14 August 2017

Federal Agency Acts Without Public Consideration on Permits to Take Burying Beetles

A email received on August 7th indicates that the Nebraska Public Power District continues to impose their demands on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Details presented by an agency biologist, indicate the federal agency has allowed further harassment of the American Burying Beetle along the corridor of the proposed r-project. Trapping of the little beetles was permitted even as FWS is reviewing a supposed final version of a document allowing incidental take of the species.

How can there be any sort of valid review of a permit request while the requesting agency is still gathering information?

The federal agency has acted without public consideration as they issued permits to allow the taking of the endangered American Burying Beetle along Highway 83, notably in Thomas county. The activity is related to "research" associated with the r-project.

The permits allows the beetles to be trapped, then actively handled, based upon decisions by the controlling federal agency.

In regards to this activity, the federal agency should instead be known as the Federal Whatever Service (FWS).

The FWS once again agreed to permit requests with a seeming disregard to the beetles or the area landowners. Who gave the FWS the authority to make decisions without public comment on a natural lands species?

Consider these pertinent points:

Did the FWS notify landowners of the real-time activities associated with the allowed permit activities? Did NPPD? Nope.

Did the Nebraska Department of Roads give permission for anyone to place beetle traps along the Highway 83 right-of-way? Are any traps being placed along the highway? Is there any public information readily available on these essential detail? Nope.

Did the FWS provide details on the areas where survey activity will occur? Nope.

Did the FWS provide any details on the period of time during which the surveys will occur? Nope.

Did the FWS provide any details on the purpose of the surveys? Nope.

Has the FWS provided any details on the survey methods, notably the number of plastic buckets that will be used, and the frequency of them being checked? Nope.

Has the FWS provided any information on how the results of the surveys will be made available to the public? Nope.

Has the FWS provided details of the permit and how there will be a limit on mortality of the beetles and what is being done to ensure that there are very few or no beetle deaths? Nope.

Do the issued FWS permits include a clause indicating how the permitted activity does not allow access to private property except with landowner permission? Were any details about this provided to the public? Nope.

Did the FWS explain why permits were issued not only to a consultant hired by NPPD and an Oklahoma university as well? Nope. Why do two entities need permits for "so-called" scientific research associated with a single purpose? Has an explanation been provided by anyone? Nope.

Has the FWS indicated the expertise of the permittees and how they have the qualifications to handle an beetle listed as an species? Nope. If non-resident people are going to intrude into the sand hills, they certainly need to know what they are doing and be doing it in an efficient and nonintrusive manner!

Did the FWS indicate a date of application for these permits, and an issuance date? Nope. Why was there no public notice, and not even a known press release?

Why does the FWS give a permit to NPPD minions to "harass" every single captured beetle? The permit apparently allows this harassment, i.e., a taking instance to occur every time a beetle is handled! This is direct intrusion and the actual effect on species once released is not known.

NPPD has already applied for an incidental take permit for the American Burying Beetle, so why are they collecting data now? They should not be applying for a permit until after thorough research has been completed!

The Fish and Wildlife Service has given permits to allow NPPD to get further details to buttress why they should be able to construct the r-project industrial powerline. If they can indicate a broader range or greater numbers, then the projected impact can be lessened to improve the rationale for getting an incidental take permit.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is using the endangered species classification of the beetle as a means of control. Through this classification they can tell everyone how they have to deal with the species. It is as if they are "owners" of the beetles so their permission is need to deal with them!

The federal agency – being a bureaucracy that represents the "heavy fist" of government – needs to understand in complete clarity that they do not own a single American Burying Beetle. They do not control the lives and times of this unique species. Yet they provide permits to kill and harass thousands of beetles without any public notice or review. And this has occurred most recently even with agency staff in the Nebraska Field Office are very aware of the concern of numerous sandhill residents concerning this little beetle and other local and essential resources. Staff could not even provide a courtesy notification to any of the many people whose emails they have readily available through current and ongoing communications. This failure is indicative.

Has the FWS actually done anything to conserve the American Burying Beetle other than making regulatory edicts? Has the agency provided any indication how their rules are benefitting the species? Nope.

Each and every American Burying Beetle in Nebraska is an asset of the citizens of Nebraska. Certainly ownership applies but that is only a legal argument. They are just one example of the great diversity of flora and fauna owned in "public trust." It is the citizens of Nebraska that should be making each and every decision associated with this species, since federal and state agencies are not representative.

Many residents of the Sand Hills – in particular – want the distinctly colored little beetle to thrive and in no manner have any malicious intent to undertake activities detrimental to their survival. Every property owner that has this beetle on their place can make their own decisions on management steps needed to make their place a success. They can personally evaluate whether or not it is beneficial or detrimental to the survival of the beetle, and there is even benign attention which applies in many instances because raising cattle is the key focus.

It seems that the American Burying Beetle is doing quite fine under current conditions in ranchland cattle country. If someone owns a ranch and wants to make it a distinct haven for the American Burying Beetle and provide ecotourism visitations to enjoy the life and times of this bug, that is their option. No government agency can try to control this right of a property owner.

This situation applies to other species of species of concern, including the Blandings Turtle. Land management efforts could occur to benefit this species and the government has no control over this. Yet the government wants to intrude by saying that they control the right to "handle or possess" a single turtle. It is easy for them to profess their rules from a taxpayer-financed office in a distant city.

A ranch owner with a property expanse where this turtle thrives has the complete right to know about the wildlife on their place. If a ranch couple want to venture out in an evening and look for turtles, they have the complete right to pick up a turtle of any sort and appreciate its presence. If a niece or nephew is visiting, they can carefully put a turtle in a suitable container and take it back to their home to share with visiting relatives for a short time, and the place it back where it was found. This is an educational and appreciation endeavor.

Property owners pay the taxes. They deal daily with the survival of so many species through their land management decisions. They have the inherent right to know and understand the natural life in their personal manner.

Yet, it is so wrong that governmental officials could swoop in and issue a criminal complaint, with possible fines attached. They would say that "handling" and "possession" is illegal.

It should be illegal for bureaucrats sitting within publicly-owned facilities to be enforcers upon those that actually own and manage great lands where plants and animals thrive and do not receive a single dime of financial support for protecting a publically appreciated resource.

If someone wants to establish a "Bluebell Ranch" where occurrence of the Blowout Penstemon is the primary focus, that is their right. They can manage for the habitat necessities of this plant, undertake revolving plot management spread across sections for the benefit of the survival of this singular plant. If they want a lack of grass and instead have a lot of sand within their property boundary that is their choice as long as it does not have an impact on neighbors. The whole complex of life at penstemon colonies is enough for a unique visit by naturalists or others that want to enjoy the so obvious biological diversity and natural life.
There are now great issues within the sand hills. There are however great opportunities because great people are actively working to conserve the heritage of the land and its people. There can be great times in the future as new generations realize, appreciate and understand what is essentially important for the region and its people now and in future times.

Is there an indifference to the history and future of the Great American Sandhills each day now and into tomorrow? Nope.

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