OMAHA, Neb. – An environmental group said Tuesday that it plans to sue the U.S. government over a decision to reclassify a large scavenging beetle as threatened instead of endangered.
The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity said it will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services over its move last fall to list the American burying beetle as threatened. It had been considered an endangered species since 1989, and the location of its habitat in Plains states created issues for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other oil and gas projects.
“Far from having recovered, this striking orange-and-black beetle is facing dire threats from climate change and habitat destruction,” said attorney Kristine Akland with the center. Akland said the change was a result of pressure from the oil and gas industry.
Federal officials have said that conservation efforts over the past three decades have helped the beetle's population recover, and it can now be found in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts. At the time the beetle was termed endangered, it was found only in small populations in eastern Oklahoma and Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island.
Fish and Wildlife Services spokeswoman Lesli Gray said the agency “used the best available science in its decision to downlist the American burying beetle.”
The agency has acknowledged the beetle continues to face threats from climate change and land use changes, but officials have said the beetle no longer meets the definition of endangered.