Save The Flies?

When you think of endangered species, perhaps the grizzly bear comes to mind or the wolf or until recently the regal bald eagle. But how about the fly? The Delhi Sands flower-loving fly to be exact.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports on this tiny endangered species.


Biologist Ken Osborne is stalking and counting the elusive insects, the only flies ever to make the endangered species list.

"We believe that this fly is going extinct solely as a function of human activity, where we come in and develop the land and the fly loses habitat," says Osborne.

It's not just some puny insect. Shielded by federal law, it's practically a superfly with the power to stop bulldozers. Its threatened habitat - smack in the middle of the development-infested region east of Los Angeles - now is off limits to builders. That really bugs people in the city of Colton.

"There is no support for the fly," says Colton City Manager Henry Garcia.

Its habitat is the kind of place you might expect to find a fly. But where the city sees an eyesore, environmentalists see a community of insects, animals and the rare burrowing owl.

Both sides agree on one thing: We're not talking about a lot of flies here, only about two or fewer per acre. Environmentalists say that proves they need protection. Colton officials say lost taxes and revenue alone are costing the city about $200,000 per fly.

"Which is more important? California's economy or the inevitable extinction of something at the cost of millions of dollars to the fastest-growing region in southern California," says Garcia.

"It's a wonderment that we can be so vain and greedy that we might stamp out the existence of whole species just for the sake of investment, development, profits and so on," says Osborne.

It's an old debate, but environmentalists usually have a powerful ally, namely the majesty of the endangered species itself. But until "save the flies" gains the cachet of "save the whales," people in Colton would just like to see the Delhi fly buzz off.

For more on the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, visit the endangered species section of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Web site.


©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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