraska, to provide an additional opportunity for the public to comment on a proposal to designate 1,795 acres as critical habitat for the Salt Creek tiger beetle.  The Service reopened the comment period to accommodate additional public input, and consideration of oral and written comments received at the hearing.  The new comment period will be open from June 3 through July 11, 2008. 

 

The public hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 1, at the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, 3125 Portia Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.  The hearing will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., preceded by an informational open house from 4:00 p.m. to

6:00 p.m.

 

The proposed critical habitat is located in Lancaster and Saunders counties, Nebraska, in saline wetland and stream complexes found along Little Salt and Rock creeks.  The Service is seeking comments and information from the public on all aspects of the critical habitat proposal, including the draft Economic Analysis and draft Environmental Assessment.  Potential post-designation economic costs are estimated to be $18.6 million to $23.1 million over 20 years.  The annual costs are expected to range from $1.3 to $2 million.  These documents are available at http://www.regulations.gov.

 

Written comments can be submitted through July 11, 2008, by one of the following methods: 

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-2007-0014; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.   

 

Considered one of the rarest insects in the United States, the Salt Creek tiger beetle was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on October 5, 2005.  The Salt Creek tiger beetle is considered a “bio-indicator” species.  Its presence signals the existence of a healthy saline wetland and stream system. Intact, these systems provide numerous benefits for people as well as wildlife, including water purification, flood control, and outdoor recreation opportunities. The beetle is metallic brown to dark-olive green with a metallic dark green underside.  It measures about 0.5-inch in total length, and is native to eastern Nebraska’s saline wetlands.

 

Loss of saline wetland and stream habitats and changes in watershed-level hydrology were the main causes for the decline of the beetle.  Since the late 1800s, more than 90 percent of the wetlands have been lost to development and modifications to hydrology. There are three populations of the beetle located along Little Salt Creek in Nebraska: the Arbor Lake, Roper, and Upper Little Salt Creek-North populations.  Annual surveys have not identified any new beetle populations, but did document the loss of three of the six known populations prior to the beetle being added to the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants.

 

The Arbor Lake population (167 acres of proposed critical habitat) occupies a saline wetland and stream complex.  It is the largest remaining beetle population, averaging 310 beetles per year (1991 to 2007 surveys).  The 2005 survey count was 115 beetles, the lowest count in the past 12 years.  The survey count in 2006 was 345 beetles; in 2007, survey count was 198 beetles.

 

The Roper population (284 acres of proposed critical habitat) occupies a saline wetland and stream complex located about one mile downstream of the Arbor Lake population.  It is the second largest population, averaging 107 beetles per year (1994 to 2007 surveys).  The 2005 survey count was 22 beetles; the lowest number since monitoring began.  The survey count in 2006 was 97 beetles; in 2007, the survey count was 32 beetles.

 

The Upper Little Salt Creek-North population (295 acres of proposed critical habitat) exists on a saline wetland and stream complex about 4.5 miles upstream of the Arbor Lake population.  It is the smallest population, averaging 18 beetles per year (1991 to 2007 surveys).  The 2005 survey documented 16 beetles.  The 2006 survey count was 24 beetles; in 2007, the survey count was 33.

 

In addition to the locations listed above, 896 acres in the Jack Sinn-Rock Creek area have been identified as essential to the conservation of the beetle and are included in the proposed critical habitat area.  This acreage encompasses a large area of suitable saline wetland and stream (Rock Creek) habitat in a separate watershed from the currently-occupied units (Little Salt Creek).  This unoccupied habitat represents the best remaining suitable habitat to support additional populations of the beetle and provide redundancy in the event a catastrophic event occurs along Little Salt Creek.  Nearly 90 percent of all remaining individuals are located within one mile of each other.  A catastrophic weather event or upstream human activities could extirpate all of the populations if they were located only in a small portion of a single stream system.  Survey information documented occupation of the Jack Sinn-Rock Creek Unit by the beetles as recently as 1998.

 

State and local community groups are working with the Service to protect the beetle and its habitat.  The Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership, which is composed of numerous conservation organizations, has purchased 221 acres of saline wetlands over the last three years, protecting this scarce habitat upon which the Salt Creek tiger beetle depends.

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

 

-FWS-