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News Blog

Invasive Beetle & Tamarisk Update

by Stephen Dark
Posted // 2013-03-19 -

A few years ago, I went down to Moab with Kevin Hutline, a professor from the University of Utah. The trip was to assess the impact of a controversial beetle-release program aimed at pushing back the tamarisk plants that swamp much of Utah's waterways.

The beetle program had many critics, among them the Center for Biological Diversity, which, at the beginning of March, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The lawsuit seeks to protect the habitat of the endangered southwestern willow flycatchers from the imported Asian beetles advance.

You can read the story, "Beetles Attack," here.

A press release from the center notes, "The tamarisk-defoliating leaf beetle is now invading the nesting areas of the southwestern willow flycatchers in southern Utah, Nevada and north and western Arizona," threatening the survival of the native songbird.

The center's Robin Silver says that APHIS has failed to keep its promises of replacing dying tamarisk with native willows and cottonwoods.

The beetles were released in July 2006 by APHIS officials along the Virgin River in southern Utah, introducing them directly into flycatcher nesting areas, according to the center, effectively breaking prior agreements not to release the beetles near the supposedly federally protected nesting areas.


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