SALT LAKE CITY — Utah officials are celebrating the Thursday decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to withdraw its proposal to list the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle under the Endangered Species Act.
"That is outstanding news, and we appreciate that," said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab. "The Legislature thanks them for taking a look at it."
The decision was reached after the federal agency worked with county, state and federal partners to expand an existing conservation agreement that it said will better protect the rare invertebrate’s habitat in Kanab.
The conservation agreement — endorsed by the service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Utah Department of Natural Resources and Kane County — expanded on the success of existing conservation measures to address all threats to the species until it no longer is considered threatened or endangered.
“The signing of this conservation agreement and the subsequent decision that the species no longer warrants listing under the ESA demonstrates the power of working together to address the needs of imperiled species,” said Noreen Walsh, the service’s Mountain-Prairie regional director. “I want to thank our partners in the agreement for their efforts in putting safeguards in place to meet the needs of this unique species — now and in the future.”
“We are committed to managing public lands to conserve the tiger beetle while supporting the recreation and outdoor activities that boost local economies in southern Utah,” said Juan Palma, BLM-Utah state director. “We look forward to continuing the collaboration that has made this partnership and conservation effort such a success.”
Fred Hayes, director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, had lamented that a listing would have shut down the Coral Pinks State Park, testifying a year ago before a legislative committee about the fallout.
"The economic fallout to Kanab and Kane County will be immense," he said.
Instead, on Thursday, he was grateful to be able to celebrate.
“The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation is extremely happy about this decision. We believe this is in the best interest of the CPSD tiger beetle and the recreating public who enjoys Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park,” he said. “We look forward to working with state and federal agency partners as we move forward.”
The enhanced conservation agreement enlarges one of the two conservation areas by 29 percent from 207 acres to 266 acres. This expansion protects 88 percent of the species’ occupied habitat in this area from off-road vehicle use.
In addition, the amendment provides protection for islands of habitat between the two conservation areas with the intent of offering dispersal habitat for the species — an additional 263 acres.
The species is found only in the Kane County state park's geological features and has the smallest known range of any insect.