SACRAMENTO - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening public comments on a proposal to rescind Endangered Species Act protections for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
The 30-day comment period follows a 60-day window for submitting remarks last fall after the agency agreed to consider removing the beetle from its threatened-species list.
The new comment period announced Jan. 23 will "allow all interested parties an additional opportunity to comment on the proposed rule and to submit information on the status of the species," the agency explained in a news release.
The agency expects a peer-reviewed report on the proposed removal will be out soon and available to the public, the release stated. Comments that were submitted in the fall need not be resubmitted, the agency said.
The beetle - Desmocerus californicus dimorphus - has been protected since 1980. Levee districts have had to spend thousands of dollars on mitigating negative effects to the elderberry, a riparian shrub the beetles rely on for habitat. Farmers have argued the beetle's listing impedes efforts to restore levees that protect their land from flooding.
The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a series of lawsuits to force the government to consider the de-listing in light of a 2006 analysis that found the beetle's population had recovered. The organization litigated on behalf of two levee management districts, Farm Bureaus in Butte, Yolo and Solano counties and the North Sacramento Land Co.
Comments will be accepted until Feb. 22. They can be submitted online at http://www.regulations.gov, (Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063) or by mail to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203.
All submitted comments, including the peer-reviewed report, will be posted online.