- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,110 acres of land near Lincoln as critical habitat for the endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle.

The news came Monday, as biologists and volunteers released 150 of the tiger beetle larvae on a rehabilitated wetland near the Arbor Lake Wildlife Management Area in Lincoln.

The service published its final decision in the Federal Register, the Lincoln Journal Star said (https://bit.ly/1sfiqdn ). The designation takes effect June 5.

The number of acres set aside as critical habitat is smaller than the 1,933 acres proposed in 2010, but the service said the land contains enough habitat to support recovery of the species. The number was part of the settlement between the Wildlife Service and the Center for Native Ecosystems, Center for Biological Diversity and Xerces Society. The three conservation groups sued the Wildlife Service in 2010, saying that not enough land was being set aside to help save the tiger beetle.

The beetle is considered one of the rarest insects in the United States and was listed as endangered in October 2005. Before the listing, more than 90 percent of the insect’s saline wetland habitat had been destroyed or severely degraded by encroaching development and farming.

In 2013 the total estimated population of the beetles was 365.

The beetle is unique to the state’s eastern saline wetlands, which are found mostly north of Lincoln and south of Ceresco in Saunders County. Service biologist Bob Harms told the Journal Star that the 1,110 acres includes saline wetlands along Little Salt Creek, Rock Creek, Oak Creek and Haines Branch Creek in Lancaster County.

The larvae released Monday were raised over the winter at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.

Mike Fritz, a natural heritage biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln entomologist Steve Spomer placed each larva into a small burrow made by a rod in the ground.

Volunteers with the Nebraska Master Naturalist program will monitor the burrows weekly, recording moisture and soil temperature, among other things.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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