The American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1989. It is the largest of the North American carrion beetles and is known for its distinctive black and orange coloring. The species is currently reported in Arkansas, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Texas.
Why was the beetle listed?
The American Stewards of Liberty (ASL), the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), and the Osage Producers Association are leading the charge to delist the American Burying Beetle. As highlighted by these organizations in a January 2016 notice to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Claims of a 90 percent reduction in the historical range of the species were the foundation of the Service’s decision to list Beetle as endangered – yet scientifically defensible, range-wide studies of presence/absence or abundance have never been completed for this highly variable and eclectically distributed species.”
Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to fail to meet critical ESA deadlines required to remove this costly listing. The following highlights actions of note to date:
- August 2015: A delisting petition put forward by the ASL, IPAA, and TPPF demonstrated that the original listing was in error and was rooted in faulty assumptions about the species’ range, distribution, and abundance.
- August 2016 – Petitioners sent a notice of intent to sue to the Service stating their intent to file suit based on the Service’s failure to reach a timely 90-day finding on the petition.
- January 2016: Groups submitted a sixty-day Notice of Intent to sue for violation of section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act, based on a failure to make a 90-day finding on the petition to delist the American Burying Beetle.
- March 2016: As a preliminary response to the delisting petition, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the delisting of the Beetle may be warranted based on new information and analyses provided in the petition.
- February 2017: The American Stewards of Liberty and IPAA filed a Notice of Intent to the Fish and Wildlife Service for violation of section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act based on the Services failure to render a timely 12-month finding on an August 2015 petition filed with the Service to delist the beetle.
- April 2017: The Fish and Wildlife Service noticed petitioners by letter that it anticipates it will not reach a 12-month finding until December 2017.
- September 2017: IPAA, the American Stewards of Liberty, and Osage Producers Association filed a lawsuit against Fish and Wildlife regarding its failure to issue a required 12-month finding on a petition to remove the American burying beetle from the endangered species list.
What are the impacts of the beetle’s listing?
The species was listed in 1989 in error, and the unnecessary status of the beetle as endangered poses limitations to economic development in its habitat range. As IPAA’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Political Affairs Dan Naatz highlights, “Under the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, we believe the case for removing the American Burying Beetle is clearer than ever. USFWS has had the time to properly review and act on our petition. It is long past time that the Service meet its legal obligation to thoroughly evaluate this filing for delisting. Economic threats to the affected communities continue to cost private landowners, businesses, and local governments millions and American jobs are at stake—resolution of this filing is now long overdue.”