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, IL (March 10, 2008) – 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.”
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.
- 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 at:
Photo courtesy of Carol Freeman Photography
Photo courtesy of Carol Freeman Photography