Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Feds reconsidering Missouri habitat for dragonfly

Traverse City, Mich. (AP) — The government is reconsidering its
decision not to grant strong legal protection in two national
forests, including one in Missouri, for North America’s only
dragonfly classified as endangered.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly was added to the federal endangered
species list in 1995. It lives in only a few Midwestern wetland
areas.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat
for the dragonfly in 2006, as required under the Endangered Species
Act.

But it exempted more than 14,000 acres in Michigan’s Hiawatha
National Forest and the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri,
even though those lands include prime habitat for the
dragonfly.

Four environmental groups sued the agency over that decision.
Under a deal announced Friday, the agency agreed to revisit the
matter and take public comment in April.

“The settlement prevented what could have been a dangerous
national precedent,” said Andrew Wetzler, endangered species
project director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly has bright emerald-green eyes and a
metallic green thorax, with yellow stripes on its sides. Its body
is about 2.5 inches long, its wing span about 3.3 inches.

Habitat loss is the biggest reason for its decline, as wetlands
in the upper Midwest have been drained for farming and urban
development. Other culprits include logging, pipelines, off-road
vehicles and road construction.

Once critical habitat is selected, federal agencies must consult
with Fish and Wildlife scientists before taking or authorizing
actions in the area that might threaten the species, such as
issuing permits to drain wetlands.

The decision to exempt 12,963 acres in the Hiawatha National
Forest and 786 acres in the Mark Twain National Forest meant the
dragonfly and wetlands that support it would get less protection
there than on nearby private lands, Wetzler said.

“We look to the new administration to designate enough critical
habitat for the species to recover from the brink of extinction,”
said John Buse, senior attorney at the Center for Biological
Diversity.

Messages seeking comment were left with the Fish and Wildlife
Service’s Midwestern office.

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