US Fish and Wildlife Service Image of valley elderberry longhorn beetleToday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed rule (pdf) to remove the valley elderberry Longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) from the list of threatened species.

The delisting will be significant for landowners, flood control agencies, and irrigation districts throughout the Central Valley of California because they will no longer be required to seek prior authorization for the incidental take of the beetle.  The beetle, as its name suggests, depends upon its host plant species, the valley elderberry, which grows along streams, rivers, flood control channels, irrigation ditches, and drains in the Central Valley.  Because incidental take of individual beetles would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to quantify and predict, impacts to the ubiquitous elderberry plant is used as a proxy for take of the beetle.

According to the Service’s webpage for the beetle’s status, incidental take of the beetle is covered in 21 habitat conservation plans and 6 safe harbor agreements.  When it was listed in 1980, 10 occurrences were recorded at 3 locations in Merced, Sacramento, and Yolo Counties.  Thanks to the extensive efforts to preserve elderberry, it is now known from 201 occurrence records at 26 locations from Shasta County in the northern Sacramento Valley to Kern County in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

As reported here, last August, the Service issued a 90-day finding that delisting the beetle is warranted.  The finding, and today’s proposed final rule, were precipitated by a 2010 delisting petition and subsequent lawsuit filed by the non-profit Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of several landowners and flood control agencies.  However, the Service itself had recommended delisting as early as 2006 in its 5-year status review for the species.

The public comment period on the proposed delisting rule is scheduled to close on December 3, 2012.