On Sept. 3, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it had downlisted the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened, crediting the conservation efforts of private entities throughout the beetle’s habitat range.
“The downlisting of the American burying beetle clearly illustrates the value of our partnership-driven approach to conservation,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith said. “By working with state agencies across the country, private landowners, zoos, tribes, the Department of Defense and other partners, we have helped preserve this unique and interesting species.”
For Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry, the downlisting of the beetle means a reprieve from the permitting requirements, relocation efforts and purchasing credits from Service-approved conservation banks and other mitigation efforts that increased costs for oil and natural gas development and pipeline construction in eastern Oklahoma.
A 4(d) rule attached to the change in status now allows for incidental take of burying beetles in the southern region, which includes Oklahoma. Incidental take in the northern region remains unallowable.
Petroleum Alliance Director of Regulatory Affairs Bud Ground said there will likely still be procedural forms associated with permitting processes through other agencies for projects within the range of the burying beetle. However, because incidental take will be allowable, actual species presence won’t need to be verified through surveys.
“The Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma appreciates the Tulsa office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for including us as a partner in working on the American burying beetle these past many years,” Ground said. “We support the downlisting of the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened and the adoption of the section 4(d) rule to provide us with additional compliance tools when working in areas where the beetle is present.”
When originally listed in 1989, the beetle was known to exist in only two locations: Oklahoma and Rhode Island. Since 2005, there have been confirmed populations in eight states including Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Missouri. In addition, up until 2008, surveys confirmed beetles in Texas. The populations on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts and in southwest Missouri are a result of reintroduction.
“Downlisting the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened is the right call and the first step to total delisting,” Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe said in a written statement. “Since it was listed over 30 years ago, the population of the ABB has made a resurgence – dramatically expanding the areas that are forced to deal with cost and red tape to work around its habitat. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s) action provides important regulatory relief to our farmers, ranchers, home builders, developers and energy industry that have long been plagued by the unnecessary endangered listing of this species.”