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Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Bush Administration Refuses to Protect Endangered Species Habitat in Michigan and Missouri National Forests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2008
1:34 PM

CONTACT: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Josh Mogerman, Natural Resources Defense Council, (312) 780-7424

 
Bush Administration Refuses to Protect Endangered Species Habitat in Michigan and Missouri National Forests
Conservation Groups Sue to Enforce Protections for Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly
 

CHICAGO - March 10 - Environmental groups challenged the federal government’s decision to exclude all national forest land from a recent endangered species ruling in federal court today. The suit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Center for Biological Diversity, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, Michigan Nature Association, Door County Environmental Council (DCEC) and the Habitat Education Center, charges that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly violates the federal Endangered Species Act by excluding all 13,000 acres in Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest and the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.

While much of the dragonfly’s most important habitat lies on these national forest lands, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service chose not to extend them full legal protections, arguing that the Forest Service would be more cooperative if the National Forest land were excluded.

“The feds are playing loose with the law here,” said Andrew Wetzler, director of the Endangered Species Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Forest Service has a legal obligation to do everything it can to cooperate with the Fish and Wildlife Service. But the Bush Administration is insisting on treating the Forest Service like it is a private corporation; it’s completely inappropriate. And, it is dangerous.”

The areas in question are some of the most important vestiges of the endangered dragonflies’ wetland habitat.

“These striking insects are named for their amazing green eyes. But those good looks will not be enough to protect them as they cling to habitats in Michigan and Missouri, thanks to one governmental agency that does not want to hold another to its legal obligations,” said John Buse, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The recovery plan says the dragonfly is endangered due to fragmentation and destruction of its habitat. But excluding the Forest Service from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversight diminishes protection for the unique wetlands needed to keep the Hine’s emerald dragonfly from going extinct,” said Doug Cornett, executive director of Northwoods Wilderness Recovery. “We want to see them in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for generations to come.”

The suit argues that the Endangered Species Act compels the federal government to extend the full legal protections in the excluded areas.

“This species used to be referred to as the Ohio emerald. Now they do not exist anywhere in that state,” noted Jeremy Emmi, executive director of the Michigan Nature Association. “If the feds do not step up like they should, we might not see them in Michigan or Missouri anymore.”

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is the only dragonfly species on the federal endangered species list. It is also recognized as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a number of states in the Midwest. The species can only be found in small areas of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri.

“The Door County Environmental Council is again actively supporting efforts to ensure the survival of the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, a battle that has been ongoing for more than ten years in our area,” said Door County Environmental Council executive director Jerry Viste. “The Wisconsin effort began in Door County and we are proud to continue to fight for needed protection.”

”This ruling makes no sense,” said Ricardo Jomarron, president of the Habitat Education Center. “The federal government is holding itself to a lower standard than the law requires, to the detriment of this species’ chances of survival.”

Hines Emerald Dragonfly Information
Size: The dragonfly is approximately 2.5 inches long with a 3.5-inch wingspan.

Appearance: The dragonfly has a dazzling metallic green body with shocking emerald-green eyes. It has yellow stripes on the sides of its body and a creamy-color to its wings. Males have a unique “clasper” at the end of their tails used to grab potential mates.

Flight: Dragonflies can fly at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. They can hover, fly backwards, change directions in mid-air, and are some of the most acrobatic fliers in the animal kingdom.

Habitat: These dragonflies rely on spring-fed marshes and meadows with high calcium carbonate levels in the water. Most of these wetland habitats have been drained for urban and industrial development.

Interesting facts:

* Most of these dragonflies’ life cycle is spent as a nymph: a dark, one-inch larva that has big teeth to capture prey, can move around using water jets, and lives in crawfish burrows. Nymphs are often described as looking like “hairballs with legs.”
* They live as nymphs for two to four years until they are ready to become adults. This process is much like a butterfly’s metamorphosis from a caterpillar. The nymphs shed their skin and an adult dragonfly emerges. Adults live for only two to six weeks.
* This species used to be far more widespread than it is today; it can no longer be found in Ohio, Alabama, or Indiana.
* Males and females have differently shaped sexual organs at the ends of their tails that allow copulation in flight.

Additional information on the Hine’s emerald dragonfly can be found at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Web site

The designation of critical habitat document can be read here

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection of native species and their habitats through science, policy, and environmental law. The Center has more than 40,000 members worldwide, with offices in Tucson, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington.

Northwoods Wilderness Recovery is a non-profit conservation organization based in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Founded in 1992, NWR’s mission is to protect and restore forests and wetlands of the North Woods, as well as conserve habitat for endangered, threatened, and rare species.

The Michigan Nature Association works strategically to protect our state's most important natural habitats through acquisition and scientific stewardship. Founded in 1952, MNA protects 164 distinct nature sanctuaries, totaling over 8,700 acres of habitat in 54 counties.

The Door County Environmental Council became a reality when several concerned citizens of the Fish Creek, Wisconsin area gathered to combine their concerns over the rapid resource destruction that was occurring in 1969. Since that time, nearly forty years ago we have been proudly engaged in battles, legal and otherwise, to preserve our vanishing resources.

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, the Habitat Education Center’s mission is to improve the health and viability of wildlife habitats through public education, scientific commentary, enforcement of existing laws, grassroots organizing and litigation.

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