Inhofe Praises New Step Towards Delisting the American Burying Beetle
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, praised U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today for submitting to the Federal Register a 90-day finding, which is another step toward determining whether or not the American burying beetle (ABB) should be delisted. This announcement follows an assessment FWS has been working on since May 2015 when Director Dan Ashe promised Inhofe during a Senate EPW Committee hearing to begin review of the beetle’s status.
“I am pleased that the Service has responded favorably to an industry petition to delist the American burying beetle by opening the petition to public comments,” Inhofe said. "It is my hope that the Service is able to complement the information presented in the petition with what it is collecting in its species assessment, which it initiated last year at my request. I have been told that the Service expects to complete its work by October. I hope the agency will come to the same conclusion as the rest of Oklahoma that this beetle’s population is alive and thriving and no longer in need of federal protection.”
The Service’s notice was prompted by a petition from the oil and gas industry sent on Aug. 18 that provided new information and highlighted errors in information used to make the original listing determination. The Service will accept public comments on the finding until May 16, 2016, which can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov or by hard copy.
In 1989, fewer than 12 beetles were believed to exist in Eastern Oklahoma and around 520 beetles were off the coast of Rhode Island. Today, FWS has identified an ABB population in the Midwest region that far exceeds the targets set in its 1991 Recovery Plan. In Nebraska, which is also in the Midwest region, there is estimated to be more than 3,000 ABB, making it among the largest known populations, even though none were known to exist in the state prior to 1989. In Oklahoma, the ABB population is believed to be well into the thousands and exists in 45 of the 77 counties.
On May 6, 2015, Director Ash testified before the Senate EPW Committee and stated that the agency would immediately begin review of the status of the beetle. Inhofe praised this announcement in a statement where he stated, “I welcome Director Ashe’s announcement that the Fish and Wildlife Service intends to begin reviews this month of the beetle’s status. I applaud their commitment, but words alone are not enough. I will be monitoring the review to ensure follow through.”
Last year, Inhofe worked with his colleagues in the House to include a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016 to delist the American Burying Beetle. This provision was not included in the final NDAA conference report that was signed into law.
In the 113th Congress, Inhofe introduced the American Burying Beetle Relief Act of 2014 (S.2678) to delist the beetle.