Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office
Southwest Region

American Burying Beetle: Additional Information

Key to the American Burying Beetle 4(d) Rule for Federal and Non-Federal Activities

On October 15, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the final rule reclassifying the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (85 FR 65241). The publication also included a final rule under the authority of section 4(d) of the Act that provides measures that are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the American burying beetle. The 4(d) rule identifies certain activities that are excepted from take prohibitions, which differs by geographic area. The rule became effective on November 16, 2020, 30 days after publication. The Service has developed a key that will help project proponents (federal and non-federal) to determine if your proposed project is excepted from prohibited take of American burying beetle, as defined in the 4(d) rule. Activities excepted from incidental take prohibitions are also assessed in the Service’s October 15, 2020 Programmatic Biological Opinion on the final 4(d) rule for the American burying beetle.

NEW - Automated determination key through IPaC now live:

The interim determination key has been replaced by an online, automated key that is available through the Service’s Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) system. The IPaC system and additional information on threatened and endangered species is available on the Service’s Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS) site.

Please follow instructions in IPaC. If your project is within the current range of the American burying beetle, then the option to use the determination key will be provided as part of the process of assessing your project’s potential impacts on federally-listed species and other trust resources. The IPaC system will allow you to enter your project information and view the location in relation to the species range. The determination key provides a step-by-step process for determining the appropriate incidental take exceptions through the American burying beetle 4(d) rule.

  • Non-Federal projects - If your proposed action does not require Federal funding or authorization, the key will assist you in determining if your proposed activities are consistent with the 4(d) rule and Opinion. If so, a consistency letter will be provided once you complete the key. If your proposed action is not excepted from take prohibitions, additional guidance will be provided in the key.

    The determination key for the American burying beetle does not apply to any other federally-protected species that also may occur in your Action area. The Service’s IPaC system will assist you in determining if other federally-protected species may occur in your Action area and, if so we recommend further coordination with the Service to determine if the Action may impact those species or their habitats.

  • Federal nexus projects - For actions funded, authorized, or carried out by federal agencies, the key will assist you in determining if your proposed activities are consistent with the 4(d) rule and Opinion. If so, your action may rely upon the Opinion for compliance with ESA section 7 with respect to the American burying beetle and you will receive a consistency letter from the Service. If your activity is not excepted from take prohibitions, additional guidance will be provided in the key. Activities outside the scope of the Opinion, or that may affect other federally listed species besides the American burying beetle, a proposed species, and/or designated critical habitat, may require additional section 7 consultation.

Guidance for Federal agencies with actions that may affect American burying beetles in the Southern Plains populations and compliance with the final rule downlisting the species to threatened with a 4(d) rule.

Federal agencies that already have an existing biological opinion that addresses their actions, but prefer to use the 4(d) PBO instead, must request, in writing, a suspension of the existing biological opinion and clearly state their intention to use the 4(d) PBO for all ongoing and future actions that may affect ABBs. This includes existing programmatic biological opinions. If for any reason the federal agency makes the decision to revert back to their original existing biological opinion after electing to use the 4(d) PBO, another written request to return to the original biological opinion would be required.

The 4(d) rule and PBO do not apply to other federally-protected species that also may occur in the action area. If the action may affect other federally listed species besides the American burying beetle, any proposed species, and/or designated/proposed critical habitat, additional consultation between the agency and the Service is required. If the proposed action may disturb bald or golden eagles, additional coordination with the Service under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is recommended.

Update on the American Burying Beetle Final Rule to Downlist as Threatened

On September 3, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the final determination downlisting the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We also announced a final 4(d) rule for the species. The final rule is available in the Federal Register Reading Room as of October 14, 2020, and made available in the Federal Register on October 15, 2020 (LINK). The rule will be effective on November 16, 2020, which is 30 days after publication.

Partnership-Driven Efforts Lead to Downlisting of the American Burying Beetle

Thanks in part to the efforts of dedicated partners across this species’ range, the first insect added to the endangered species list is staging a comeback: the American burying beetle (ABB). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is downlisting the ABB under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), from endangered to threatened. The press release can be downloaded HERE and the Final Rule HERE

Update for the Proposed American Burying Beetle Downlisting to Threatened

Thanks in part to the efforts of our conservation partners across the range of the American burying beetle, on May 3, 2019, the Service proposed downlisting the beetle from endangered to threatened. The Service has been working to incorporate all available scientific information, including information received during two public comment periods, into a final determination. A recent court ruling ((Center for Biological Diversity v. Everson, 2020 WL 437289 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2020) (Everson)) vacated part of the Service’s 2014 Significant Portion of its Range (SPR) policy, requiring the Service to re-assess its SPR analysis in the beetle downlisting proposal. As a result, the Service now expects to complete this analysis and release our final determination in the summer of this year.

Public Hearing Scheduled on Proposed Downlisting of the American Burying Beetle

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a public hearing in Tulsa, Okla. Sept. 24, 2019, to engage the public in the proposed downlisting of the American burying beetle (ABB) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Public comment on the proposal, which would downlist the beetle from endangered to threatened, will also be extended 30 days until October 9, 2019.

The ABB open house and hearing will be held at the Schusterman Center, Perkins Auditorium LC1, 4502 East 41st Street, Tulsa, OK 74135. The public open house and hearing will include the opportunity to provide comments on the record from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. The Service is committed to providing access to this meeting for all participants. Please direct all requests for sign language interpreting services, close captioning, or other accommodation needs to the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office at 918-382-4500, TTY 800-877-8339 with your request no later than one week before the meeting dates.

You may obtain copies of the proposed rule and Species Status Assessment Report at the Federal Regulations web site or by mail from the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office, 904 East 21st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 74129-1428.

The Service encourages the public to review and provide comments on the downlisting proposal during the 30-day public comment period. Written comments may be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R2–ES–2018–0029. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!” Or click here to go straight to the document.
  • By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:

    Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R2–ES–2018–0029
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC
    5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.
Written comments must be received by October 9, 2019.

A news release about the public hearing is available here

American Burying Beetle 12 Month Finding: Proposed Downlisting to Threatened and 4(d) rule is Available for Public Comment!

Although the beetle had a historic range covering 35 states plus the southern borders of three Canadian provinces, in 1989 it was known in only two locations – Oklahoma and Block Island, Rhode Island. There are now confirmed populations of the American burying beetle in nine states: Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas (no positive surveys since 2008), on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island, and reintroduced populations on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts and in southwest Missouri. Our analysis of the best available information indicates the primary known threats to the beetle are increasing temperatures due to climate change and ongoing land use changes in parts of the range. In June 2015, the Service initiated a species status assessment (SSA) and prepared an SSA Report for the endangered American burying beetle (ABB). Biologists from nine Service field offices across five Regions throughout the ABB's range participated in the development of the SSA Report. The ABB SSA Report has been peer reviewed in accordance with the Service’s peer review process. All state fish and game agencies, species experts and affected Tribes within the current ABB range reviewed the document and the SSA Report was revised in response to input from these reviews. The SSA Report is not an agency decision document, and is exclusively limited to scientific analysis. The SSA Report and 12-month finding (see available documents below) are available for public review at the same time as part of the Federal rulemaking process. Although threats to the species have been reduced, and the species no longer meets the definition of endangered, the Service believes it meets the definition of threatened because of these continuing threats to the beetle and its habitat.

Along with the proposal to downlist the species from endangered to threatened, the Service is proposing a rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that would tailor ESA protections to only those the beetle needs for recovery. The Service generally issues these rules to facilitate overall conservation of a species and allow activities with only minor impacts, (but compatible with ongoing and future conservation and recovery efforts) to occur without need for ESA regulation. For example, the proposed 4(d) rule would exempt incidental take related to ranching/grazing in the Northern Plains and New England Analysis Areas because these land uses generally support good habitat for American burying beetle populations.

The following related documents are available for review:

Status: Endangered (54 FR 29652; July 13, 1989). Critical habitat has not been designated. The Final Recovery Plan was signed on September 27, 1991 (Link to Final Recovery Plan, 7 MB). A 5-Year Review was signed on June 16, 2008 (Link to 5-Year Review, 4 MB)

Species Account: OK ESFO Species Account for ABB (Link to ABB SSA Report)

American Burying Beetle Impact Assessment for Project Reviews (March 2016) - PDF

Guidance for project proponents in determining whether their project may affect the ABB for section 7 consultation for Federal projects or may result in take of the ABB for non-Federal projects.

Revised Guidance for American Burying Beetle Mitigation Lands!

American Burying Beetle Conservation Strategy For the Establishment, Management, and Operations of Mitigation Lands (PDF) (September 2019)

This revision provides guidance for Federal and non-Federal proponents (conservation bankers, sponsors, mitigation landowners, federal agencies) involved in the establishment, management, and operation of American burying beetle (ABB) mitigation lands in Region 2 (proposed as Region 6 of Department of Interior Reorganization Plan) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). Revisions are based on new climate projections, which indicate that southern portions of the ABB range may only support the species for 20-30 more years. This revised guidance promotes locating mitigation lands in more climate safe areas to provide long-term protection that contributes towards recovery of the species. Revisions include minor changes in the percentages of unfavorable or buffer habitat allowed in mitigation lands and changes in service areas to include northern portions of the species' historical range. Incentives are included that reduce mitigation recommendations by 50% when implemented in northern service areas.

For additional information on Conservation Banking and credit sales point of contact, click here.

Section 10 Permittees, and Accidental Death Reporting
  • American Burying Beetle Service Permit Requirements (PDF): This is a description of the required qualifications for obtaining a Section 10 Recovery Permit. General permit information is available HERE. The permit application form for a Section 10 Recovery Permit is available HERE
  • American Burying Beetle Accidental Death Form (PDF): This form is to be filled out by a Section 10 Permitted Biologist when an American burying beetle is accidentally killed.
  • American Burying Beetle Accidental Death Summary Report (MS Excel Spreadsheet): This form is to be completed annually by a Section 10 Permitted Biologist for all American burying beetles accidentally killed. This report must be submitted by October 31 of each year.
American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) Range-wide Presence/Absence Survey Guidance (May 2018, PDF)

Guidance for designing and conducting live-trapping presence/absence surveys for the endangered ABB throughout its range. These surveys may only be conducted by individuals possessing a valid Federal Fish & Wildlife Permit for scientific recovery of the ABB (Surveyors), as defined under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), issued by the Service.

ABB OK Presence/Absence Live Trapping Guidance Appendices:

ABB Location Data GIS Shape Files

The following GIS shapefiles will be updated no more often than once per month. Make sure you are using the most recent version, which should be verified by comparing with the species' range in IPaC.

News Media

ABB Conservation in Oklahoma: American Burying Beetle 11/29/2015; OETA SUNUP Oklahoma State University Professor, Dr. Wyatt Hoback talks about the ABB and its role in the ecosystem in this short 6 minute video (NOTE: the following links take you to an external web site not part of the FWS domain). The transcript is located here

Endangered American Burying Beetle in Oklahoma 1/28/2019; Outdoor Oklahoma. Head out with Matt Fullerton (Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Biologist) and Andy Middick (USFWS permitted biologist and consultant) as they attempt to capture American Burying Beetles on Hulah WMA in NE Oklahoma. Get an up-close look at the beetle, its habitat, cohorts and trapping for the species.

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Last updated: April 5, 2021
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.