Federal wildlife officials say the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, a native of the Sacramento Valley, no longer needs Endangered Species Act protection.
The inch-long, red-and- black beetle has been listed as a threatened species since 1980, a result of land development and levee construction that eliminated more than 90 percent of the Central Valley's riparian habitat.
In a Federal Register filing Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the beetle has recovered enough that legal protection is no longer necessary.
The announcement is a proposal, requiring further federal review.
Once found in only 10 locations in the Central Valley, it is now confirmed at 26 sites and benefits from more than 21,000 acres of protected habitat.
The beetle's status has imposed millions of dollars in costs on property owners and flood-control agencies, which are required to safeguard its principal habitat, the valley elderberry bush.
"Were very pleased," said Damien Schiff, an attorney at the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation. The nonprofit law firm sued the service in 2010 to delist the beetle on behalf of several Sacramento-area property owners. Monday's announcement results from a settlement in that case.
"Our clients have been burdened by what we consider an unnecessary listing for some time now."
The service first hinted it might delist the beetle in a five-year status review released in 2006. But it took no action.
Opinions on the beetle's status are not unanimous.
Marcel Holyoak, a professor of environmental science and policy at UC Davis, said delisting might be premature. The beetle faces a potential threat from an invasive predator, the Argentine ant.
"It seems to be making a decision based upon incomplete information," said Holyoak, an expert on the beetle who has studied the ant threat. "We're sort of entering a more uncertain phase in what happens to the beetle."
The Fish and Wildlife Service will take public comments on the delisting proposal through Dec. 3. A final decision is expected within a year.
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