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Property Owners Sue Over Endangered Beetle

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A group of Sacramento-area property owners has filed suit in an attempt to get federal officials to take a beetle unique to California's Central Valley off the endangered species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in 2006 that the elderberry longhorn beetle should no longer be on the list. But it has yet to complete the delisting process.

"This lawsuit is intended to compel a response from the Fish and Wildlife Service," Brandon Middleton, a staff attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, the Sacramento-based nonprofit law firm handling the lawsuit, told The Sacramento Bee.

The suit -- whose plaintiffs include the Sacramento Valley Landowners Association and farm bureau organizations in Butte, Solano and Yolo counties -- was filed Friday.

Construction crews have complained that the beetle's reliance on a single host plant, the valley elderberry, has forced them to relocate hundreds of the shrubs or plant new ones during many construction projects.

In its 2006 decision, the Fish and Wildlife Service said efforts like those had paid off. The beetle was found to exist at 160 locations in the region, compared with 10 in 1980, when it was first listed as threatened.

Sarah Swenty, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, declined to comment on the lawsuit to The Sacramento Bee but said the agency is moving on the delisting process as best as it can with its other priorities. A draft delisting proposal for the beetle is undergoing a routine review by officials in Washington, D.C., she said.

Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, disagreed that the beetle should be taken off the list.

He said it's not clear how many beetles are in the additional populations cited by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We don't know if they're viable long-term populations or not," he said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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